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Goodbyes aren't easy, even for one of the greatest athletes of all time. Serena Williams got emotional on Wednesday as she played her final match in Canada just hours after she announced she was "evolving away from tennis."
In a video posted on the Tennis Channel's Twitter, Williams can be seen taking it all in as she receives a standing ovation following her match against Belinda Bencic, whom she was defeated 6-2 6-4 by in the second round of the Canadian Open in Toronto.
"It was a lot of emotions," the 40-year-old athlete said during an on-court interview of how it felt to play so soon after making the major announcement. "I love playing here, I've always loved playing here. I wish I could have played better but Belinda played so well today. It's been an interesting 24 hours."
"I love y'all," Williams continued, choking up as she addressed the crowd. "As I said in the article, I'm terrible at goodbyes. But goodbye, Toronto."
Williams penned a first-person account regarding her decision to step back from the sport for Vogue's September 2022 issue which was published on Wednesday. "I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me," she wrote. "A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."
Williams, who shares 4-year-old daughter, Olympia, with husband Alexis Ohanian, went on to explain how important expanding her family is to all three of them. "In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family," she said. "I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out."
"The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final," Williams continued. "I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter."
Williams went on to say things would be different if she were a male athlete. "If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family," she wrote. "Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity."
While Williams said saying goodbye to the sport is "the hardest thing that I could ever imagine," she hopes her legacy will help future female athletes.
"I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful," she wrote. "They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all," she says. "I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. Mistakes are learning experiences, and I embrace those moments. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve also taken a lot of criticism, and I’d like to think that I went through some hard times as a professional tennis player so that the next generation could have it easier."