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Serena Williams Is "Evolving Away From Tennis” to Grow Her Family

“The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense…I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice—though it’s one I enjoyed making.”
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
Published
August 9, 2022
Serena Williams, daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. and husband Alexis Ohanian attend the 2021 AFI Fest - Premiere of Warner Bros. "King Richard" at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2021 in Hollywood, California.
Image: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Serena Williams has inspired so many throughout the years—from her sheer determination and grit to win tennis championships to her ability to do it all while being a mom. But now, as Williams approaches 41 years old, the all-time great says something’s gotta give.

Today, in a special essay written for Vogue, Serena Williams announced that she will be “evolving away from tennis” to pursue her dream of trying for another baby, and making her daughter Olympia, now 4, a big sister.

“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,” Williams wrote.

The tennis star admitted that having to pick between motherhood and her career wasn’t something she wanted to do, but as she has gotten older, she has grown to understand that the toll pregnancy takes on her body is something she can’t ignore.

“Believe me, 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 was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity,” Williams wrote, Adding later in the piece, “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”

Williams goes on to explain how much she will miss the sport, and while she doesn’t feel ready for retirement or that it’s “her time to leave,” she is ready for her new adventure. “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,” Williams wrote.

As Williams reflects on her extraordinary career, her fighting spirit, all the titles she earned and records she broke, like many, she talks about the one goal she didn’t quite get to, 30-plus grand slams.

“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter,” Williams writes.

Not only now, but over the past years, Williams writes about the many times she has put her family first. She talks about that while she didn’t know if she would be a good mother or even wanted kids, when her daughter Olympia arrived, she couldn’t help but want to be as hands-on of a mother as possible. Since Olympia was born, she hasn’t been away from her for more than 24 hours.

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“The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense. I want to teach her how to tie her shoes, how to read, where babies come from, and about God. Just like my mom taught me. As she grows, it’s something different every month,” Williams shared, adding, “I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice—though it’s one I enjoyed making.”

Although Williams plans to retire from tennis, she will continue to manage and grow her successful venture capital firm Serena Ventures, which in the past has provided start-up funds for big names like MasterClass, Tonal, Impossible Foods and Noom. Williams writes about her dedication to bringing her same groundbreaking competitive spirit to venture capital where she hopes to invest in more women, who only receive two percent of venture capital funds at the time.

Women’s empowerment is something also at the center of what Williams considers her legacy. She writes that she hopes her legacy is that women athletes will “feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.”

As she ends her story in Vogue, Williams writes that she will play her last tournament, the US Open, in New York this month, and she is so thankful to her fans for their support. “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.”

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