This morning, my daughter, Olympia, who turns five this month, and I were on our way to get her a new passport before a trip to Europe. We’re in my car, and she’s holding my phone, using an interactive educational app she likes. This robotic voice asks her: What do you want to be when you grow up? She doesn’t know I’m listening, but I hear the answer she whispers into the phone. She says, “I want to be a big sister.”
Olympia says that a lot, even when she knows I’m listening. Sometimes before going to bed, she prays to Jehovah to bring her a little sister. (She wants nothing 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 I needed to listen very closely to.
Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife did the physical work of growing our family. Maybe I’d be more Tom Brady if I had that chance. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. I was one of those annoying women who loved being pregnant and worked until the day I had to report to the hospital—even though things got really complicated on the other side. And I almost did the impossible: A lot of people don’t realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I’m turning 41 this month, and something has to give.
I never liked the word isolation It doesn’t seem like a modern word to me. I thought of it 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 do is development I am here to tell you that I am evolving away from tennis, towards other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Shortly after that, I started a family. I want to raise that family.
But I’m reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I need to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo subject. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes out, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start crying. The only person I really went there with is my therapist! One thing I won’t do is sugarcoat this. I know a lot of people are excited and looking forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way. Ashleigh Barty was number one in the world when she left the sport this March, and I think she really felt ready to move on. Caroline Wozniacki, who is one of my best friends, felt a sense of relief when she retired in 2020.