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Serena Williams Explains Importance of Having Another Child After Tennis Farewell

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 29, 2022

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Serena Williams will retire from tennis after this year's U.S. Open, one final Grand Slam for the woman who has won 23 of them.

As she told Sean Gregory of Time, the primary reason is to have more time with her family:

"'Olympia doesn't like when I play tennis,' Williams says plainly about her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. When Williams told Olympia, who turns 5 on Sept. 1, that she was soon to be done with the life that made her an inspiration to millions, Olympia's reply was as joyful as her mother's celebrations after so many Grand Slam wins: A fist-pumping 'Yes!'

"'That kind of makes me sad,' says Williams, leaning forward in her chair in the library of a New York City hotel. 'And brings anxiety to my heart.' No kid understands their parent's absence. But Williams has spent the last few years of her incomparable career tormented by what she's been sacrificing in order to keep going. 'It's hard to completely commit,' says Williams, 'when your flesh and blood is saying, 'Aw.''"

For Williams, calling it quits on a legendary tennis career isn't just about Olympia. It's also about having the chance to expand her family with husband Alexis Ohanian.

"I can't imagine my life without my sisters," she said. "When I look at Olympia, I'm really not performing at my peak, by not trying harder to give her that sibling. Coming from a big family, and coming from five, there's nothing better."

While growing a family for male athletes doesn't present any physical challenges, the reality for female athletes is different, given the demands of pregnancy.

"It comes to a point where women sometimes have to make different choices than men, if they want to raise a family," she told Gregory. "It's just black and white. You make a choice or you don't."

It hasn't been an easy choice for Williams, who wrote in her retirement announcement in Vogue earlier in August that she felt "a great deal of pain" walking away from the sport.

"It's the hardest thing that I could ever imagine," she added at the time. "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."

It's not as though Williams let her first pregnancy slow her down. She won the Australian Open in 2017 when she was two months pregnant.

Naomi Osaka told Gregory that Williams was "unequivocally the best athlete ever. Forget female athlete, I mean athlete. No one else has changed her sport as much as she did and against all odds."

Williams' response to that was to cite that 2017 Australian Open triumph.

"I don't know any other person that has won a Grand Slam or a championship in the NBA or anything else nine weeks pregnant. A two-week event. That tournament, I relied on my brain. An athlete isn't just about what an animal you are physically, like a specimen. It's using everything. Your mind, your body, everything. And doing that for 20 years. And doing it against people that come against you and play the best game of their life. Every single time. You can come to your own conclusion after that."

But every athlete has a moment where the career naturally comes to an end. Williams is getting to choose her exit point, on her terms.

It's a fitting departure for one of the most impactful and important athletes in the history of both tennis and sports. Now, she's ready to focus on being a mom and a businesswoman.

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