Serena Williams’ legendary tennis career is likely over after falling to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović in the third round of the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion leaves an indelible mark, not only on tennis, but on the whole sport.
Tomljanović, who won the more than three-hour match 7-5 6-7(4) 6-1, advances to the last 16 of the US Open for the first time.
In an on-court interview with ESPN after the match, Williams was asked if she would reconsider her evolution away from tennis, as she has said.
“I don’t think so, but you never know,” he said.
In a happy and tearful interview, she thanked her parents, saying she was very grateful to them because they started it all.
And he credited his older sister, Venus Williams, for his success.
“It wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus,” she said. “She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.”
Tomljanović said he was sorry because “I love Serena as much as you do.”
“What he’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, it’s incredible,” he said in his courtside interview. “I never thought I’d get the chance to play with her in her last game when I remember watching her as a kid in all those finals, so this is a surreal moment for me.”
Tomljanović was asked how she handled the opportunity to be in such an electric environment at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I just thought I was going to win, you know,” Tomljanović said. “The pressure wasn’t on me. She’s Serena. I didn’t think that I, even until the last point, knew that I was in a very good position to win even when I was down 5-1. I don’t know how many match points I needed to end it, but that’s who she is. She’s the greatest of all time, period.”
After her improbable second-round win over Anett Kontaveit, 40-year-old Serena Williams summed up her surprise performances at the US Open better than perhaps anyone else.
“I’m just Serena,” she said simply, a quote that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable in sports.
That ability to find another team and go even deeper in the toughest of times has provided the foundation for Williams’ sustained success for more than 20 years on Tour.
He showed the same Tuesday and Friday tenacity as the no. 46 Tomljanović was on top of his game.
“I’ve been down before,” Williams told reporters after the game. “I’ve been down, like, 5-1, I think before and I’ve come back. I don’t really give up.”
Williams, arguably the greatest women’s tennis player in history, fought off five match points before a shot at the net ended it.
“I tried,” Williams said. “Ajla just played a little bit better.”
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The night-session crowd of 23,859 at Arthur Ashe Stadium looked to Williams for another victory, but tonight, the winner of 847 career matches and 73 titles was second best.
Given her form heading into the US Open, just one win since returning to the circuit in June after a year out with injury, it was fair to assume that Williams’ first-round match against Danka Kovinic would be little more than an emotional farewell to tennis. for the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
But being “just Serena”, Williams produced by far her best tennis of the season to consummately dispatch Kovinic and extend her final dance in New York by a couple of days.
Then came Kontaveit, the world no. 2 and one of the toughest players on Tour. The Estonian will provide a much tougher test than Kovinic and Williams undoubtedly entered their match as considerable underdogs.
Surely, after two glittering decades at the top, this is where Williams’ career will end? Of course, it wasn’t like that. She is, after all, “just Serena.”
In her three-set win over Kontaveit, Williams raised the level of her tennis to a place many thought she might never reach again. The accuracy and power on his much-feared serve seems to have returned, as does his speed down the court.
Tomljanović reached a career-high ranking of 38 this season and has enjoyed notable success in 2022, including quarterfinal runs at Wimbledon and the recent Cincinnati Open.
She was steady on Friday as she had just 30 unforced errors to Williams’ 51.
She will face the Russian Liudmila Samsonova in the round of 16. Samsonova defeated Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-3.