On Tuesday, Vogue announced Serena Williams as the cover star of its September 2022 issue. The tennis superstar appears in a striking blue Balenciaga gown, with a fold-out of the horizontal shot revealing her daughter, Olympia, posing along with her, clinging to the train, on the beach. (Adorable.)
But Williams took the opportunity in the magazine's pages for an announcement of her own: Via a first-person story (as told to Rob Haskell), she revealed that she will be preparing to retire from professional tennis, calling the choice "the hardest thing that I could ever imagine."
In the photographs by Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Williams wears her hair in loose, flow-y curls (by hairstylists Latisha Chong and Tav Kinard), freed from the on-court braided styles we're so used to seeing her wear; her makeup (by Raisa Flowers) is simple and glow-y. The athlete's power stance is commanding, but the overall tone is one of softness, strength and love (for herself, for her daughter, for the power of the decision she has made, for the women who, like her, have had to make difficult choices).
The accompanying story echoes these themes: Williams discusses the importance of family in her life, the fact that she and husband Alexis Ohanian have been trying for another child and that she feels the need to choose "between tennis and family," despite feeling that it's an unfair choice.
"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 writes. "Maybe I'd be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. 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 adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital — although things got super complicated on the other side. And I almost did do 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's got to give."
As Williams looks toward the future, she shies away from the word "retirement" — She has plans for the future, she tells Haskell: "Maybe the best word to describe what I'm up to is evolution. I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. 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."
Vogue's September issue will be on newsstands on August 16. Read the full story — and see more images from the Vogue shoot — at Vogue.com.
Homepage photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images