Serena Williams is putting down her racket.
"I have never liked the word retirement," she wrote in a cover story for the magazine's September 2022 issue. "It doesn't feel like a modern word to me. 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."
Williams, 40, acknowledged that while many are excited to retire, this isn't the case for her.
"Praise to these people, but I'm going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me," the four-time Olympic gold medalist continued. "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."
So, what is next? Williams said she wants to focus on her venture capital firm Serena Ventures and expand her family with her husband, entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian. (The couple, who wed in 2017, are already parents to 4-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.)
"In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we're ready, we can add to our family," she continued. "I definitely don't want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out."
Williams noted she "never wanted to choose between tennis and a family," adding she doesn't "think it's fair" and that many male athletes aren't faced with this situation.
"If I were a guy, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family," she wrote. "Maybe I'd be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity."
Over the course of her nearly three-decade career, Williams has created quite the legacy, including winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles and another 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. Her most recent Grand Slam win was at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was 2 months pregnant. Most recently, she competed at Wimbledon, where she was eliminated in the first round.
Williams will return to the Grand Slam circuit for the U.S. Open in New York, which begins later this month. If she wins, she'll be tied with Margaret Court for most singles titles in history. And while she wants to win, she isn't too concerned about the record.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that record," she wrote. "Obviously I do. But day to day, I'm really not thinking about her. If I'm in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn't help."
Williams continued, "The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn't get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. 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. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter."