Serena Williams‘ future in tennis has been plunged into doubt after she split with her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been given her blessing to work with rival player Simona Halep.
Williams, 40, missed the Australian Open at the start of the year after picking up a hamstring injury and has not played a match since June last year.
And amid increasing rumours about her possible retirement from the sport, her coach for the last ten years has now confirmed they will be going their separate ways after she ‘opened a door’ for him to work with Halep instead.
Mouratoglou said he was given permission to work with the Romanian star ‘at least short term’ after holding talks with the 23-time Grand Slam winner, and insists he has ‘missed coaching’ while Williams has been inactive.
‘In the last eight months I realised how much I’ve missed coaching,’ he said in a statement on Twitter. ‘It is the passion of my life and I still feel I have so much to give.
‘Simona came to the Mouratoglou Academy before Indian Wells for a training block. I swung by at a few of her practices, watched her train.
Serena Williams has split with her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou (right) after 10 years
Mouratoglou (left) will now work full time with Williams’ rival star Simona Halep (right)
The split will spark rumours of Williams’ retirement after eight months since she last played
Mouratoglou confirmed the news in a statement on his Twitter account, revealing that Williams had ‘opened the door’ for him to explore another partnership
‘At the end of the week, she asked me if I was available to coach her. I have the highest respect for her but it was out of the question at the time.
‘A few weeks later, I had a conversation with Serena and the door opened for me, at least short term, to work with someone else.’
‘I will keep you updated on what is coming next soon.’
Halep commented on the post, simply replying with a fist emoji to express her excitement about working with him.
Fans immediately began to speculate if the statement was an unofficial confirmation of Williams’ retirement, with one asking: ‘Are you inadvertently confirming that @SerenaWilliams has retired from tennis?’
Another response to the news read: ‘Tell me Serena Williams has retired without telling me Serena Williams has retired.’
Williams has been working with Mouratoglou since 2012 and together they won 10 Grand Slams together. Pictured: The pair at the International Tennis Federation dinner in 2013
Halep (left) beat Williams at the 2019 Wimbledon final with a straight sets 6-2, 6-2 victory
The 40-year-old struggled with injuries recently and missed the Australian Open in January
Fans flooded social media with fears Williams had effectively confirmed her retirement after the statement from Mouratoglou
‘I’m taking this as Serena’s official retirement annoucement,’ said another post, while one user admitted she was ‘not ready’ for the player to call it a day.
‘Oh lawd, Serena about to annouce her retirement? I’m not ready,’ it said.
Australian star Ash Barty announced her own shock retirement from tennis last month, leading fans and pundits to speculate on Williams’ future, but the veteran played it coy when asked about hanging up her racket in March, saying she was ‘planning for today’.
‘I think every tennis player thinks about the R-word [retirement] as soon as they hit five years because tennis is so intense, it’s literally 11 months out of the year,’ she told Bloomberg.
‘But I don’t know. I’m living for the day and I always tell people, ‘I’m not planning for tomorrow, only in business, and when it comes to tennis, I’m planning just for today.’
Williams is considered as the greatest female tennis star of all time after 23 Grand Slam wins
She is married to Reddit founder Alex Ohanian (left). The pair have a daughter together named Olympia, who was born in 2017. Pictured: The pair together at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party
After entering her 40s, Williams has plenty of factors coming into play outside of tennis as she ponders her future.
Williams – whose story is featured in the Oscar-winning film King Richard – gave birth to a baby daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017 and is married to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, who she married in 2016.
Widely considered the greatest female tennis player of all time, her last Grand Slam came in 2017 at the Australian Open, just before she gave birth to Olympia. She has won the competition seven times.
She has also won Wimbledon seven times, the US Open six times and the French Open on three occasions.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group