Tennis champ Serena Williams says “the countdown has begun” on her tennis career. She announced Tuesday that she will step away from tennis to focus on family and her business interests.
“There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals, and finally discovering a different, but just [as] exciting Serena.”
The star didn’t specify when her last match would be. But she hinted in Vogue magazine that it could be at the U.S. Open. That tournament begins August 29 in New York.
Williams and her older sister, Venus Williams, helped broaden the sport’s audience and attract new players. The Williams family story is a remarkable tale of two siblings from Compton, California. Both grew up to be ranked No. 1, win dozens of trophies, and dominate tennis.
Venus is 42 and still competing. She was the first in the family to break through, reaching her first Grand Slam final at the 1997 U.S. Open. But Serena soon surpassed her sister. She won the 1999 U.S. Open at age 17 and went on to add 22 more such triumphs. (Venus won seven major singles titles.) She also claims 14 Grand Slam doubles championships, all won with Venus.
“I grew up watching her. I mean, that’s the reason why I play tennis,” 18-year-old Coco Gauff says. She was the runner-up at this year’s French Open.
Williams has won more Grand Slam singles titles in the professional era than any other woman or man. Only Margaret Court collected more—24—although the Australian won a portion of hers in the amateur era.
That Williams would be contemplating the end of her playing days is not all that surprising. She will turn 41 next month. (Her 10 Grand Slam titles after turning 30 are unsurpassed.) She has a history of injuries. And her recent record is discouraging. In the past 12 months, she’s played few matches due to injuries, with just one victory in a singles match.
But Williams says, “These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”
She and husband Alexis Ohanian have a four-year-old daughter, Olympia. The couple wants to have a second baby.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out,” says Williams, noting the intense commitment championship sports requires.
The prestigious Wimbledon tournament’s official Twitter account posted this message above a photo of Williams: “Some play the game. Others change it.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. — Colossians 3:23
(Serena Williams holds her daughter Olympia and a trophy after winning her singles finals match at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, on January 12, 2020. Chris Symes/Photosport via AP)