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Tennis great Serena Williams announces imminent retirement

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“The countdown has begun,” 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams announced on Tuesday that she is ready to retire from tennis so she can focus on having another child and her business interests. transcend sports.

in a essay Released Tuesday by Vogue magazine, and a post on Instagram — the kind of direct-to-fan communication celebrities prefer these days, a category she certainly fits into — Williams wasn’t quite clear on the timeline for her final match, but she made it sound like that could be at the US openwhich begins on August 29 in New York.

“There comes a time in life when we have to decide to go in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness, I enjoy tennis. But now the countdown has begun,” Williams, who turns 41 next month, wrote on Instagram. “I need to focus on being a mother, my spiritual goals, and finally discovering another, but just (equally) exciting Serena. I’m going to enjoy these coming weeks.”

Williams, one of the greatest and most accomplished athletes in the history of her — or any other — sport, wrote in the essay that she dislikes the word “retirement” and prefers to think of this phase of her life as from tennis to other things that are important to me.”

“I feel a lot of pain. It’s the hardest thing I can ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads,” she wrote. “I keep saying to myself, I wish it was easy for me, but it isn’t. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s to come.”

That she would think publicly about the end of her playing days is hardly surprising, given her age – her 10 Grand Slam titles after 30 are unbeatable – her injury history and her recent record: one win in a singles in the last 12 months ( that win arrived in Toronto on Monday; she is scheduled to play again on Wednesday).

“Serena Williams is a generational talent, if not generations, who had a profound impact on the game of tennis, but had an even greater impact on women in sports, business and society. At a time when our nation and the world struggled with vital issues of identity, Serena was a unique example of the best of humanity after breaking through countless barriers to her entry and eventual success,” said Stacey Allaster, US Open tournament director. “She leaves an indelible legacy of grace and grit that will inspire athletes, both female and male, for generations to come. We can’t thank her enough for everything she has done for our sport.”

Williams’ status as an athlete and pioneer is clear to all.

She was the first black woman since Althea Gibson in 1958 to win a Grand Slam title; Williams and her older sister, seven-time Major Singles champion Venus, helped broaden the sport’s audience and attract new players.

“I grew up watching her. I mean, that’s why I play tennis,” Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old African-American who finished second at this year’s French Open, said Tuesday. “Tennis is a predominantly white sport and it certainly helped a lot because I saw someone who looked like me dominate the game. And it made me believe I could dominate too.”

US Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said the organization “will operate on the assumption that this will be Serena Williams’ last US Open”.

It is the last Grand Slam event of the year and she has won six times, most recently in 2014, to go along with seven titles apiece at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, plus three at the French Open, in a career that remarkable for its peaks and its longevity.

She also owns 14 Grand Slam doubles championships, all won with Venus, part of a remarkable story of two siblings from Compton, California, who both grew up to be No. 1, winning dozens of trophies and dominating tennis for pieces – one story told in the Oscar-winning film ‘King Richard’.

Venus, who is 42 and still competing, was the first in the family to break through and reach her maiden Grand Slam final at the 1997 US Open. But it was Serena who quickly surpassed her sister, winning the 1999 US Open at age 17 and then 22 more such triumphs (Venus won seven major singles titles), eventually establishing herself as a one-of-a-kind superstar, known for much more than her racket-in-hand talent.

The younger Williams was armed with an as effective serve as ever, powerful forehands and backhands, instincts and speed that allowed her to cover every inch of a field and switch from defense to attack in the blink of an eye, and an enviable will to win. That unwavering desire to be the best helped her be the best — and sometimes got her into trouble with chair umpires during matches, most infamously during the 2018 US Open final that she lost to Naomi Osaka, a woman more than ten years younger and growing up idolizing Williams, like so many of today’s players.

The official Wimbledon Twitter feed posted this message above a photo of Williams on Tuesday: “Some are playing the game. Others change it.”

“I don’t like to think about my legacy. I get a lot of questions about it, and I never quite know what to say. But I would like to think that thanks to the opportunities presented to me, female athletes feel like they can be themselves on the field,” Williams wrote. “They can play with aggression and pump with their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick the butt and be proud of everything.”

The American has won more Grand Slam singles titles in the professional era than any other woman or man. Only one player, Margaret Court, amassed more, 24, although the Australian won some of hers in the amateur era.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But from day to day I really don’t think about her. When I’m in a Grand Slam final, I do think about that record,” Williams said. “Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. to have.”

But Williams went on to write: “Nowadays, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I’ll choose the latter.”

She and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, have a daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on September 1.

“Believe me, I’ve never wanted to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” said Williams, who was pregnant when she won the 2017 Australian Open for her last Grand Slam trophy. “If I were a man I wouldn’t be writing this because I would be playing and winning there while my wife did the physical work to expand our family.”

Williams said she and Ohanian want a second baby, writing: “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I have to be two feet in tennis or two feet out.”

She was out of the tour for about a year after being injured in her first round at Wimbledon in 2021. She returned to singles at the All England Club in June, losing in the first round.

“Unfortunately I was not ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I’ll be ready to win New York,” Williams wrote in her essay. “But I’m going to try.”

Williams hinted in the Vogue essay that the US Open would be her last tournament, but did not say so explicitly.

“I’m not looking for a ceremonial, last minute on the pitch,” Williams wrote. “I’m terrible at saying goodbye, the world’s worst.”

(AP)

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