Serena Williams has motherhood, post-career business opportunities and plenty more waiting for her after she walks away from tennis, but that doesn't mean retirement was an easy decision for the greatest of all time.
She preserved her career for at least one more match with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Danka Kovinić in the opening round of the 2022 U.S. Open on Monday and then addressed during a post-match interview on ESPN how difficult it was to decide to retire:
"It's been such a hard decision, you know. ... It's been a very hard decision cuz when you're passionate about something and you love something so much, it's always hard to walk away. Sometimes I think it's harder to walk away than to not. And that's been the case for me. So, I've been trying to decide for a little while what to do.
"... But I was just like, all right, I think now's the time. I just have a family and ... there's other chapters in life. I call it evolution."
Williams announced her decision Aug. 9 in an essay in Vogue, and her words Monday echoed those sentiments.
"It's the hardest thing that I could ever imagine," Williams wrote then. "... I don't want it to be over, but at the same time I'm ready for what's next."
What's immediately next is a second-round matchup against the second-seeded Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday.
It was clear from the opening moments that the biggest storyline of the entire U.S. Open was going to be Williams. Her match was overshadowed by the spectacle as she was introduced to an adoring crowd with a video and raucous cheers, and the New York fans seemed to be on the court with her at times as they responded to every point.
Even though she won, the post-victory ceremony on the court felt like a retirement celebration. Gayle King served as the de facto emcee, Billie Jean King spoke, and Oprah Winfrey narrated another video montage.
That is also when Williams addressed the crowd and said it was not an easy decision to retire, but fans will have another opportunity to cheer her on after her straightforward win.