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Serena Williams announces she’ll step away from tennis: ‘The countdown has begun’

"I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me," she wrote in a Vogue essay.
/ Source: TODAY

Tennis phenom Serena Williams announced Tuesday she is soon retiring from tennis to focus on growing her family and shifting her efforts to her investing firm.

"I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me," Williams wrote in a Vogue essay. "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."

Williams, 40, hinted she will shift away from the sport later this month after playing the U.S. Open — the same tournament she won her first Grand Slam title in 1999 that made her the face of tennis.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner added "the countdown has begun" to moving in a different direction in an Instagram post sharing her Vogue cover for its September issue. "I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena," she wrote.

Williams said she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, are trying to have another child, and that she received "information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family."

She wrote that her daughter, Olympia, says she wants to be a big sister — but that the 4-year-old only wants a sister.

"I’m the youngest of five sisters myself, and my sisters are my heroes, so this has felt like a moment I need to listen very carefully to," Williams wrote.

The tennis star added she never wanted to choose between tennis and having a family, and earlier in her career she would have "never thought about having kids."

"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," she wrote. "Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity."

“Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia,” Williams continued.

Williams reminded fans she was two months pregnant with her daughter when she won her last Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2017. But she said she is turning 41 this month, and that "something's got to give."

Williams said the balance in her life has also been slowly shifting toward her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures. She said she began investing nine years ago, and has fallen in love with early stage startups.

Serena Ventures has since funded 16 unicorns, or companies valued at more than $1 billion, which include MasterClass, Impossible Foods and Noom, Williams said.

Williams said she doesn't like to think about her legacy, but she hopes that the hard times she went through as a professional tennis player will make it so the next generation of athletes will have it easier.

"I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court," she wrote. "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."

She also addressed her fans in her essay, writing she is "terrible at goodbyes, the world's worst," but is looking forward to trying to win the U.S. Open after she was eliminated from Wimbledon earlier this summer.

"Please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words," Williams said. "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."