Aug 10, 2022 - Sports

Serena Williams prepares to say farewell

Illustration of a sparkling golden tennis racket leaned against a tennis net
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. Open is always a spectacle, but this year's edition will be downright historic.

Driving the news: Serena Williams, 40, plans to retire sometime after the tournament, she wrote Tuesday in an essay for Vogue, though she didn't pinpoint an exact date for her final match.

"I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. ... I don't want it to be over, but at the same time I'm ready for what's next."
— Williams

By the numbers: Williams' accomplishments always bear repeating.

  • Her 23 grand slam titles are an Open Era record (since 1968), and one shy of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24.
  • She was ranked No. 1 for a record-tying 186 consecutive weeks during her prime and 319 weeks during her career, third-most ever.
  • She won 20 of the 54 possible majors between the 2002 French Open and 2015 Wimbledon. No one else won more than seven.
Data: Women's Tennis Association; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Between the lines: If Williams must say farewell, there's no better place than the U.S. Open, where she won her first major 23 years ago and has racked up wins and memorable moments for decades.

  • Williams' six U.S. Open titles are tied for the Open Era record, and her 106 matches won there are the most in history, man or woman.
  • Wild stat: She almost never fails to reach the semifinals at Arthur Ashe, making the final four in 14 of her 20 U.S. Opens, including each of her last 11.

What's next: Williams said her plans going forward are to grow her business and grow her family, saying she wants another child, but "I definitely don't want to be pregnant again as an athlete."

  • Serena Ventures recently raised $111 million to expand beyond angel investing, but it's hard to imagine that being her "only" next move.
  • Athletes of Williams' stature now often diversify into ownership (she has a stake in the Dolphins), Hollywood production (she was an EP on "King Richard") and more.

What to watch: We have precious few opportunities left to watch the G.O.A.T.

  • Williams plays Wednesday night (~7pm ET) in the Canadian Open's round of 32 against world No. 12 Belinda Bencic.
  • After that, she's confirmed for the Western & Southern Open (Aug. 13–21) and unconfirmed for the two concurrent events in the week before the U.S. Open (Aug. 29).

The last word: "I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open," Williams wrote. "I didn't think past that. And then I just kept winning." And what a privilege it's been to watch.

Go deeper