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Saying Goodbye to the Courts

Posted 11/07/2022 by Kira Kennedy

Serena Williams waving goodbye to the crowd after her last match at the US Open in 2022. photo by Matthew Stockman

On September 2nd, Williams played her last match and ended an era to start a new one: motherhood.

Serena Williams is a household name; she is the world’s most famous women’s tennis player. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other woman or man during the open era. Serena has just now said goodbye to the world of professional tennis and is ready for the next steps in her life. Serena has chosen motherhood over tennis, bringing up the common question that most people thought had passed: why do women have to choose between their career or parenthood, but men don’t have to? Serena is not the only woman that has had a hard time choosing between motherhood and their job when there shouldn’t have to be a choice. 

According to a 2019 study by Pew Research Center, it was found that 54% of working mothers needed to reduce their working hours because of their family life, compared to only 44% of fathers. In multiple interviews, Serena has expressed her annoyance with the system regarding the choice of being a parent or a professional athlete. 

Serena grew up in Compton, California, with her mother, Oracene Price, father, Richard Williams, and her older sister, Venus Williams, who is also a famous professional tennis player. Serena’s life has revolved around tennis since she was little. Her father was the one who taught both girls how to play by going to public courts in their neighborhood and spending many hours working hard. The family then moved to Florida, so Venus and Serena could attend a tennis academy. By 1995, both sisters were professionals. It wasn’t long before they were noticed for their undeniable talent and athleticism. The two sisters played against and with each other in multiple tournaments. Together they were a force to be reckoned with and won 14 doubles tournaments, along with a gold medal in the 2008 Olympic games and when they played against each other, it was a match no one would want to miss. Though Venuses was highly talented and successful, Serena was always the public’s favorite. Serena quickly became known for her bold outfits, such as catsuits, that highlight her strength and challenged traditional dress codes. She went on to play in and win multiple opens and grand slams. 

In 2017 Serena announced that she was pregnant with her daughter, Alexis (Olympia) Ohanian Jr., who she has with her husband, Alexis Ohanian. Because of the pregnancy, Serena would have to miss the rest of her season, but she was back in the game for the following season. She didn’t win any tournaments or grand slams for the following three seasons, but Serena wasn’t done yet. She got one more win in 2020 at the ASB Classic before withdrawing from the following two opens due to injuries. Due to Serena’s world tours and tournament play, she has missed more of her daughter’s life than she would have liked. In a Times Magazine interview, Serena states that “Olympia doesn’t like when I play tennis.” She also notes that Olympia is hoping to have a sibling one day, and Serena is hoping to give her one. 

Serena decided that her last tournament would be Wimbledon, where she sadly lost in the first round. The standing ovation the crowd gave her as she left the court for the last time was heartwarming. The tears from both Serena and the audience truly showed how impactful she was and that she was so much more than just a tennis player, she was a role model for many young girls. Serena also brought women’s tennis to an entirely new level of play and respect from around the world. She will continue to be influential in everything she does. Serena stated in a Vogue interview that she was “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she wishes she could do both, but in today’s world for women, that’s not possible. It’s either parenthood or a career; she is ready to let go of her career and choose parenthood. Hopefully, one day there won’t have to be a choice for women.