Tennis superstar Serena Williams is preparing to step away from the sport, she writes in a Vogue essay that posted on Tuesday.
Williams writes that she doesn’t like the word “retirement,” but she says she’s moving on from tennis to focus on other businesses and her family.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” she writes for Vogue. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. 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.”
In the Vogue essay, Williams recalls hearing daughter Olympia say she wants to be a big sister but writes that she never wanted to have to choose between tennis and having a family, saying she doesn’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,” Williams writes. “Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity.”
Williams admits she’s been reluctant to talk about her move away from tennis to even her parents and husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. And that when she does think about it, she’s not excited.
“There is no happiness in this topic for me,” she writes. “I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. 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.”
Though she’s vague about the timeline for her shift, Williams notes that she’s turning 41 this month “and something’s got to give,” she writes.
Williams reveals that she and Ohanian have been trying to have another child and “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.”
But, she says, “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
In addition to expanding a family, Williams seems excited to continue her work with Serena Ventures.
Nevertheless, she recalls this spring feeling the itch to get back on the court for the first time in seven months.
“It felt magical to pick up a racket again,” she writes. “And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that.”
The 23-time Grand Slam winner is playing at the Canadian Open in Toronto this week and is set to take the court for the U.S. Open in New York starting Aug. 29.
“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” she writes. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst.”
As for her legacy, Williams admits she doesn’t like to think about it.
“I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. 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,” she writes. “I’m far from perfect, but I’ve also taken a lot of criticism, and I’d like to think that I went through some hard times as a professional tennis player so that the next generation could have it easier.”
Williams’ father, Richard Williams, was given the biopic treatment last year in the Warner Bros. movie King Richard, with Will Smith playing the ambitious dad who pushed his daughters, Serena and sister Venus Williams, to become tennis champions. Smith won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the elder Williams, with his triumph perhaps overshadowed by him slapping Chris Rock onstage during the 2022 Academy Awards. The Williams sisters served as executive producers on the movie and made the rounds in Hollywood over the winter during King Richard‘s awards run.