Serena Williams is stepping away from the tennis court.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, said she plans to retire from tennis in an as-told-to story for Vogue.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” Williams said. “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.”
Williams went on to describe how, if she has to choose between tennis and her family, she’s choosing the latter at this point in her life.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” she wrote. “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 hinted that the 2022 U.S. Open, which begins later this month, will be her last tournament. “But now, the countdown has begun,” she wrote in a related Instagram post. “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”
Williams won four Olympic gold medals during her career, including both doubles and singles gold at the 2012 London Games. She is tied with sister Venus for most Olympic gold medals won by a tennis player.
Williams’ Open Era record of 23 Grand Slam titles includes three wins at the French Open, six wins at the U.S. Open, and seven wins at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Her last Grand Slam win came at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant with her daughter Olympia. Since giving birth, Williams has made four Grand Slam finals (2018 Wimbledon, 2018 U.S. Open, 2019 Wimbledon, 2019 U.S. Open), losing all four times. She is one Grand Slam win short of Margaret Court‘s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” Williams said in her Vogue essay. “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.”
Williams has played sparingly in the last year. After withdrawing from the first round of Wimbledon in July 2021 due to injury, she went nearly a year between tournaments, not playing again until this year’s Wimbledon. The 40-year-old lost in the first round to France’s Harmony Tan.
“I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’ I get that. It’s a good fantasy,” Williams wrote.
“But 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.”
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC
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Serena Williams plans to retire from tennis after 2022 U.S. Open originally appeared on NBCSports.com