“I just had to stop”

Bradley Cooper showed a new skill on Saturday when the actor-turned-director interviewed tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams for the A+E Networks and the History Channels history talks in Washington D.C

At the beginning of the conversation, he addressed Serena’s recent announcement that she was retiring from tennis. She played her final match at the US Open in New York City earlier this month.

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“I just had to stop,” Serena recalls of her decision. “I’ve always said that when I’m playing really good tennis and I’m winning and beating good players, I want to quit. For me, it’s really about things I want to do spiritually and spending time with my daughter and family.”

She continued, “As a super hands-on mom, I can’t tell you how hard it was. I lost so many games after I had Olympia” – in 2017 – “because it was so hard to be on the pitch. I feel like I’ve given so much of my life to tennis, my whole life, that it’s time to do something else for me and work on other things as well.”

But fear not, tennis enthusiasts: there’s a chance Serena will pick up a racquet again. She said she gave herself permission to return to court. “I feel like if I want to come back, I can definitely still come back,” she said.

For the Williams sisters, the stats are undeniable. Together they have won dozens of Grand Slam tournaments, multiple Olympic gold medals and are ranked No. 1 in the world in singles and doubles. Cooper asked Venus and Serena what it’s like knowing they changed the game of tennis.

“I want to do more for myself,” said Venus. “You want to get better every moment. It is never enough. If it was perfect, it wasn’t perfect enough.”

Serena danced around the question, adding, “When you’re inside you can’t see it. It’s completely different when you’re there.”

They also talked about the challenges of maintaining privacy in public spaces. Cooper, who says he’s grateful he wasn’t a household name until his mid-30s, admitted there were a few days when he didn’t leave his Manhattan apartment.

“I also!” said Serena.

Venus cocked her head: “What are you doing…”

“I watch a lot of TV,” Cooper admits.

Serena believes that “there’s a fine line” between the need to stay indoors and the need to leave the house. “Some days I ask myself, ‘When was the last time I was outside?’ So that’s normal,” she assured Cooper.

“I’m taking my daughter to school,” he interjected.

Serena continued, “It makes sure I’m out there enough that it’s not going to be too big an event [when I do go out]. The other day I wanted to get something to eat and ended up staying at home. I don’t want to overdo it. it is important to step out just enough.”

For Venus, there are fewer strategic thoughts that go into public appearances. “When I go out, I don’t think people are thinking of me. I do my own thing.”

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