Serena Williams announces retirement from tennis after U.S. Open

Serena Williams Retire
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Serena Williams will retire from tennis some time after the U.S. Open that starts in three weeks.

“I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote in a Vogue article. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. 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.

“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. 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. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”

Williams, 40, did not write specifically in the article that the U.S. Open will be her last tournament, but all signs point to it at least being her last major.

Williams owns 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one shy of Margaret Court‘s record. Court, the 1960s and ’70s Australian star, won 11 Australian Opens when many of the world’s top players did not play the event. Most of her titles came before all of the world’s best players gathered for each of the four majors.

“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” Williams wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her.”

Williams went nearly a year between tournament play after withdrawing from her 2021 Wimbledon first-round match with a right hamstring tear. Her first singles tournament back was this year’s Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round to 115th-ranked Frenchwoman Harmony Tan.

“There’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London [at Wimbledon this year], then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, ‘See ya!'” Williams wrote. “I get that. It’s a good fantasy. But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment.”

Williams finished runner-up at four majors since returning from 2017 life-threatening childbirth — at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019. Her last major title came while eight weeks pregnant at the 2017 Australian Open.

“In the last year, [husband] Alexis [Ohanian] and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family,” she wrote. “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.

“I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair. 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.

“But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”

Williams won her first-round match in a U.S. Open lead-up tournament in Toronto on Monday. She is expected to play her next match Wednesday. Players at the tournament commented on the news, including 18-year-old Coco Gauff.

“Not really shocking but almost shocking news because she’s just been playing forever, my whole life,” said Gauff, who was born four and a half years after Williams’ first major singles title. “The legacy that she’s left through her tennis career is something that I don’t think any other player can probably touch.

“I grew up watching her. I mean, that’s the reason why I play tennis. Tennis being a predominantly white sport, it definitely helped a lot because I saw somebody who looked like me dominating the game, and it made me believe that I could dominate, too.”

Williams said she is “getting there” mentally and feeling much better in practice physically.

“It’s just getting that to the court,” she said in Toronto on Monday. “I’m the kind of person it just takes one or two things and then it clicks, so I’m just waiting for that to click.”

Her first major singles title came at the U.S. Open in 1999 at age 17. The next year, she won the first of three Olympic doubles titles with older sister Venus. She also won singles gold at the 2012 London Games.

“There is no happiness in this topic for me,” she wrote of retirement. “I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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