Serena Williams Retires From Tennis

Exploring the tennis star’s legacy of achievement, and her bright future off the court


Serena Williams’ record-breaking career came to an end last month, when the celebrated tennis star undertook her final match. After advancing to the third round of the U.S open, she lost 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 in a thrilling and intense match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 2. Williams was unable to beat 29-year-old Croatian-Australian Ajla Tomjanovic. 

Although Williams is stepping away from sports, her athletic prowess, impressive accomplishments on and off the court, and remarkable achievements in the tennis world allow her to join a long list of trailblazing women athletes.

In 1995, Williams started her professional career at the age of 14. She completed a Career Grand Slam, winning all four major championships in one discipline. Williams went on to win 23 major singles titles, inspiring other female athletes to achieve their dreams of going big. 

Williams said, in an essay written in Vogue, “I’d like to think that thanks to me, women athletes can be themselves. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all.” 

Though she loves tennis, Williams has decided to retire and focus on family instead, saying, “I started a family. I want to grow that family.” 

She gave birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017. During labor, she had four surgeries, bringing her close to death. Just three months after Olympia’s birth, Williams won the 2017 Grand Slam against Kristyna Pliskova.

Williams exemplifies how challenging it is to balance family and a successful athletic career, talking openly about her struggles both with postpartum depression and the stress of being a mother. 

In a 2018 Instagram post, Williams said, “I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with [Olympia] every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art.”

Williams also started Serena Ventures (SV), a venture capital firm that invests in founders from underrepresented backgrounds. Over the years, Williams has shifted her focus more towards this firm. It is crucial to Williams that a large portion of investments from SV go to women; on average, less than 2% of venture capital goes to women. Williams wants to change this statistic, just as she changed tennis. Already, the firm has taken steps toward creating change: 53% of the SV’s investments have gone to companies with female founders, and 76% have gone to underrepresented founders. 

In her Vogue essay, Williams describes retirement as a “modern word” and has been reluctant to think about leaving tennis, which is such a fundamental part of her life. When it comes up, she describes getting “an uncomfortable lump in [her] throat, and [she] start[s] to cry.” 

But the more she reflected on it, the more Williams realized that retirement is more like “evolution.” She said, “I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

Williams will be missed as an athlete in the tennis community, but still supported in her dreams. She may have left the tennis world, but her undeniably incredible reputation will forever precede her.