Is it time for Venus Williams to retire?

OPINION: I wonder what Venus Williams is looking for in pro tennis now. She's a beloved star and an icon, but lately, she's been struggling on the court.

Venus Williams book
Venus Williams from the US practices at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, England, ahead of the championships which start on Monday, on Thursday June 29, 2023. (Steven Paston/PA via AP)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I think Venus Williams, one of the greatest tennis players ever, should consider retiring. I’m really not sure why she still wants to play. On Monday, Wimbledon’s first day, she tried to become one of the oldest women to ever win a main draw match at Wimbledon, but she lost. And there was a whole mess at the end. On match point, her opponent hit a ball that was called out. The replay showed that it was in. Williams thought the correct remedy was to replay the point, but the chair umpire gave the point to her opponent, ending the match. Williams was, understandably, upset. As she walked off the court she declined to shake hands with the chair umpire, which is bad form but given that she felt robbed, not a surprise.

In a statement on Instagram, Williams said, “I felt like crying. But as an fyi I didn’t cry. I don’t have time for crying when I’m trying to get to the next level. I sat in the locker room right after thinking… to figure out what I could learn from this and plotting how I was going to be better.”

It sounds like she still feels like she has a chance to fight with the biggest names in the sport, and she can’t wait to get back to the grind to make herself a little better. That’s great, but Williams is currently No. 558 in the world and more to the point, she hasn’t won a second-round match in any tournament since 2019. That means she’s flying all over the world, all the way to Australia or England or France or New York or Cincinnati or the Netherlands or New Zealand, wherever, and she’s losing quickly. Over and over. That’s draining, especially when you’re used to getting to Sunday all the time.

I get it; she still wants to compete. She’s still got the bug. OK. I support her staying on the tour for as long as she wants. I just don’t get why she feels like she still needs it. Williams, in particular, has always been unique in the world of tennis in that she has insisted on having lots of serious outside interests. In a world where people eat, sleep and breathe tennis, Williams has had whole other careers.

When she was 18 and had already been on tour for years, she decided to go to college. She graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and years later, in 2015, got a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana University East. For years, she has run a clothing line EleVen By Venus and a design firm called V Starr Interiors, which has been very successful including a project where she collaborated with Serena on designing a home for her, and the place turned out stunning. All of this while she was training for and winning the biggest tournaments in the world. I can think of no other elite tennis player who completed multiple degrees and ran multiple businesses that had nothing to do with tennis while pursuing their career. But that’s who Williams has always been. She’s always pursued other passions.  

So many times, we see once-great athletes still playing the game because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. Or we see once-great athletes still playing because there are still signs that they can possibly compete. Williams is near the end of her career. She’s that once-great athlete who has been diminished by Father Time, but she has so much else to offer the world. I will support Williams as long as she wants to stay out there, and I sincerely hope that she finds whatever last thing she’s looking for out on the tour.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s.” He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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