Serena Williams Is Retiring From Tennis To “Focus On Being A Mom”
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
Serena Williams is officially retiring from tennis. The 23-time Grand Slam champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist, who is mom to daughter Olympia with husband Alexis Ohanian, announced her decision in an emotional, passionate essay for the September 2022 issue of Vogue.
On her Instagram, Williams shared her announcement along with the stunning Vogue cover image that features the tennis pro in a blue dress with a long, flowing train that Olympia is holding up on the other side. She captioned it in part, “There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis.”
“But now, the countdown has begun,” she continued. “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.”
Yesterday, Williams won her first singles match in over a year at the Canadian Open, per ESPN. And she plans on competing in the U.S. Open in New York, beginning Aug. 29. But after that, she’s hanging up her gear for good (at least, professionally).
First things first — she’s not calling it a retirement. “I have never liked the word retirement… Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,” she wrote in Vogue. “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
Part of her evolution is to focus on herself and her Serena Ventures venture capital firm. But a bigger part is that she wants to focus on her family, something she says she wouldn’t have to choose between if she were a man.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair. 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,” she said.
Luckily for her, she “loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia.”
“I was one of those annoying women who adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital—although things got super complicated on the other side,” she said, referring to her birth experience with Olympia, during which Williams had a blood clot in her lungs, developed an embolism in one of her arteries, a hematoma in her abdomen, and additional clots that required four surgeries right after her C-section.
“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 wrote, adding, “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.”
In her heartfelt essay, Williams explained that she isn’t one of those people who are “excited about and look forward to retiring.” She added, “There is no happiness in this topic for me.”
“I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain,” Williams continued. “It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
“The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense,” Williams wrote. “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.”
Williams explained right now she loves watching baking shows, playing with Play-Doh, and pretending the floor is lava. “Whatever she likes, I like.”
Another thing Olympia likes? The idea of being a “big sister,” which Williams is taking to heart.
“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family,” she said. “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
Williams is a legend in every sense of the word, and the world will miss watching her play tennis. But her fans will surely cheer her on as she grows her family and raises the next generation of confident, inspiring, and badass athletes and humans, just like her.