Serena Williams has confirmed that she is retiring from tennis after a career that has seen her win 23 grand slam titles, the most by any player, male or female.
The highly decorated star also has four Olympic gold medals, five tour finals wins, 73 titles in all and has been ranked world number one for 319 weeks.
The 41-year-old American broke the news in an article for Vogue published yesterday afternoon. “I have never liked the word retirement,” she said. “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.”
Williams said her decision had been influenced by the desire to expand her family. She gave birth to her first child, Olympia, in 2017 and returned to the circuit the following year and has since struggled with form and fitness.
“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 does the physical labour of expanding our family.”
In the article, Williams suggested her final tournament would be the U.S. Open, which starts later this month and runs till the middle of September.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” she said, “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. I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret (Court’s grand slam record) 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.”
Williams and her sister Venus burst on to the tennis scene as teenagers, shaking up what had been a traditionally white sport.
Between them, they won 30 grand slam singles titles and 14 major doubles titles. Serena won her last grand slam title at the Australian Open in 2017 before announcing her pregnancy and going on to have her daughter that same year.
She has struggled with injuries in recent years and was beaten in the first round of last month’s Wimbledon by Harmony Tan in round one.
As tributes pour in from all over the world for the American star, fans are hoping the U.S. Open, her home slam, would offer her a fitting final dance and hers and their greatest wish, a final slam for the ageless queen of the courts on home soil.