One of the greatest athletes of all time and a 23-time grand slam singles champion Serena Williams is retiring from tennis, announcing that she could step away after the upcoming US Open to focus on her family and fashion business.
On 9 August, we were shocked by the announcement of Serena Williams is retiring from tennis in a powerful Vogue cover shoot. Williams has won four Olympic gold medals and 23 grand slam singles titles since making her tennis debut in 1995, which makes her one of the greatest athletes of all time.
But what makes her a true icon and unique, is that she was not only a tennis champion, her on-court fashion statements, from catsuits to denim skirts, helped tennis become more well-liked among young, streetwear-savvy audiences. She is well-known for her work with the late designer Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and her passionate portrayals in Nike ads promoting girls’ empowerment.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,”– Serena stated
Williams also altered the business of being a female athlete. She has well-prepared herself for her retirement decision in the past few years, spending a significant amount of time and money to set up her venture capital company, Serena Ventures; fashion line, S by Serena, Jewellery line, Serena Williams Jewelry, and investing in various organisations.
A Real Inspiration to Women
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams stated. “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.”
The 40-year-old champion gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia, in 2017, and she still has incredibly managed to keep advancing in her sport, hitting records. She went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. She played while breastfeeding. She played through postpartum depression. She showed up 23 times, and that’s extraordinary, giving hope to many women to get up there and do what they got to do.
“But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter,” Williams declared, describing her intention to finish her playing career as an “evolution” away from tennis. This is another powerful example of strength; to let go of a significant and major part of her life in order to prioritise another part. All we can say is “chapeau & respect” to this woman.
Alongside her sister Venus, Williams has been widely credited with changing the face of tennis and women’s sports.
In the film King Richard which was released in 2021, Will Smith portrayed Richard Williams, Serena and Venus’ father, and his role earned him the Best Actor Oscar and dragged more attention to the Williams. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the two sisters said they were aware that they were entering an “all-white sport” when they became professional tennis players but they enjoyed the challenge of working to alter that.
“We changed it from being two great Black champions to being the best ever, period,” Serena said. “And that’s what we did. We took out colour and we just became the best. It is what it is, we changed the sport, we changed the fashion, we changed how people think, we changed how people think in business.”
As the incredible Serena Williams is retiring from tennis, we’ve gathered up three of the icon’s most powerful moments, epic responses and sexist shutdowns, on and off the court that would always make her an unforgettable figure.
When she defended her undeniable tennis legacy to John McEnroe
In 2017, former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe infuriated many tennis fans after he shared that while Williams is the greatest female tennis player ever, “if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.”
Williams responded to the retired player’s backlash over his sexist remarks with an epically strong tweet. “Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” Williams tweeted. “I’ve never played anyone ranked ‘there’ nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”
A masterclass in taking on critics, indeed.
When she won her first grand slam match since giving birth in her infamous black catsuit
Williams had a tremendous year in 2018. She went on to win the French Open grand slam after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia. Her outfit, a black full-length Nike catsuit, later eclipsed her accomplishment.
The president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, said the outfit had “gone too far” despite the fact that Williams claimed it made her feel like “a warrior” and assisted her in coping with the blood clots that threatened her life during her pregnancy. “Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place,” he explained to Tennis Magazine.
Williams politely downplayed the remarks, but that didn’t stop her from pulling off some great courtside displays in the years that followed.
When she took on trolls who tried to body shame her
Serena Williams is not only talented on the court, but she has another amazing talent of giving a perfectly timed, mic-drop answer to everybody who has tried to make her look bad. Williams has experienced discrimination throughout her career from both the general public and other athletes. Her figure has been referred to as “very strong,” “manly,” and “unfeminine.”
She has consistently faced criticism, but she has chosen not to allow racial and gender stereotypes to affect her. “I’ll never be a size 4! Why would I want to do that, and be that? This is me, and this is my weapon and machine.
I can show Olympia that I struggled, but now I’m happy with who I am and what I am and what I look like. Olympia was born and she had my arms, and instead of being sad and fearful about what people would say about her, I was just so happy,” Williams powerfully announced in 2018 in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine UK.
As much as we’re sad about the news that Selena Williams is retiring from tennis, we are very much excited to see more of her in events and runways as a fashion icon.
Here is a glimpse of Williams outside of the court, from runway shows to the annual Met Gala in New York City.