It seems increasingly likely that the US Open later this month will be the location for Serena Williams’ final match as a professional tennis player.
The 40-year-old confirmed in an interview with Vogue magazine that she was planning to ‘transition’ away from tennis, but refused to use the word retirement – perhaps keeping the door open for a wildcard entry into Grand Slam events further down the line.
She spoke of her wish to have another child, and revealed: “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.”
Her tearful exit after losing in the Toronto Open second round to Belinda Bencic suggests this really is Serena’s curtain call. She went down 2-6, 4-6 to the Swiss ace, after which she burst into tears after being presented with a bouquet by tournament officials.
Addressing crowd, she confirmed her exit from the sport, saying:
“As I said in the article, I’m terrible at goodbyes. But goodbye, Toronto.”
Serena has an entry into the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to come, before she makes her final appearance on court at Flushing Meadows, the home of the US Open, at the end of the month.
Is Serena Williams the Best Women’s Tennis Player Ever?
The record books will show that Margaret Court, who won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, will remain as the most decorated women’s tennis player in history – a record unlikely to be beaten.
Serena could, in theory at least, draw level with the Australian should she win the US Open, although her recent form – her win in the Toronto Open first round was her first in some 430 days – suggests odds of 25/1 on her lifting the trophy are optimistic at best.
What’s interesting about Court’s major victories is that 13 of them came during the amateur era, a time when professionals were barred from competing against amateurs.
But Williams has earned her 23 Grand Slam haul the hard way, dominating women’s tennis at a time when she has been up against some class acts of the pro ranks – Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and even her own sister Venus being just four that spring to mind.
It’s those tournaments that are perhaps the best benchmark of success in tennis, but it would be foolhardy to overlook Serena’s stash of four Olympic gold medals, or the fact she has 14 Grand Slam doubles titles to her name. Or, arguably as important in the minds of some, that she won career prize money of just under $100 million – a not too shabby £82 million, and the greatest haul in the history of the sport.
Beyond just hitting balls back and forth, Serena has been an idol for young black women both in sport and in life and general, and has done more than most to advance the argument for equal pay distribution between men and women in tennis.
Like all greats of the sporting world, Serena Williams will still be being spoken about in a century’s time.