End of an Era: Serena Williams and Roger Federer changed tennis forever. So will their retirement.
Williams, 40, and Federer, 41, have both announced in short succession their plans to retire, leaving the tennis world without two iconic competitors who were among the best the sport has ever seen and whose appeal eclipsed the game.
Williams announced on Vogue magazine’s website that she would retire after this year’s U.S. Open, saying that at her age, “something’s got to give.”
Federer said his body’s “message to me lately has been clear” and noted that his final competition would be the Laver Cup in London.
Williams and Federer have 23 and 20 Grand Slam titles, respectively, but neither player has won a major title in recent years.
The current top-ranked tennis players – Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Iga Swiatek of Poland – are 19 and 21 years old. And men’s tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still in the mix.
William’s and Federer’s influence went beyond the sport. For Williams, her impact comes not only from her athletic ability, but also her public coming-of-age as a Black woman in a historically white sport. Williams and her sister, fellow tennis player Venus, have been criticized throughout their careers for their appearance, from Venus getting penalized in 1999 for her hair beads falling out to Serena being accused of disrespecting tennis after wearing a black catsuit during the 2018 French Open.
The family has also been subjected to racist comments, including about Serena’s pregnancy with husband Alexis Ohanian, who is white. The Williams sisters have had to navigate a tennis world that wasn’t always welcoming to them. Now, with Williams and Federer on their way out, tennis moves into a new phase.
Federer, who began playing tennis at a young age like the Williams sisters, has been characterized by his effortless play style and his decency toward other players, fans and the media.
Djokovic, one of Federer’s top rivals, said on Instagram that the Swiss player’s career “set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise.”