The world first got here to know Serena Williams as a 17-year-old with beaded braids, overwhelming power and precocious intelligence and poise when she stunned her sport by winning the primary of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles on the 1999 U.S. Open.
So began a journey that, with loads of help from her sister Venus and her trailblazing parents, modified the sport, transcended tennis and turned Williams right into a beacon of fashion, entertainment and business, shifting the way in which people inside and outdoors of sports viewed female athletes.
On Tuesday, Williams set the stage for the tennis a part of that journey to conclude on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the U.S. Open, where it began so many championships, battles, fist pumps and screams of “Come on!” ago.
In a first-person article within the famed September issue of Vogue, published online on Tuesday, Williams said that she planned to retire from the game after playing within the U.S. Open, which begins later this month, for the twenty first time. And as she has for greater than 20 years, Williams made the announcement together with her own unique twist, stating within the as-told-to cover story that she has “never liked the word retirement,” and preferred the word “evolution” to explain her next steps.
“I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things which are necessary to me,” including working together with her enterprise capital firm and growing her family, she said.
Williams was not explicit about when she might stop playing, but she hinted on Instagram that the U.S. Open could possibly be her last tournament while leaving the door ever-so-slightly open to proceed, or to return back, as players who retire often do. “The countdown has begun,” she said, adding, “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”
Williams is playing this week at a U.S. Open tuneup tournament in Toronto and is scheduled to play in Cincinnati throughout the next week.
Asked Monday after her straight-sets win over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain what motivated her now, Williams said “the sunshine at the top of the tunnel.”
“Currently that’s been it for me,” she added. “I can’t wait to get to that light.”
Though some in tennis are skeptical that Williams will step away imminently, exiting the stage this 12 months on the U.S. Open can be a fitting end to her storied profession. Williams has won the singles title there six times, starting in 1999, when she leapfrogged her older sister Venus to say the family’s first Grand Slam championship 23 years ago, a number that matches her profession Grand Slam tally. The tournament has also been the location of a few of Williams’s lowest moments, including confrontations with umpires and tournament officials within the semifinals in 2009 and the finals in 2018.
“It appears like the precise exclamation point, the precise ending,” said Pam Shriver, the previous player and tennis commentator who was one in all the nice doubles champions of the Eighties. “It doesn’t matter her result.”
Williams’s tennis future has been unsure since she was forced to retire minutes into her first-round match at Wimbledon last 12 months after she tore her hamstring.
The injury sidelined her for nearly a 12 months. In truth, Shriver and others thought it was likely that Williams might never officially retire but would as a substitute proceed the existence that she assumed for months following her teary Wimbledon exit.
This spring though, Williams said she had the urge to play competitively again. Within the Vogue story, she stated that Tiger Woods persuaded her to commit to training hard for 2 weeks and see what transpired. She didn’t immediately take his advice but eventually began hitting and signed up for the doubles competition at a grass court tournament ahead of Wimbledon .
At Wimbledon, she played a spirited but inconsistent three-hour, first-round match, losing to Harmony Tan of France, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (7). She showed flashes of the facility and touch that had once made her nearly unbeatable, but lacked the fitness and match toughness that comes from being a daily on the WTA Tour.
Williams wrote that she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, planned to have one other child, though she lamented the selection between one other child and her tennis profession. She expressing envy that some male athletes, just like the 45-year-old N.F.L. quarterback Tom Brady, could proceed to compete while their female spouses had children.
“I definitely don’t wish to be pregnant again as an athlete,” she said. “I should be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
Williams won her last Grand Slam tournament title while she was pregnant throughout the Australian Open in 2017.
Williams has won nearly $100 million in prize money, but her tennis profession has hardly prevented her from pursuing her other interests. She has continuously helped design her tennis outfits. She was an executive producer of “King Richard,” the Oscar-winning film about her family that focused on how her father took two girls from Compton, Calif., to the top of sports. Lately, she has turn into a enterprise capitalist, creating Serena Ventures, which invests in early stage ideas and corporations, many in technology and run by women.
On the tennis court, for the moment, Williams stays second to Margaret Court of Australia in Grand Slam singles championships, a record she had many possibilities to tie after which surpass in 2018 and 2019 when she lost 4 Grand Slam finals without winning a set. Nonetheless, because lots of Court’s wins predate the trendy era of skilled tennis, that shortcoming is unlikely to tarnish Williams’s legacy as the best female tennis player, one in all the best players, and top-of-the-line athletes in any sport.
“When Serena steps away from tennis, she is going to leave because the sport’s best player,” said Billie Jean King, the champion and pioneer of sports. “After a profession that has inspired a latest generation of players and fans, she is going to perpetually be often known as a champion who won on the court and raised the worldwide profile of the game off it.”
Beyond all of the championships — Williams has won 73 singles titles, 23 in doubles, two in mixed doubles and has played on 4 Olympic teams, winning 4 gold medals — her impact on how the world perceives female athletes and provoking the younger Black girls who now lead American women’s tennis could also be her best legacies.
With a singular mixture of power, strength, speed, touch and the tennis intelligence that produced her dominance, Williams made irrelevant the excellence between great female and male tennis players as no woman had done.
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the nice male tennis players of the twenty first century — and the best the boys’s game has ever produced — spoke of Williams as one in all them.
Last 12 months on the U.S. Open, because the pressure mounted on Djokovic to win a rare calendar 12 months Grand Slam, he said only Williams could understand what he was going through.
Williams got here to the U.S. Open in 2015 having won the 12 months’s first three Grand Slam singles titles but lost to the unseeded Roberta Vinci of Italy within the semifinals. Winning the title that 12 months would have given her a fifth consecutive Grand Slam singles championship, since she had already won 4 consecutive Grand Slam singles titles for the second time, a feat now often known as the “Serena Slam.”
None of this has surprised Rick Macci, the famed skilled coach who three many years ago evaluated Serena and Venus Williams playing in a rundown park in Compton when Black girls, especially poor ones, rarely pursued tennis. At first Macci was not impressed, but when the women began playing points every little thing modified.
“There was a rage inside these two little kids once we kept rating,” Macci said in an interview Tuesday. “They ran so fast they almost fell down. I took an enormous likelihood due to what I believed I saw on the within, and I haven’t seen it since.”
Coco Gauff, the rising 18-year-old who’s the newest Black American player to bear the burden of being labeled “the subsequent Serena,” said Williams was “the rationale why I play tennis,” after her win Tuesday in Toronto.
“I saw someone who looked like me dominating the sport,” Gauff, ranked eleventh on this planet, “It made me consider that I could dominate, too.”