Serena Williams confirms she will retire after US Open, but doesn’t want ‘ceremonial, final on-court moment’

Serena Williams 2016 Wimbledon champion

Serena Williams has never been a fan of the dreaded “r” word, but she has confirmed that she will retire and hang up her racket for good after this year’s US Open.

Nearly 17 years after making her professional debut and 23 Grand Slams later, the tennis icon revealed in that she will wave farewell and will be “evolving away from tennis”.

Writing in Vogue under the headline “Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis On Her Own Terms—And In Her Own Words”, the former world No 1 said “I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair” before adding “I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give”.

Having made her professional debut in October 1997, Williams will play her final match at the US Open, which starts on August 29, a tournament she has won six times.

The tennis legend wrote: “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. Ashleigh Barty was number one in the world when she left the sport this March, and I believe she really felt ready to move on. Caroline Wozniacki, who is one of my best friends, felt a sense of relief when she retired in 2020.

“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.”

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After picking up a serious injury during the first round of Wimbledon last year, Williams only returned to singles action at the grass-court Grand Slam this year, losing in the first round.

She then made her North American hard-court return at the Canadian Open on Monday, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz from Spain for her first top level singles win since the 2021 French Open.

But a day later the 40-year-old confirmed that what many have dreaded for the past few years.

The American remains one shy of Australian Margaret Court’s record 24 majors, but she has won the most Grand Slams in the Open Era.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun,” she continued.

“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, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’ I get that. 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 in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”