Serena Williams, tennis icon and 23-time Grand Slam champion, has announced plans to step back from the sport.
Don't call it a retirement, though. In a personal essay, the athlete expressed her distaste for the term and its outdated connotations. "Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution," she wrote. "I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis."
Williams will leave the sport after playing the U.S. Open in August. Before then, she will compete in Toronto's National Bank Open, where her next match is scheduled for August 10, and in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open.
In June, she lost in the Wimbledon first round to Harmony Tan. When asked if she planned on returning to Wimbledon in the future, Williams skirted the question: "Who knows?" she said. "Who knows where I’ll pop up."
"There is no happiness in this topic for me," Williams clarified in her essay. "I hate that I have to be at this crossroads... 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's next for the champion? After 27 years as a professional athlete, she plans on growing her family with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The couple welcomed their first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., in 2017.
"Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family," she said. "I don’t think it’s fair. 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... But I’m turning 41 this month, and something's got to give."
Williams also plans on developing her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which raised $111 million in inaugural funding earlier this year.
"I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst," Williams concluded. "But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you."