Eight hundred and fifty-eight career singles wins, 23 Grand Slam singles titles, four Olympic gold medals and an everlasting impact on tennis. There are many ways to sum up Serena Williams' legacy as one of sport's GOATs. But when it comes to what she wants daughter Olympia to take away from her time on the court, the champion hopes to serve up some meaningful lessons.
"I hope she realizes that I was pretty good at my job and the hard work that it takes to be good at it," Williams, 41, told E! in an exclusive interview. "So, that's what I would hope, just taking away the hard work and the excellence that you have to put your body through and the discipline that you also have to put your body through."
Williams—who shares the 5-year-old with her husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian—also hopes to pass on the importance of building a solid squad.
"How it's important to have a really good team around you," she explained, "and how you can have a good career if you have a good team around you and you can have a different career if you have a bad team around you. And kinda amplifying that in her life as well—meaning your friends or the people that you talk to, you want to make sure that that's quality."
Williams announced she's "evolving away from tennis" in an August piece for Vogue and played her final match weeks later at the U.S. Open, where she made it to the third round.
In the Vogue article, the athlete expressed her desire to continue focusing on her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, and growing her family. However, she admitted in the piece that she felt "torn" about stepping away from the sport, noting, "I don't want it to be over, but at the same time I'm ready for what's next."
This feeling, she explained to E! News, stems from knowing she has the talent to still compete.
"I for sure feel more at peace now," she said about the decision. "It's interesting. I think I feel torn because I'm still able to play at a very, very, very high level. With that being said, I always wanted to leave the game playing at a very high level. But it's hard because it's like, 'Oh my gosh, I could still play, and I could still do all that stuff.'....But I'm inch by inch leaning away, inch by inch embracing it."
"Inch by Inch" is the name of the Super Bowl commercial Williams stars in for Rémy Martin, giving an inspiring speech à la Any Given Sunday to drive home the liquor brand's message of "teaming up for excellence" and pushing towards greatness little by little.
It's a message that resonates with the tennis star when reflecting on both her sports career and this next phase of her life, which she says includes having fun, finding balance and focusing on family.
"When I think of 'inch by inch,' just this whole new life of mine is definitely going inch by inch, right?" she shared. "'Cause I've been playing tennis for literally, literally my entire life. My entire being and knowing is just what I've done. So now, I'm inch by inch finding my way. Obviously, I love other businesses that I've done. But just inch by inch leaning into that and leaning into my family and leaning into just having fun. I think it's so important to do all those and still create that balance."
However, Williams admitted she still plays tennis for herself at home. "I was playing earlier when I first retired 'cause it was hard to do it cold turkey," she said. "But lately, I haven't played so much. And I miss it. I'm like, 'Oh my goodness. I gotta get out there.' But it's hard for me to get out there."
Indeed, volleying back and forth between these two feelings isn't easy.
"Actually, I did play the other day, and it's just like, 'There's no way I shouldn't be playing professional tennis. Like, there's literally no excuse,'" she explained. "But I mean, I guess there is an excuse, right? It's hard because when I'm playing I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm pretty good at this. I can continue to do this,' which not a lot of people can say."
But even if Williams has to go "inch by inch," she's ready to ace what comes next. As she put it, "I also wanted to walk away when I'm healthy and have a quality of life."