Serena Williams is giving tennis one last hurrah before hanging up her racket for good. With 23 Grand Slam titles and 192 career wins, Williams announced that she’s retiring following next month’s U.S. Open.
“This morning, my daughter, Olympia, who turns five this month, and I were on our way to get her a new passport before a trip to Europe. We’re in my car, and she’s holding my phone, using an interactive educational app she likes,” Williams penned in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Magazine. “This robot voice asks her a question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
She doesn’t know I’m listening, but I can hear the answer she whispers into the phone. She says, “I want to be a big sister.”
Williams said it’s time for her to focus on family. Earlier this year, Williams penned an essay for Elle Magazine in which she recounted her reckoning that proved once again that Black women remain three times more likely to die after childbirth than white women. She said she was almost one of them.
“I’ve suffered every injury imaginable, and I know my body,” she wrote. “Giving birth to my baby, it turned out, was a test for how loud and how often I would have to call out before I was finally heard.”
As Williams recounted, she had a “wonderful pregnancy” with her first child, Alexis Olympia, and even her epidural-free delivery was going well – at first.
“By the next morning, the contractions were coming harder and faster. With each one, my baby’s heart rate plummeted. I was scared,” she continued. “Every time the baby’s heart rate dropped, the nurses would come in and tell me to turn onto my side. The baby’s heart rate would go back up, and everything seemed fine.
“Then, I’d have another contraction, and baby’s heart rate would drop again, but I’d turn over, and the rate would go back up, and so on and so forth.”
The CDC noted significant disparities in the birthing experience of Black women in its most recent report. The agency noted that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. The agency said multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. The CDC added that social determinants of health prevent many people from racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair economic, physical, and emotional health opportunities.
After an emergency C-section, Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis. “I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote for Vogue. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. 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.”
The U.S. Open, which begins in New York on August 29, will be Williams’ last tournament. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York,” Williams stated, directing her message to her fans. “But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun. 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. 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.”