Serena Williams is undoubtedly a Jill of all trades; she is a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, a fashion designer, and certainly one of the greatest women ever to pick up a tennis racket. In her career spanning over 25 years, Williams has won an impressive 23 Grand Slam titles — just one title shy of Margaret Court’s record.
Since her last victory in 2017, the 40-year-old has struggled to maintain her form, sparking conversation about her retirement. On February 21, after a devastating loss in the 2021 Australian Open, her coach revealed that the star won’t likely retire before she wins her 24th Grand Slam.
A year and a half later, Serena seems to have reluctantly given up the dream of a 24th title after announcing her retirement in a Vogue essay on August 9. In it, she reveals how advice from trusted mentors like Tiger Woods helped her deal with the challenging topic of retirement.
Serena Williams wishes she didn’t have to choose between tennis and a family
In an emotional first-person essay for Vogue, Williams announced her retirement from tennis. The tennis legend reveals how her retirement had been a taboo topic and that she never really talked about it with her husband or parents.
She wrote, “I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic.”
Williams loves playing tennis, which has been her focus since she won her first Grand Slam in 1999. This win marked the beginning of Serena’s dominance in the sport. Twenty-three years later, she’s almost universally recognized as the best female tennis player in history.
In the Vogue piece, Serena revealed that she was retiring to expand her family. She grew up in a family with big sisters who played an essential role in her life and development. Therefore, when her daughter, Olympia, consistently asked for a little sister, Serena had to seriously consider planning for a baby.
The tennis legend repeatedly expressed her devastation at having to choose between tennis and a family. She labeled her current situation as a woman “unfair” because men don’t have to choose between a career and family.
Williams believes if she were a man, she would’ve been able to pursue her sport like Tom Brady, referring to the age-defying NFL legend. “I don’t think it’s fair,” she wrote. “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.”
However, womanhood is not all gloom for the champion. Williams explained in the Vogue essay that she adores being a woman and loved being pregnant with Olympia. However, she wishes she didn’t have to choose between her career and family.
Tiger Woods advised Serena Williams on retirement
Tiger Woods and Serena are legends in their respective sports who have been friends for years, as Essentially Sports reports. When she had the itch to get back on the court in the spring, Serena reached out to Woods for retirement advice.
The golf legend demanded that Serena be just as aggressive as she felt she needed to be. He advised her to go back to the court non-competitively on a daily to see what happens.
“Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens,” Woods said.
Although Serena didn’t act on the advice immediately, when she did, she felt amazing. She played so well that she even considered playing at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.
Serena says farewell at the U.S. Open
Woods’ advice seems to have influenced her decision to play in one last Open before hanging up her racket. Perhaps it’s fitting that Serena will retire in the same tournament where she won her first Grand Slam in 1999: the U.S. Open.
However, Serena thinks it’s unlikely she will win another grand slam in New York to tie Margaret Court’s record just before retirement. Nevertheless, she has always loved to play and entertain the crowd; nothing makes her last competitive tournament different.
Despite the festivities during her farewell ceremony, the tennis legend hates goodbyes. She wrote that she was envious of Ashleigh Barty and Caroline Wozniacki, who both had a relaxed attitude toward retiring from tennis.
Reluctantly, but with finality, she adds that she is ready for the next chapter of her life after tennis. Like Billie Jean, Serena wants to have other success even more significant than her 25-year tennis career. She wants to go down in history as someone who symbolizes something bigger than tennis.
Serena definitely seems ready to put her competitive mindset to other opportunities and investments outside of tennis. Her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has been enjoying steady success with impactful capital contributions to minority businesses. Things seem to be looking good for the tennis legend.