Serena Williams, the owner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, is retiring from tennis after this summer’s U.S. Open. Williams, 40, announced her plan Tuesday on Vogue magazine’s website.
She attributed the decision to the competing urges of wanting another child while also facing off with the world’s best tennis players.
“I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis,” Williams said, adding a message to her fans: “And I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give,” Williams said, apparently referring to the print magazine’s publishing date in September.
Williams’ 23 Grand Slam singles titles is an Open Era record for women or men. The only tennis athlete with more major singles titles is Australia’s Margaret Court — whose record of 24 titles has withstood an inspired assault from Williams in recent years.
When play in the U.S. Open’s main draw begins on Aug. 29, Williams will have a protected ranking of No. 16. The tournament runs for much of the following two weeks, and it will surely bring tributes for one of the greatest tennis players ever to pick up a racket.
By calling it a career next month, Williams is in many ways coming full circle. She was just 17 when she won her first Grand Slam singles title, at the U.S. Open in 1999.
“I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open,” she said. “I didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning.”
Indeed, Williams kept stacking titles up, surpassing Martina Hingis and Monica Seles and her sister, Venus. Then she wrote her name in the record books above the sport’s legends: Billie Jean King; Chris Evert; Martina Navratilova.
In her Vogue article, Williams praised the players who came before her, both for their skills and for fighting for gender equality. But she also spoke about her growing business interests and the inspiration she has drawn from other powerful women, such as Facebook veteran Sheryl Sandberg and Caryn Seidman-Becker, CEO of the security company Clear Secure.
Williams shied away from discussing her own legacy as she announced her retirement, but she showed clear enthusiasm discussing her business ventures, including financing startups — especially young companies led by women and people of color.
“I wrote one of the very first checks for MasterClass,” she said. “It’s one of 16 unicorns — companies valued at more than $1 billion — that Serena Ventures has funded, along with Tonal, Impossible Foods, Noom, and Esusu, to name a few.”
As countless opponents have said over the decades, it seems that Serena Williams cannot stop racking up the wins.