Serena Williams has announced her imminent retirement from tennis, announcing that she plans to call time on one of the great sporting careers after this month’s US Open.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles winner told Vogue magazine that she is “evolving away from tennis” to spend more time being a mother and running her venture capital fund.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” said Williams, who turns 41 later this month.
“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. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles at the US Open, which runs from 29 August to 11 September in New York.
Having won 14 Grand Slam titles as a doubles pairing with elder sister Venus Williams and a further two in mixed doubles, she already holds the record for the most majors overall, 39.
However her final tournament pans out, the four-time Olympic gold medallist admits that she is bowing out of elite sport with a heavy heart.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis,” she added.
“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.
“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.”
Williams twice held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously, while her last Major crown came at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.
She has reached four major finals since returning to the court, losing each of them in straight sets, and has suffered in recent years from a series of injuries.
Williams entered Wimbledon earlier this year in an attempt to win the singles title for an eighth time but was knocked out in the first round.
She acknowledged that some people would not consider her the greatest of all time if she did not match or surpass Court’s record before retirement.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her,” she said.
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary.”
Williams, the highest earning female sportsperson ever, said she would continue to spend more time on Serena Ventures, having first begun investing in start-up businesses nine years ago.
The company has backed 16 unicorns and earlier this year raised more than $100m in external finance for further investment.
“I really fell in love with early-stage, whether it’s pre-seed funding, where you’re investing in just an idea, or seed, where the idea has already been turned into a product,” she added.