Why Serena Williams’ retirement is different

unless serena williams At this year’s U.S. Open, she accomplished the kind of feat usually reserved for Hollywood finales, 23 being the number of Grand Slam singles champions she will retire.That number makes her the most successful and successful singles champion of all genders in the history of tennis’ modern incarnation (Rafael Nadal did Nearly came close to her record, taking his 22nd at this year’s French Open, but still). Somehow, 23 is also a (one!) below the record-breaking Williams — who has raked in nearly $100 million from every surface and circumstance the sport has known — and millions of fans don’t so secretly hope.

The truth is, 24 is the number to beat. 24 is the number of times Australian tennis player Margaret Court won a Grand Slam singles title before retiring in 1977. But any comparison is short: Court won most of her Grand Slam titles before the Open Tennis era (in which pros and amateurs competed against each other) beginning in 1968. She competed during her wooden racket days, with no topspin as the de facto style of play predominant, and often hitting 100+ mph before serving.

Williams didn’t want to say she was retire from tennis. In her own words, on the cusp of her 41st birthday, she was ready to “evolve” from it.She explains why in the September issue FashionThe most important reason for her decision to leave tennis seems to be her desire to expand her family with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. At this stage in her life, she can’t play tennis while having another child like Serena Williams. The woman who broke all barriers and challenged the boundaries of the game finally collided with the same fate of countless women before: she could not have everything at all.

Williams’ page Fashion The story, framed by photographs that appeared in the magazine early, is a gateway into more than two decades of glory and the zeitgeist. She and her sister Venus Williams wore matching striped gowns on the sofa in 1998, a year after the 17-year-old Serena won her first major at the U.S. Open. What followed was a beautiful catsuit lunge in 2003, shot shortly after her historic “Serena Slam” (four consecutive Grand Slams, but not within a calendar year). Finally, she donned the red in 2015, the year she won her 19th Grand Slam at the Australian Open, 20th at the French Open and 21st at Wimbledon . A year later there were 22 at Wimbledon. Then there was the standout 23, at the 2017 Australian Open when she was 35 and two months pregnant with daughter Olympia. Five years later, Olympia is all that matters.

For professional athletes—especially those granted GOAT status—retirement, both in action and thought, is a fun thing to do. These people, light years of talent, discipline and stamina beyond us mortals, admire them and are technically leaving the day jobs that made them rich and famous. In almost all cases, this critical change occurs when these people still have decades to live.

Some star athletes will comfortably and purposefully step back into the background. Take Pete Sampras, for example. Before Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Sampras broke the bar for greatness in men’s tennis, possibly winning as many Grand Slams (14). Sampras is now living a married life with children, blissfully far from anything resembling a celebrity.Another tennis superstar Andre Agassi chooses to show how his career actually felt. In 2009, three years after his retirement, he published Open, a memoir of the confinement he experienced throughout his life as a professional tennis player.it is as New York Times Pointed out, “One of the most passionate anti-sports books ever written by a superstar athlete.” No clichés about hard work or a championship mentality, and no hesitation about necessary sacrifices or impending rewards. It confronts the frustrating repetition inherent in training, the exhaustion of traveling, and the physical loneliness of living while traveling. This is perhaps the first time we’ve ever really seen what a player really is, whether they’ve won a major tournament or 25 games. Other geniuses, including Naomi Osaka, have followed suit, speaking candidly about the impact their work has had on their mental health.

At times, some GOATs will pretend to retire, only to return shortly after. Tom Brady left football in February 2022 after 22 seasons in the NFL. Six weeks later, he confirmed he would be back for another photo. Michael Phelps, who retired from swimming in 2012, won four gold medals at the London Olympics. He won 6 titles in Athens in 2004 and 8 titles in Beijing in 2008. By 2014, he was back in the pool and then “really” retired after the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning another five gold medals. Michael Jordan abruptly quit basketball in 1993, citing his desire to play baseball after his father was murdered. He returned in 1995, retired for a second time in 1999, then again in 2001, and finally retired permanently in 2003.

Williams’ career is different, not only in what she has accomplished, but in what she endured – two decades about her body, her race, her attitude, her anger, her wardrobe , public comments on her female identity.

inside Fashion Prose, her sense of ending is clear. The prose is full of melancholy notes. She suggested that if she was more like Brady, a man, then she faced fewer crossroads—she could stay on the field and get her (fictional, counterfactual) wife pregnant with another child. The reality is that Williams wants another child. Her daughter wants a sibling. Notably, Williams also mentioned Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish former world number one tennis player who retired after the 2020 Australian Open at the age of 29. Wozniacki was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years ago when she announced plans to leave the sport in 2019, and her words contained sentiments Williams later shared. There are more things she wants to do in life. She wanted to start a family, and in order to do that, Tennis had to leave.

In the end, 23, not 24, may be the quantification of the Grand Slams Serena Williams has left us to count. But there is no measure of her subversion, reimagining, and breakthrough, no identifiable contours to which she can apply to her greatness, and no way to assess her role in promoting social justice. Like other pioneers of the quasi-“niche” movement like Tiger Woods and Tony Hawk, Williams’ name is synonymous with what she helped revolutionize. Even if she does finally drop the racket, Williams won’t really leave us. She may not be able to serve the gods of tennis and motherhood at the same time, but generations of young athletes will continue to pick their rackets because she inspired them to do so. A legacy like this isn’t just numbers.


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