Serena Williams is gearing up to take one last swing on the tennis court before she gracefully evolves away from the sport. The 23 grand slam champion’s historic career will come to an end smack dab in the middle of the U.S. Open, the same place where she snagged her very first grand slam title at just 17 years old.
There’s a very good chance that Williams will leave the competition with her 7th US Open championship title in hand, but if not, the star athlete certainly has nothing left to prove. Williams has won seven Wimbledon champions and three French Open titles just to name a few.
But life off the court will be just as exciting for Williams, who revealed in her cover story with Vogue earlier his month, that she’ll be spending her time raising her 5-year-old daughter Olympia and adding a new addition to the family.
“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and 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,” Williams told the publication. “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” Olympia has been praying for a sister, she revealed.
The Californa native was eight weeks pregnant with Olympia when she won her 7th Australian Open in 2017. Williams gave birth to her daughter that year in September but the aftermath of the delivery was near fatal. The tennis pro was bedridden for months after doctors discovered a pulmonary embolism in her arteries. Thankfully, the tennis legend was able to bounce back and before you know it, Williams was back on the court again, this time with her daughter in tow.
In fact, over the past five years, Williams said she’s never spent more than 23 hours away from her little one, even with her busy career.
“The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense,” she said, continuing, “I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice — though it’s one I enjoyed making.”
The decision to put her family first over her legendary tennis career was a tough call to make, and a decision she never really wanted to grapple with in the first place, but during her interview with Time this week, Williams said flat out that there comes a point “where women sometimes have to make different choices than men if they want to raise a family.”
“It’s just black and white. You make a choice or you don’t,” she added. But she isn’t angry about the decision.
“I’m ready for the transition,” she said. She’s also ready to lean into motherhood. “I think I’m good at it,” she shared of her new mom title. “But I want to explore if I can be great at it.”
During an interview with AP News, a few women at the top of their careers empathized with Williams’s tough ultimatum.
“Society makes women think they can have everything all at once — be the best hands-on-mom and at the top of the field,” said Randolph, Sherie Randolph, a history professor at Georgia Tech and the founder of a Black Feminist Think Tank. She’s also a busy mom.
“But that just is not borne out in reality for most women. What ends up happening is that working mothers are just worn out and overworked trying to labor at the highest level of two demanding jobs — motherhood and their profession,” Randolph added.
Four-time Olympic champion sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross also made the tough decision to retire in 2016 after starting a family with her husband NFL star Aaron Ross.
“I always knew I didn’t want to start a family while I was still competing,” she said. “I feel being an athlete is the most selfish role you could have because it’s always all about you. Resting, recovering, training. Everything is so hyper-focused on the athlete. And being a parent is the opposite of that.”
Kirsten Corio, chief commercial officer for the U.S. Tennis Association also echoed a similar sentiment.
“The realization is a little bit crushing, that as a woman you can’t do both as an athlete at the top of your game,” said the mother of two. “It’s a lot of emotions to process, both as a fan of sports and of working moms. The one emotion that I can boil it down to, really, is just gratitude,” she added.
Serena Williams will play against Danka Kovinic during the first round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 29 at 7PM EST. She’s also set to play in the U.S. Open women’s doubles alongside her sister Venus. Those first round matches are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. You can watch them on ESPN.
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