Serena Williams may have planned to retire in her own way, but the American must be ready to accept goodbyes and defeats and leave the stage with grace, tennis great Martina Navratilova told Reuters.
Williams announced her intention to retire in an op-ed in Vogue magazine in early August, saying she was “retiring from tennis” but never confirmed that the US Open would be her last tournament.
Still, for Navrotilova, as for much of the tennis world, the message was clear — Flushing Meadows, where Williams won the first of her 23 Grand Slam titles in 1999, would be where she would take her final bow.
Navratilova said she fully understood the emotions Williams was dealing with as she approached her final match, having experienced many of them herself.
But having made a decision, Williams must be willing to live with it and say goodbye even in the face of defeat.
“It’s hard,” said Navratilova, who is working with Sense Arena on a virtual reality tennis training product that gives players enhanced visualization.
“When I retired in 1993, I told the press that this was my last year, and that was a mistake because every tournament was a terrible tear.”
Williams’ short farewell tour, which included two stops – in Toronto and Cincinnati – was more bittersweet than sweet.
Williams, 40, also said in an op-ed in Vogue that she disliked the word “retirement” and was clearly frustrated at not being able to dictate the terms of her retirement.
“Serena did it her way, which she announced very glamorously in Vogue magazine, but then she doesn’t accept the loss, she doesn’t accept what comes with it, which is saying goodbye,” Navratilova added.
Defeated in the round of 16 at Roland Garros in June 2021, Williams played intermittently and this affected her results, since then she has won just one match.
Last week at the Cincinnati Open, her final warm-up before the US Open, which starts on August 29, Williams was beaten 6-4 6-0 by US Open champion Radukana and walked off the court stone-faced, barely noticing the adoring crowd .
Navratilova believes that Williams should brace herself for more disappointment because the US Open is unlikely to bring the fairytale ending to her career that she would have liked.
Had Hollywood been writing the script, Williams would have retired in triumph, winning an elusive 24th Slam that would have moved her level with Australia’s Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.
While the US Open could create a good Cinderella story like last year when Radukana, an 18-year-old qualifier ranked 150th in the world, lifted the trophy, Navratilova doesn’t see Williams turning back the clock and creating similar magic.
“Emotions can only take over, I don’t see a happy ending for Cinderella if she wins the tournament,” said Navratilova. “The way she looked, it didn’t look like she was going to make a great comeback and win the tournament.
“And the stress of knowing it’s probably your last tournament doesn’t help.
“But if anyone can get over it, it’s going to be Serena.”