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Tennis

Serena Williams Says She Will Retire From Tennis This Season

Serena Williams of the United States serves against Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain during the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium on August 8, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Her time on court has been tapering off for years. She played 31 matches in 2019, 22 in 2020, 17 in 2021, and just two so far this year. She’s been selective about what tournaments she enters—only the biggest hardware matters at this point—and she’s also been sporadically injured. Still, it seemed like Serena Williams would never shut it down for good. She was too entwined, too synonymous with tennis not to just parachute back in for a Slam every so often. But in Vogue on Tuesday, Williams announced that she will retire at some point after this year’s U.S. Open.

There’s a lot of honest, probing stuff in the article about her early career and potential legacy—alongside some dull stuff about her portfolio and venture capital—and it’s worth your time. Williams acknowledges the appeal of a “fan fantasy” about retiring after back-to-back titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, where she made all four finals across 2018 and 2019, and discusses how her pursuit of the major title record shaped her career:

I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open. I didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning. I remember when I passed Martina Hingis’s grand slam count. Then Seles’s. And then I tied Billie Jean King, who is such an inspiration for me because of how she has pioneered gender equality in all sports. Then it was climbing over the Chris Evert–Martina Navratilova mountain. There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the “open era” that began in 1968. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. 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. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.

It’s clear that Williams, like her supporters, had considered the idea of playing on indefinitely. In the article, she says that she’d be following Tom Brady’s example if she weren’t a woman: “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.” But having won the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant, she says she doesn’t want to experience pregnancy as an athlete again, and needs to be “two feet into tennis or two feet out.”

At present those two feet remain in: Williams is competing this week at the Canadian Open, courtesy of a wild card, as she is now unranked for the first time since 1997. She defeated Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 in the first round on Monday, her first win of the year.