Tennis great Serena Williams has confirmed her decision to retire from the sport, calling it a “reluctant” decision and “the hardest thing that I could ever imagine.”
“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she said in an essay for Vogue published Tuesday. “I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
Williams, 40, did not specify an end date and said she intends to compete in the U.S. Open which will begin later this month in New York. She hinted on Instagram, however, that it could be her final tournament, writing: “The countdown has begun,” and, “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”
The 23-time Grand Slam champion said she wants to focus on her family, including having another child with her husband, Alexis Ohanian. She also said she feels professionally driven by her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which she launched a few years ago.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out,” she said. “I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis.”
Williams shared that she was two months pregnant with her daughter, Olympia, when she won the Australian Open in 2017.
“I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression,” she said.
“But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter,” Williams added.
Williams had hinted about her retirement plans on Monday after beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz at the National Bank Open in Canada. It was her first singles match victory in more than a year.
Williams credited advice from golfer Tiger Woods this past spring for motivating her to get back on the court after taking a seven-month break.
She described a “magical” feeling when she picked up a racket again.
“And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that,” she said. “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.”