TORONTO - Serena Williams' appearance at the National Bank Open in Toronto will be the final one of her career.
The tennis legend said earlier Tuesday she is planning to retire from tennis sometime following the U.S. Open, which begins later this month.
Williams, who won her opening match at the National Bank Open on Monday, made the announcement in an essay released by Vogue magazine.
“I'm turning 41 this month, and something's got to give,” wrote Williams.
The announcement has already set off plans to celebrate Williams, along with ticket sales having skyrocketed according to National Bank Open tournament director Karl Hale.
Williams will play her second-round match on Wednesday.
“Ticket sales have gone through the roof, we'll be sold out by (6 p.m.) today, which doesn't happen on a Wednesday, typically,” he said. “The media requests have been significant to say the least, everybody wants to see Serena and talk to her. Even the players in the players lounge, everybody's talking about Serena.”
“(Wednesday) night, we'll celebrate her for sure.”
In an Instagram post, the 23-time Grand Slam champion says she will “relish these next few weeks.”
“There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction. That time is always hard when you love something so much,” the post said. “My goodness do I enjoy tennis. But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena.”
Williams said she does not like the word retirement and prefers to think of this stage of her life as “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
The American has won more Grand Slam singles titles in the professional era than any other woman or man. Only one player, Margaret Court, collected more, 24, although she won a portion of hers in the amateur era.
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that record. Obviously I do.”
But, Williams went on to write, “These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I choose the latter.”
She and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have a daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Sept. 1.
Despite Williams' announcement being considered imminent, for younger players like American Coco Gauff, the news is still saddening.
“A little bit sad because I've always wanted to play her so I'm hoping my draw in Cincinnati or the U.S. Open or even here, can work out so we could play each other because that's one of my goals,” the 18-year-old said.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil echoed a similar sentiment, along with a fond memory of competing against Williams.
“It's sad for tennis of course, that she's retiring. She's one of the greatest players in the history of our sport. Tennis will miss her for sure.”
“The memory I have of her is after the (2016 Rio) Olympics. We were still exchanging pins between countries. I took a U.S. pin from her and I don't think I had a Canadian one on me. She was like, 'All right, I'm going to hunt you down if you don't get me that pin.' I actually don't remember, but I don't think I ended up getting her that pin. She was super nice. It was nice.”
Her legacy has been one to behold and one that Gauff believes may be untouchable.
“I don't think there's anybody that could do what she did (on and off the court) with all the adversity that she had to face,” Gauff said. “She's the GOAT and undisputed too, in my opinion. Well, I don't really think it's an opinion, I think it's a fact.”
In the eyes of Canadian Rebecca Marino, Williams' influence is one that is widespread and difficult to match for current and future players.
“Serena has influenced every single player on the tour. She's also brought tennis to worldwide audience,” the Vancouver native said.
“Everyone calls her the GOAT, right? I think she's going to hold that legacy for a long, long time and inspire a lot of people to try to do the same thing in the future.”
When asked about her impact on her being a young Black tennis player, Gauff made sure to point out it wasn't just Serena who made an impact, it was also her dad Richard Williams.
“I grew up watching her. That's the reason why I played tennis. Tennis being a predominantly white sport, it definitely helped a lot because I saw somebody look like me dominating the game and it made me believe that I could dominate too.
“Mr. Williams and all that he's done for both (Venus and Serena) of them, inspired my dad to continue to coach me and help me even though he didn't (have much) tennis experience. He was like, 'if Mr. Williams could do it, then I can.' It's not so much just what Serena and Venus have left, it's also the whole Williams family in general.”
With files from Gregory Strong in Montreal and The Associated Press.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.