The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion made just her second appearance of the year this week as she defeated Nuria Parrizas at the National Bank Open in Toronto.
In reference to her spectacular career, she later acknowledged she was “coming near to the light at the end of the tunnel” before extending that statement in a Vogue story in which she hinted at quitting.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote in Vogue. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.
“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.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis. It’s like a taboo topic. It comes up, and I start to cry. I think the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist.”
The 40-year-old was knocked out by Harmony Tan at Wimbledon in her first singles match for a year earlier this summer, but has her sights set on the US Open in what could prove her farewell tournament.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” she added in the article. “And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.
“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, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!’ I get that. 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.”
Williams’ last Grand Slam title came in 2017 to take her tally to 23, leaving her one shy of a 24th that would bring her level with Margaret Court’s record for most majors.
“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,” Williams 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 underlined her imminent retirement by suggesting “the countdown has begun”, noting that she was “relishing” what could be the final few weeks of her career.
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