Tennis great Martina Navratilova has served up a brutal reality check for Serena Williams, ahead of the American’s highly anticipated farewell from the sport.
The 23-time major winner – while refusing to use the word ‘retirement’ – revealed this month that she was “evolving” away from tennis.
Williams confirmed in an article written for Vogue magazine that she will finish her career later this month at the US Open.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote.
“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
Unfortunately for Williams, since her return to singles tennis, the 23-time grand slam champion has gone 1-3 after being eliminated in the first round of Wimbledon and the Cincinnati Masters.
The American’s solitary win at the Canadian Open was followed up by a thumping at the hands of Belinda Bencic in the next round.
While Williams has been able to dictate the terms of her retirement off the court, Navratilova has warned the American that she is unlikely to be able to do so on-court.
“Serena did it her way, which was announcing in a very glamorous way on Vogue magazine, but then she is not accepting the losses, she is not accepting what comes with it which is saying goodbye,” Navratilova said.
The 18-time major winner says while the American champion and her legion of fans would love a fairytale ending, it is not a realistic notion.
Williams’ latest conqueror, Emma Raducanu, produced a Cinderella story for the ages after becoming the first qualifier in history to win last year’s US Open.
However, Navratilova says she simply can’t see Williams turning back the clock to conjure a similarly magical story at Flushing Meadows.
“Emotions can only carry you so far,” Navratilova said.
“The way she has looked it doesn’t look like she is going to make a miraculous comeback and win the tournament.
“And with the stress of knowing this is likely your last tournament it doesn’t help.
“But if anyone can overcome it would be Serena.”
Navratilova says now that Williams has made her decision to evolve away from tennis, she has to live with the consequences and bow out of the sport gracefully.
“It’s hard,” Navratilova added.
“When I retired in ’93 I told the press it was my last year which was a mistake because every single tournament was a freaking tear-jerker.”
Serena Williams chasing Margaret Court’s record
Williams is seeking a record-equalling 24th grand slam title to draw level with Margaret Court’s all-time tally, but looks certain to end her incredible record on 23 majors.
In a bid to end her home grand slam with a fairytale finish, Williams appears to have enlisted the help of Aussie tennis great Rennae Stubbs.
The 40-year-old was spotted on Arthur Ashe Stadium having a hit with rival and World No.3 Maria Sakarri ahead of the main draw.
However, fans noticed Stubbs – a four-time grand slam doubles winner – in her coaching team offering advice.
The 52-year-old Australian was watching, before sitting down with Williams and having a chat after practice.
Stubbs, now a top analyst, has helped out players in the past – having advised Karolina Pliskova from 2018-2019.
Williams won her last grand slam title in 2017 and has been chasing Court’s elusive grand slam record ever since.
She has come tantalisingly close to realising that dream, playing in four grand slam finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017, but losing all four.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT (greatest of all time) because I didn’t pass Court’s record, which she achieved before the ‘Open era’ that began in 1968,” the former World No.1 said.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Slam final, then yes, I’m thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.”