Why Serena Williams Doesn’t Watch Wimbledon

Serena Williams unbearable to witness.

As the Wimbledon quarterfinals rolled around on Tuesday, Williams turned her attention to the tournament she has won seven times––but not for long. “I just wanted to turn it off,” she said. “It was too hard.”

Nearly two years into her retirement, Williams has found her role as a tennis spectator more difficult than her role as a player. It wasn’t initially, as Williams says she “watched every tournament” in her first year after hanging up her racket.

Not long after ending her tennis career, Williams, who has a daughter, Olympia, with her husband, co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian, pregnant with second child, Adira, gave birth last August. Williams said she felt more content with her retirement when she was pregnant, but now it is “definitely harder”.

“I miss it, and I think that’s normal. It’s normal to miss something that you’ve been doing since the day you were born,” she said.

But what about watching tennis today?

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “I can’t do it right now.”

Such anxiety is normal for an athlete transitioning into a post-retirement career––especially one as decorated as Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion and the greatest female athlete of her generation. The excitement of high-level competition cannot be replicated in civilian life.

That’s why Williams, now 42, can’t completely rule out a return, no matter how remote that possibility may seem.

“I think as long as I’m healthy, that’s always going to be in the back, in the back, in the back, in the back, in the back, in the back, in the back of my mind,” she said. “I stay in shape. I stay healthy. When I watch it, it’s like, Okay, you can be out there too.”

Despite the feelings of longing, Williams still believes she made the right decision to quit tennis when she did. And she’s hardly depressed about her retirement.

Since playing her final match at the 2022 US Open, Williams has been busy juggling motherhood and her investment portfolio. Her venture capital fund, Serena Ventures, which she founded in 2017, has continued to invest in startups and unicorns, particularly those run by women and people of color. She and Ohanian also have stakes in Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League and Los Angeles Golf Club, a franchise in the TGL golf league. about to launch next year.

On Thursday, Williams will shift from investing to entertainment when she hosts the ESPY Awards, ESPN’s annual awards show honoring the best teams, athletes and sports moments of the past year.

It was a memorable moment for Williams, who has said she always wanted to host the ESPYs but never could due to scheduling conflicts. The ceremony has long been held in the middle of the summer, a time when Williams once dominated the grass courts at Wimbledon. With her playing career now over, Williams didn’t hesitate when ESPN asked her to host in the spring.

But not all work comes naturally to her.

“I think as a host, you have to make fun of people, and I struggle with that,” she told me over the phone between rehearsals on Tuesday. “I got a line the other day, and I said, I don’t want to say that. But I also understand that it’s part of the job.”

Her appearance as host serves as a cross-promotional opportunity for ESPN, which will begin airing a new eight-part documentary series called In the arena: Serena Williams on Wednesday.

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