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Serena Williams Announces Tennis Farewell: 'Hardest Thing That I Could Ever Imagine'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIAugust 9, 2022

AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

The greatest of all time has announced her farewell.

Serena Williams, who has won a record 23 Grand Slam singles titles, is stepping away from tennis after a 27-year professional career.

She made her announcement in a first-person article published in Vogue.

Serena Williams @serenawilliams

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"I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn't feel like a modern word to me," Williams wrote. "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 40-year-old earned a total of 39 Grand Slam victories, winning 14 women's doubles championships with her sister Venus in addition to two mixed doubles titles with Max Mirnyi.

She was also the reigning champion for all four Grand Slams on two different occasions in 2003 and 2015.

Williams began as a pro in 1995 at age 14. She earned some key upsets over the next few years, including wins against Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles. But she broke out in 1999 with five WTA singles wins, including her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.

Three years later, she became the top-ranked women's tennis player for the first time after winning Wimbledon in 2002. She went 94-8 in singles play over 2002 and 2003, winning 12 singles titles. She also won five of the six Grand Slam titles she played in, with the lone exception being a semifinal finish at the 2003 French Open.

Williams' career has also been characterized by her ability to return to her elite form after taking time away to rehabilitate from serious injury and/or prioritize her mental health. She emerged as one of the game's greats each time upon her return.

Late in 2003, she suffered a quadriceps tendon injury that required surgery. She was out for eight months before returning. She was a two-time winner on tour in 2004 and won the 2005 Australian Open less than a year later after her comeback.

In 2006, Williams took time away from the game to take care of her mental health. One year later, she reached the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slams and won the 2007 Australian Open.

In 2010, she suffered a foot injury that kept her out for the remainder of that year and said she suffered from depression during her time away.

In 2011, Williams suffered a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism.

One year later, she began what is arguably the most dominant run in tennis history, finishing 126-11 in matches and 273-33 in sets over 2012 and 2013. She notably went 78-5 (matches) and 160-15 (sets) in 2013, when she won 11 titles (including two majors).

Perhaps Williams' most remarkable feat occurred in her comeback to tennis after her pregnancy.

In September 2017, she had a cesarean-section delivery after suffering a pulmonary embolism during labor. She then suffered another pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter, which left her in bed for six weeks.

She returned to competitive tennis in February 2018 and went 72-28 in singles play over the next four years, making the 2018 and 2019 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals. Williams also made the 2020 U.S. Open and 2021 Australian Open semifinals.

Williams said she wants to move on to the next chapter of her life, focusing on growing her family and venture capital firm. Still, she says, there is pain in leaving tennis.

"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 wrote. "It's the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. 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."

Her professional tenure has been nothing short of legendary, and her resume and resilience speak for themselves.

Williams leaves the sport as its greatest competitor after a nearly three-decade run.

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