Serena Williams has made the heartbreaking announcement that she's retiring from tennis after the US Open.
On Monday, Williams played just her second singles match since she returned to action at Wimbledon in June after a year-long absence from competition, beating Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain to reach the second round of the Canadian Open.
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But the 40-year-old said in her post-match press conference that she could "see the light at the end of the tunnel", heavily hinting at her imminent retirement.
On Tuesday she confirmed the sad news in an article written for Vogue magazine, saying she will finish her career later this month at the US Open.
"I have never liked the word retirement," she wrote.
"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.
"A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."
Heartbreakingly, Williams said there is "no happiness" in her decision.
“I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain,” she added.
“It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads.
"I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
The 40-year-old revealed she's been trying to have a second child with husband Alexis Ohanian.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” she wrote.
“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.
“We recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”
Tennis world pays tribute to Serena Williams
Williams won her last grand slam title in 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th major crown that would draw her level with Aussie great Margaret Court - who holds the all-time record for the most majors.
She has come tantalisingly close to realising that dream, playing in four grand slam finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017, but losing all four.
"There are people who say I'm not the GOAT (greatest of all time) because I didn't pass Court's record, which she achieved before the 'Open era' that began in 1968," the former World No.1 said.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I'm really not thinking about her. If I'm in a Slam final, then yes, I'm thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn't help."
Williams later said in an Instagram post that it was time to move in a "different direction."
"That time is always hard when you love something so much," she added. "My goodness do I enjoy tennis.
"But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I'm gonna relish these next few weeks."
In a storied career in which she dominated rivals like no other athlete, Williams claimed seven Australian Open titles, three French Open titles and seven Wimbledon crowns.
She announced herself to the world by winning the US Open in 1999 as an 18-year-old, a tournament she would go on to claim five more times.
Williams also owns 14 women's grand slam doubles titles with older sister Venus and has won four Olympic gold medals - one in singles (2012) and three in doubles (2000, 2008, 2012).
The American champion played down expectations for her final grand slam at Flushing Meadows after losing in the opening round at Wimbledon in June.
"Unfortunately I wasn't ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don't know if I will be ready to win New York. But I'm going to try," she wrote.
"I know there's a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York... It's a good fantasy. But I'm not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment.
"I'm terrible at goodbyes, the world's worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words... And I'm going to miss you."
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) August 9, 2022
Even though it's felt inevitable for a while and will make no difference to her legacy, still really sad that Serena won't break Margaret Court's record.
— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) August 9, 2022
The entire letter is amazing, with Serena being so honest about how sad she is to have to leave tennis.
You can feel it in every word. pic.twitter.com/1f5nAkHWhQ
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) August 9, 2022
23-time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams, has announced her retirement from Tennis. 🎾
One of the greatest Tennis players of all-time 🐐
The greatest women's player of all-time 🐐
What a sad day #shola #visa #Inec pic.twitter.com/1C4kvRYIWx
— Saint Obi (@SaintObi19) August 9, 2022
sad day for tennis. i’m glad i got to be alive when serena played. https://t.co/9cPlCKMx2J
— pelšsy (@flapanthersslut) August 9, 2022
Not ready for Serena’s last match. I’ve been in the stands for historic wins, heartbreaking losses, and remarkable comebacks. She’s the most important athlete I’ve had the honor of covering and I’ve loved every moment.🐐 https://t.co/zgTBdec052
— LZ Granderson (@LZGranderson) August 9, 2022
She deserves all the rest & happiness in the world.
Will be so sad to no longer see her play but she has left the game better than she found it. And is unparalleled in her success.
Cherishing these next few weeks of greatness @serenawilliams pic.twitter.com/UE83hDAD8K
— Kelsey Trainor (@ktrain_11) August 9, 2022
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