A 27-year-long career, 23 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals, $450 million in earnings: winning her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17, Serena Williams, alongside her older sister Venus, has been widely credited with changing the face of tennis and women’s sports.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour back in March 2022, the sisters admitted that they were aware of entering an “all-white sport” when they became professional tennis players, but they relished the challenge of redefining the same. “We changed it from being two great black champions to being the best ever, period,” the younger Williams said.
“And that’s what we did. We took out colour and we just became the best… It is what it is, we changed the sport, we changed the fashion, we changed how people think, we changed how people think in business.”
Fast forward to Tuesday 9 August, Williams has now announced her plans to move on from tennis after the 2022 US Open.
“I have never liked the word ‘retirement’,” Williams wrote in a column for Vogue. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is ‘evolution’. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” The athlete then went on to detail the struggle of maintaining a work-life balance as a woman, which ultimately prompted her to make the decision.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” she penned. “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 labour of expanding our family.”
“Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity,” she added.
In an op-ed for CNN back in 2018, the tennis star admitted how she “almost died after giving birth” to her daughter Olympia with her partner Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. She also highlighted how black women in the US are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete,” she wrote for Vogue. “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” The star also admitted how she had never thought about having kids earlier in her career, but when it comes to Olympia, “nothing is a sacrifice.”
“It all just makes sense,” Williams continued. “I want to teach her how to tie her shoes, how to read, where babies come from, and about God. Just like my mom taught me.” Tennis, by comparison however, has always “felt like a sacrifice” for the athlete, although it was one she enjoyed.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry,” she admitted. “I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way.”
Williams also mentioned how she would love to stick around and try to beat retired Australian player Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. “The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams,” she wrote. “But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”