Tennis icon Serena Williams announced her plans to retire from tennis in a cover story she wrote for Vogue, which published online Tuesday morning. Williams cited the desire to give more attention to her investment firm, Serena Ventures, and to expand her family with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Their daughter, Olympia, was born on Sept. 1, 2017.
Her retirement marks the end of one of the most remarkable careers in sports. Her 23 Grand Slam singles titles are more than any other player—man or woman—during the Open Era. She won an additional 14 doubles titles at major tournaments with her sister Venus.
Williams’ success led to unprecedented earnings on and off the court. Her $94.6 million in career prize money is more than double that of Venus, who ranks second with $42.3 million in career earnings. Off the court, Serena has made more than $350 million in endorsements since turning pro in 1995. Her $450 million in career earnings is top among all female athletes, with Maria Sharapova a distant second at an estimated $325 million.
Nike has been Williams’ most lucrative partner since she joined the Swoosh with an endorsement deal in 2003 after starting her career with Puma. This past April, Nike opened the Serena Williams Building, which is the largest structure at the company’s headquarters at more than one million square feet.
Williams currently has more than a dozen endorsement partners, including Gatorade, Subway, Wilson, Audemars Piguet and Beats. Williams was No. 52 in Sportico’s ranking this year of the world’s highest-paid athletes, with $35.3 million. Her prize money for the 12 months ending in May was only $270,000, but she earned an estimated $35 million off the court, excluding investment earnings. Naomi Osaka was the only other female athlete to crack the top 100.
Serena Ventures, which was founded in 2014, has invested in more than 60 companies, such as Impossible Foods, MasterClass, Noom and Tonal. Seventy-eight percent of the investments are in companies started by women or people of color. The firm raised $111 million for its inaugural fund, announced this year.
“I started investing nine years ago, and I really fell in love with early stage, whether it’s pre-seed funding, where you’re investing in just an idea, or seed, where the idea has already been turned into a product,” Williams wrote in her Vogue story.
Yesterday in Toronto, Williams won her first singles match in over a year after being sidelined by a hamstring injury suffered during Wimbledon in 2021. Williams, who will turn 41 in September, indicated at the end of the 3,000-word essay that she will play the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, August 29.
"I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York,” Williams wrote, referring to her first-round Wimbledon loss to Harmony Tan of France. “But I’m going to try."