Twenty-three-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams has announced that she is officially retiring from professional tennis, hinting that she could step away after the upcoming US open.
In an open letter published in Vogue US, Williams said that she doesn’t like the word retire and that “evolution” would be a better-suited word for her situation. “I have never liked the word retirement,” she said. “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.”
Williams also expressed her frustration with the sexist double standards that force women to choose between a family or a career. “I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” and remarked that if she had been a man, she’d “be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family.” The mother-of-one also referred to American football quarterback Tom Brady who is still active on the field. “Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.”
Williams has also been open about her agonizing experience delivering Olympia and said that she had to insist on being given a CT scan, despite nurses ascribing her anxiety to pain medication. In her open letter, she talked about the difficulties she faced when she returned to court after giving birth. “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.” She continued, “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.”
The athlete noted how she has created a space for female athletes to be unapologetically themselves on court. “ I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court,” she said. “They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.”
Although Williams didn’t explicitly announce that she’d never return to the sport, the end of an era is visible. “My goodness do I enjoy tennis,” she wrote, “But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals, and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”