Serena Williams On Retiring: "I Never Wanted To Have To Choose Between Tennis And A Family"
Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport that became synonymous with her name, detailing her decision in a moving and vulnerable essay.
Some people seem like they're born being able to do the extraordinary. That's one of many ways to describe tennis phenom and all-around GOAT Serena Williams. She's the 2nd most decorated female tennis player in history, with 23 Grand Slam wins and four gold medal Olympic wins. Recently, Serena announced her retirement from the sport that became synonymous with her name, detailing her decision in a moving and vulnerable essay.
"Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don't think it's fair," Serena said in an as-told-to essay for Vogue.
"If I were a guy, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family." Serena has a 5-year-old daughter, Olympia, with her husband Alexis Ohanian, and her decision to "evolve" away from tennis centers around her daughter and her desire to have more kids.
"Don't get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia," she said. "I was one of those annoying women who adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital," Serena added, touching on the complications that came after birth, which nearly took her life. "A lot of people don't realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I'm turning 41 this month, and something's got to give."
For Serena, the "something" that she is going to "give" is tennis. Not because she doesn't love the sport, and it's not because she doesn't have support.
"The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia," she said. "It all just makes sense.”
And for her, at least now, tennis feels different. "I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice — though it's one I enjoyed making," Serena shared. But it's a sacrifice she's ready to say goodbye to after her last run of tournaments in New York scheduled later this month.
"Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun. I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’ I get that. It’s a good fantasy. But I'm not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment," she explained after detailing she hates the word "retirement" and prefers "evolution" to frame her next phase in life.
"I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words,” Serena wrote. “You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”
Although goodbyes are hard, Serena is looking forward to days filled with Play-Doh and games of The Floor is Lava with her daughter, because “whatever she likes, I like,” Serena said. Serena is also looking forward to pouring her passion into other projects, such as her company, Serena Ventures, which she started a few years ago.
And after stepping away from Tennis, Serena is looking forward to fulfilling her daughter’s biggest dream: becoming a big sister. “I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
To read Serena’s full essay, head to Vogue.