Actually, Serena Williams Isn't Retiring

Serena Williams at her "last" game
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

About two months after Serena Williams graced Vogue’s September Issue cover dedicated to her farewell to the sport of tennis, she announced that she’s not actually going anywhere. “I am not retired,” the tennis player said during a press conference in San Fransisco on Monday, according to NBC News. She continued, saying the chances of her returning to tennis “are very high.”

To be fair, Williams never said the words, “I am retiring” in her Vogue essay, but she did tiptoe around the point. The headline of the piece was “Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis,” so it’s difficult to see how the public could read that as anything but a retirement announcement. Within the piece, she emphasized that she does not like the word “retirement,” and instead chose to say, “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” So yes, she never outright said she was done, but the message seemed very clear. And throughout the US Open this summer, Williams received tributes before each match, and had an emotional goodbye when she lost in the third round. It was assumed the loss was the end of her professional career. Until now, she didn’t do much to combat those assumptions.

Serena Williams after losing her match against Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open.

Robert Prange/Getty Images

For her to say, “I still haven’t really thought about [retirement]” is a bit of an about face considering the fanfare she took part of. It’s possible that following the US Open, when she was forced to actually face the prospect of being done with professional tennis, she realized she wasn’t actually ready. “I did wake up the other day and go on the court and [considered] for the first time in my life that I’m not playing for a competition, and it felt really weird,” she said. She, of course, wouldn’t be the first one to unretire from sports (cough, cough Tom Brady). In fact, Williams referenced the Brady effect when she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon back in September. Fallon asked Williams if there was a chance of her “pulling a Tom Brady.”

“You know what, Tom Brady started an amazing trend,” she laughed. “That’s all I’m going to say.” So, maybe we should have seen it coming.