Serena Williams Announces Tennis Retirement Plans: ‘It’s the Hardest Thing That I Could Ever Imagine’

“There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain,” Williams said

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 28: Serena Williams of The United States waves to the crowd after losing against Harmony Tan of France during their Women's Singles First Round Match on day two of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

After more than two decades in professional tennis and 23 Grand Slam titles, Serena Williams is stepping away from the sport. But she’s certainly not thrilled about it

“I have never liked the word ‘retirement.’ It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” Williams wrote in her cover story for Vogue, published Tuesday morning. “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.”

Among those other things is her family – which is something Williams is pretty sure no male athlete would have to consider when it comes to his career.

“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” she said. “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 got real about her feelings on retirement, admitting that there’s really “no happiness in this topic” for her, and that she feels “a great deal of pain” on the decision. But she knows she’s ready for the next chapter.

“It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it,” she wrote. “I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. 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.”

Last year, Williams and her family were the subjects of “King Richard,” a film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and starring Will Smith, telling the story of how she and her sister Venus came to be the tennis greats that they are.

In her announcement, Serena noted that she’s always loved the entertainment aspect of the game. But, when it comes time for her final appearance on the court, she’ll be brisk about things.

“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst,” she wrote. “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.”