Serena Williams Talks to Bradley Cooper About Retiring From Tennis: ‘I Just Needed to Stop’

Bradley Cooper flexed a new skill on Saturday as the actor-turned-director interviewed tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams for the A+E Networks and the History Channel’s History Talks in Washington D.C.

At the top of the conversation, he addressed Serena’s recent announcement that she was retiring from tennis. She played her final match at the U.S. Open earlier this month in New York City.

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“I just needed to stop,” Serena recalled of her decision. “I always said I wanted to stop when I’m playing really good tennis and winning and beating good players. For me, it’s really about things I want to do spiritually and spending time with my daughter and family.”

She continued, “As a super hands-on mom, I can’t tell you how hard it was. I lost so many matches after I had Olympia” — in 2017 — “because it was so hard to be on the court. I feel like I’ve given so much of my life to tennis, my entire life, that it’s time to do something different for me and also work on other things.”

But fear not, tennis enthusiasts: there’s a chance Serena will pick up a racquet again. She said she’s given herself permission to return to the court. “I feel like if I want to come back, I definitely can still come back,” she said.

For the Williams sisters, the stats are undeniable. Collectively, they have won dozens of Grand Slam tournaments, several Olympic gold medals and each ranked as No. 1 in the world as singles and doubles players. Cooper asked Venus and Serena about what it’s like to know they have changed the game of tennis.

“For me, I want to do more,” Venus said. “You want to be better every moment. It’s never enough. If it was perfect, it still wasn’t perfect enough.”

Serena danced around the question, adding, “When you’re on the inside, you can’t see it. It’s completely different when you’re involved.”

They also spoke about the challenges of a maintaining private life while in the public sphere. Cooper, who says he was grateful he didn’t become a household name until his mid-30s, admitted there were some days when he didn’t leave his Manhattan apartment.

“Me too!” Serena said.

Venus cocked her head: “What are you doing there…”

“I watch a lot of TV,” Cooper professed.

Serena believes “there’s a fine line” between needing to stay inside and get out of the house. “Some days, I’m like, ‘When is the last time I’ve been outside?’ So that’s normal,” she said, assuring Cooper.

“I do take my daughter to school,” he chimed in.

Serena continued, “It’s making sure I’m out there enough so it’s not too much of an event [when I do go out]. The other day, I wanted to get something to eat and I ended up staying home. I don’t want to overdo that. it’s important to step out just enough.”

For Venus, there’s less strategic thought that goes into public appearances. “When I go out, I don’t think people are thinking about me. I do my own thing.”

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