Serena Williams is preparing to say farewell to tennis after the 2022 U.S. Open. The professional athlete has announced her retirement from the sport in Vogue‘s September 2022 cover story while sharing the challenges of being at a crossroads of tennis and family.

“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. 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 labour of expanding our family,” Williams tells Vogue. “Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia…. A lot of people don’t realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I’m turning 41 this month [on September 26], and something’s got to give.”

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Serena Williams
Serena Williams — Photo: Luis Alberto Rodriguez/Vogue
Serena Williams
Serena Williams — Photo: Luis Alberto Rodriguez/Vogue

Williams notes that she’s “never liked the word ‘retirement’,” and perhaps the best word to describe what she’s 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,” she shares, adding that her and husband Alexis, with whom she shares four-year-old daughter Olympia, “have been trying to have another child.”

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Moving on from tennis has been a “taboo topic” for Williams, who says she’s been “reluctant to admit” that she’s moving on from the sport.

“I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry,” she says when the topic comes up, noting that the only person she’s talked about it with is her therapist.

“There is no happiness in this topic for me…. I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads,” Williams adds. “I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”

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As for her upcoming, final appearance at the U.S. Open, Williams is “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 [the fans] 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.”

Williams’ Vogue September cover issue hits newsstands on August 16.