Tennis great Serena Williams to retire after US Open
Serena Williams announced that she plans to retire next month, giving herself one last shot at winning a 24th Grand Slam singles title.
US tennis great Serena Williams said on Tuesday she was “evolving away from tennis” and planned to retire from the sport she dominated with 23 Grand Slam titles following the US Open tournament, which begins later this month.
On Monday, Williams played only her second singles match since she returned to action at Wimbledon in June after a year-long absence from competition, beating Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz to reach the second round of the Toronto Open.
But the 40-year-old said after the match that she could see the light at the end of the tennis tunnel in her career.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote in the fashion magazine 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.
“A few years ago, I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
Williams won her last Grand Slam in 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th crown that would draw her level with Australian Margaret Court, who holds the record.
The American came tantalisingly close to achieving that feat, featuring in four major finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT [greatest of all time] because I didn’t pass Court’s record, which she achieved before the ‘Open era’ that began in 1968,” said former world number one Williams, who sought the advice of her friend Tiger Woods before picking up a racket again this spring.
“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.”
Williams later said in an Instagram post that it was time to move in a “different direction”.
“The countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just as exciting Serena.”
She also has a vast business portfolio to maintain.
For nearly a decade she has backed early-stage companies, including MasterClass, one of 16 unicorns — companies whose market value exceeds $1-billion — to receive funding from Serena Ventures.
On the court, Williams announced herself on the grandest stage by winning the 1999 US Open singles title, a tournament she would go on to win five more times.
Over the past two decades, she also claimed seven titles at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open and a further three at the French Open as she revolutionised the women’s game with a lethal mix of powerful serves, groundstrokes and athleticism.
Williams has had eight separate spells at the top of the WTA rankings, totalling 319 weeks as world number one.
“When Serena steps away from tennis, she will leave as the sport’s greatest player,” pioneer Billie Jean King said.
“After a career that has inspired a new generation of players and fans, she will forever be known as a champion who won on the court and raised the global profile of the sport off of it.”
Seven-times Grand Slam winner John McEnroe called Williams “an icon”.
“She’s in that level where Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tom Brady are,” he told USA Today. “She’s like one of the all-time greatest athletes in the history of any sport — male or female.”
Williams also owns 14 women’s Grand Slam doubles titles with older sister Venus and has won four Olympic gold medals — singles (2012) and doubles (2000, 2008, 2012).
While she has earned a well-deserved reputation as the fiercest competitor in tennis, Williams played down expectations for her final major, after losing in the opening round at Wimbledon.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York,” she wrote.
“I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York… It’s a good fantasy. But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment.
“I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express.”
The US Open main draw begins on 29 August.
Williams said she and her husband, entrepreneur and investor Alexis Ohanian, had been trying to have another child during the past year, a decision her four-year-old daughter Olympia is excited about.
“Sometimes before bed, she prays to Jehovah to bring her a baby sister,” Williams wrote.
The American won the 2017 Australian Open while she was two months pregnant, but has no interest in being a pregnant athlete again: “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.
“I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” she wrote. “But I’m turning 41 [in September], and something’s got to give.” DM
1999: Defeated Martina Hingis in the US Open final, becoming the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam singles title after Althea Gibson in 1958.
2001: Failed to make another major final until 2001, when she lost the US Open title clash to sister Venus.
2002-03: Missed the 2002 Australian Open due to injury and then embarked on an incredible run that included winning five of the next six Slams and losing in the 2003 French Open semis.
2004-07: Career was affected by injury, but she still won Australian Open titles in 2005 and 2007.
2008-09: Won the 2008 US Open to break her Grand Slam drought before claiming the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles the following year.
2010: Joined Billie Jean King on the all-time Grand Slam list in sixth with her 12th major at the Australian Open. Missed the US Open over medical complications after cutting her foot on glass while celebrating her Wimbledon win.
2011: Underwent surgery after a life-threatening blood clot was detected on her lung. Made the US Open final, but lost to Australia’s Sam Stosur.
2012: Won Wimbledon in 2012 and followed that with Olympic gold on the same courts, beating top seed Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals and third seed Maria Sharapova in the final. Won her fourth US Open title, beating Azarenka in the final.
2013: Won her second Roland Garros crown in 2013, one of 10 titles she lifted that year to reclaim the world’s top ranking. Added another US Open title to her collection.
2014: Claimed seven titles, including her sixth US Open, which was her third in succession, to join compatriots Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 Grand Slam wins.
2015: Beat Maria Sharapova in the 2015 Australian Open final to secure her 19th Grand Slam title. Despite battling flu, won a third successive major and 20th overall by overcoming Czech Lucie Safarova in the French Open final. Won the so-called “Serena Slam” by winning a sixth Wimbledon crown to hold all four majors for the second time in her career. Seemed poised to secure a calendar Grand Slam at the 2015 US Open, but lost to Italy’s Roberta Vinci in the semifinals.
2016: Lost the 2016 Australian Open final and was denied again in the French Open final before winning Wimbledon for the seventh time, drawing level with Steffi Graf on 22 majors.
2017: Won her seventh Australian Open title in 2017 to go ahead of Graf with the most Grand Slam singles titles in the open era. Australia’s Margaret Court won 24, but the majority came in the amateur era.
2018-19: Faltered in the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open in both years after returning to tennis following the birth of her daughter, Olympia, a year earlier.
2021-22: Did not play competitive tennis since limping out of her opening match at Wimbledon in 2021 due to a leg injury. Returned to Wimbledon this year, but lost in the first round. Announced her intention to retire following this year’s US Open. DM