Serena Williams has hinted that she may retire from tennis after the US Open, stating she will "evolve away" from the sport.
In an interview with Vogue, the American 23-time Grand Slam singles champion stated that she is focusing on "other things that are essential to me," adding that she dislikes the word "retirement."
"The countdown has begun," she stated in an accompanying Instagram post.
"I'm going to enjoy these next three weeks," stated the 40-year-old.
Williams returned to singles play at Wimbledon in June, following a lengthy injury layoff that had fueled speculation about her retirement.She plans to compete at the US Open, where she has won six of her major singles titles, later this month.
Williams has more major singles titles than any other female player in the Open era and the second most all-time, trailing only Margaret Court's 24.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't physically or mentally prepared to win Wimbledon this year. And I'm not sure if I'll be ready to win in New York. But I'll give it a shot "She penned a letter.
"I know there's a fan fantasy that I'll tie Margaret that day in London, then break her record in New York, and then say, "See ya!" at the award ceremony.
"I understand. It's an enjoyable fantasy. But I'm not hoping for a grand finale on the court.
She won her first singles match in 14 months on Monday, defeating Spain's Nuria Parrizas Diaz to advance to the second round of the National Bank Open in Toronto.
Williams writes in her lengthy article that she has been "reluctant to admit to myself or anybody else that I have to move on from playing tennis."
"Alexis, my husband, and I have barely discussed it; it's almost like a forbidden subject," she wrote.
"I can't even talk about this with my parents." It's almost as if it's not real until you say it aloud. When it comes up, I feel a knot in my throat and begin to cry.