Serena Williams says she is “evolving away from tennis” as she detailed her upcoming retirement from the sport she has dominated for much of her career to focus on growing a family and her business interests.
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 that match that she could see the light at the end of the tennis tunnel in her career before suggesting the US Open starting this month could be her swansong.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote in a Vogue article.
“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.”
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other woman or man in the professional era. She won her last Grand Slam in 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th crown that would draw her level with Margaret Court, who holds the record for most majors. Court won a portion of hers in the amateur era.
Williams has come 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,” former world number one Williams said.
“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. If I’m in a Slam final, then yes, I’m thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.”
Williams later talked in an Instagram post about the time to move in a “different direction”.
“That time is always hard when you love something so much,” she added. “My goodness do I enjoy tennis.
“But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”
Williams is playing this week in Toronto, at a hard-court tournament that leads into the US Open, the year’s last Grand Slam event, which begins in New York on August 29.