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Heard on the Street: Serena Williams Is ‘Evolving Away From Tennis’

Although she is reluctant to retire, Serena Williams has come to the conclusion that she would rather build her family than her tennis résumé.
Serena Williams wears the GOAT hoodie from her eponymous fashion line S by Serena.

Serena Williams wears the GOAT hoodie from her eponymous fashion line S by Serena.

"I have never liked the word retirement. 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.

"But I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry. The only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist! One thing I’m not going to do is sugarcoat this. I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way. [...]

"Praise to these people, but I’m going to be honest. 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. 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. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to look at this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis. This sport has given me so much. I love to win. I love the battle. I love to entertain. I’m not sure every player sees it that way, but I love the performance aspect of it—to be able to entertain people week after week. [...]

"My whole life, up to now, has been tennis."

– Serena Williams announces she will retire, ahem, evolve away from tennis in an "as told to" cover story, titled "Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis on Her Own Terms – And in Her Own Word," for the September Issue of Vogue. But first, she will attempt a history-making 24th Grand Slam victory at the US Open later this month. The 40-year-old is choosing to grow her family rather than her tennis résumé, which is a choice she argues she wouldn't have to make if she were a man. In the essay, Williams also revealed that she was two months pregnant with daughter Olympia when she won the Australian Open in 2017, but "definitely [doesn't] want to be pregnant again as an athlete," now that she and husband Alexis Ohanian have decided to grow their family and are trying for a second child. In addition, to focusing on her family, Williams will also dedicate her time to growing her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures.