This morning my daughter Olympia, who will be five this month, and I went to get her a new passport before a trip to Europe. We’re in my car and she’s holding my phone and using an interactive learning app that she likes. This robotic voice asks her a question: What do you want to be when you grow up? She doesn’t know I’m listening, but I can hear the answer she whispers into the phone. She says, “I want to be a big sister.”
Olympia says this often, even when she knows I’m listening. Sometimes, before she goes to bed, she prays to Jehovah to bring her a little sister. (She doesn’t want anything to do with a boy!) I’m the youngest of five sisters myself, and my sisters are my heroes, so this felt like a moment that I needed to listen to very carefully.
Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a man I wouldn’t be writing this because I would be out there playing and winning while my wife does the physical labor to add to our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman and I’ve enjoyed every second of my pregnancy with Olympia. I was one of those annoying women who loved being pregnant and worked up until the day I had to report to the hospital – although things got super complicated on the other side. And I almost did the impossible: A lot of people don’t know that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I’ll be 41 this month and something has to give.
I never liked the word Retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve taken this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use this word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m about to do Evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis and towards other things that are important to me. A few years ago, I quietly founded Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Shortly thereafter I started a family. I want to grow this family.
But I was reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I had to stop playing tennis. Alexis, my husband and I hardly talked about it; It’s like a taboo subject. I can’t even have that conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat and I start to cry. The only person I really went there with is my therapist! One thing I won’t do is sugarcoat that. I know a lot of people are excited and looking forward to retirement and I really wish I felt that way. Ashleigh Barty was world number one when she left the sport this March and I think she felt really ready to move on. Caroline Wozniacki, one of my best friends, was relieved when she retired in 2020.