We're still coming down from the emotional roller coaster that was Serena Williams's run at the 2022 US Open, but the tennis icon herself isn't spending much time reminiscing. She's been busy strutting down catwalks in silver Balenciaga capes, jumping into work with her investment firm, and promoting her adorable children's book. You know, the usual. She did take the time to stop by "The Tonight Show," where she chatted with Jimmy Fallon about this next phase of her life, why she prefers the term "evolution" over "retirement," and — intriguingly — whether she's totally closing the door on a possible tennis comeback.
In case you haven't been following Williams's every move the way we have over the last few months (very fun, highly recommend), the 40-year-old says she's "evolving away from tennis," a phrase she coined in her recent Vogue essay, rather than retiring from the game altogether. Why is the distinction so important? "Retirement is something that's super earned and that people work really hard for," Williams explained to Fallon. "I just feel like I'm at an age where I definitely have a lot more to give and there's a lot more that I wanna do." Specifically, Williams has said she wants to devote more time to Serena Ventures, her venture capital firm, and grow her family with husband Alexis Ohanian. "I'm not gonna be relaxing," Williams says. "There's so much more for me . . . there's so many things that I've been wanting to do for so many years, and I [had] such a passion for tennis for so long that I have never done [them]. But now it's time for me to start to enjoy those things."
"Evolving" is not a decision Williams took lightly, telling Fallon that "it's still hard" coming to terms with the end of her playing career. At one point, the only person who knew she was planning to step away from tennis was her therapist. "Verbalizing it meant that it was real," she explained, "and I'm like, 'I don't want it to be real.'"
Given all those bittersweet emotions, Fallon asked if Williams would ever consider coming back to tennis. "There's no chance of you pulling a Tom Brady and saying, 'You know what, maybe I'm not ready'?" he asked, referencing Brady's decision to retire in February, only to announce a comeback a little over a month later.
"You know what, Tom Brady started an amazing trend," Williams said, laughing. "That's what I'm gonna say."
Williams has remained coy about the future of her professional tennis career, but the extravagant send-off she got at the US Open certainly seems to indicate that she might be done for good. One person who appears to be rooting for her to wrap it up? Ohanian, who tweeted, "Dude @TomBrady I'm trying to plan a family vacation over winter break here ...."
Whether "a Tom Brady" is in her future or not, Williams is definitely carrying herself with joy and lightness since she went public with her decision to leave tennis. "The whole time I was stressed out, I thought I was gonna be really miserable and just scared of this whole [Vogue] article coming out 'cause it was a lot on me . . . to suddenly have to be done [with tennis]," she told Fallon. But when her bombshell essay finally dropped, Williams says she felt unexpectedly relieved. She compared it to finally accomplishing a task you'd been anxious and scared to start. "It's like, 'Oh, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was,'" she said.
Having that weight off her shoulders may have contributed to Williams's inspired play at the US Open last month. And her success in New York — which included beating the No. 2-ranked player in the world — only fueled hopes that she might not hang up her racket just yet. One thing's for sure: Williams is sure to dazzle in whatever phase comes next for her, whether that's being a mom, businesswoman, tennis player, or something else entirely. Or, you know, all of the above.