NEW YORK — Serena Williams gave an emotional speech after what was possible her ultimate tennis match Friday night time, an over-three-hour 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 loss to Ajla Tomljanovic within the third spherical of the US Open.
“Thank you daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks mom,” Williams mentioned earlier than beginning to cry throughout her postmatch on-court interview with ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez. “Everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side, for so many years, decades …
“These are comfortable tears, I assume. I do not know. And I would not be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thanks Venus. She’s the one motive Serena Williams ever existed … It’s been a enjoyable experience. It’s been essentially the most unbelievable experience and journey I’ve ever been on.”
Williams, 40, first mentioned her impending farewell to the sport in a Vogue essay posted during the Canadian Open last month, citing her desire to have another child. In the piece, she said she preferred the word “evolution” instead of “retirement” and acknowledged how difficult it was to come to the decision.
During her news conference after the match, Williams told reporters she was excited about spending more time with her daughter, and “discover a distinct model of Serena.” However, she didn’t completely close the door on a future comeback.
When Fernandez asked her if there was any chance she would reconsider walking away, she smiled. “I do not suppose so, however you by no means know.”
A little later, pressed on the same topic at her postmatch news conference, Williams joked, “I at all times did love Australia,” the nation that hosts the following Grand Slam match in January.
Since her announcement, Williams has been given a hero’s farewell from the crowds in Toronto, Cincinnati and New York. All three of her matches helped break US Open attendance information and included everybody from former President Bill Clinton to Tiger Woods. Even her doubles match with sister Venus was performed on Ashe on Thursday night time to a capability crowd.
Williams’ apply session on Friday drew hundreds, simply hoping to catch a glimpse. The fervor round Williams even resulted in ESPN bumping the Michigan State-Western Michigan faculty soccer recreation to ESPN2 so as to transfer Williams’ match to the first channel.
Williams’ profession was celebrated following her first-round match with an on-court ceremony hosted by Gayle King and featured a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey and a tribute from Billie Jean King.
“Thank you for showing us what it means to come back and for never, ever backing down,” Winfrey mentioned. “Thank you for changing the face of the game, for inspiring the next generation. Thank you for thinking outside the lines and encouraging us to evolve. Thank you for showing us how to love the sport, and for always loving us back.”
Aside from her interview with Fernandez, there was no formal ceremony after the match on Friday, however the crowd — which included Spike Lee, Gayle King, Stan Smith, Saquon Barkley, Russell Wilson, Ciara, Bella Hadid, P.Okay. Subban and Venus — showered her with ovations all through, together with a number of “Se-re-na” chants. Despite their collective ardour and apparent admiration, it wasn’t sufficient to propel Williams to one other victory.
After dropping the primary set, a decider regarded all however assured after Williams gained the primary 4 video games of the second set, however Tomljanovic and her highly effective forehand relentlessly fought again. She staved off 4 set factors within the nine-deuce eighth recreation of the set. Ultimately, after an intense tiebreak, Williams compelled a 3rd set.
But she had little left for the decider and struggled with her motion. After breaking Tomljanovic within the opening recreation, the Australian gained the following six video games to clinch the match. Williams, nonetheless, fought till the tip, and Tomljanovic wanted six match factors to prevail.
“I’ve been down before. … I don’t really give up,” Williams said. “In my profession, I’ve by no means given up. In matches, I do not surrender. Definitely wasn’t giving up tonight.”
Tomljanovic mentioned she wasn’t shocked by Williams’ struggle till the tip. “She’s Serena,” Tomljanovic mentioned throughout her personal on-court interview. “That’s just who she is, and she’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
Tomljanovic is unabashedly a fan of Williams, having rising up watching her play on TV.
“I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. And what she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible,” said Tomljanovic, who has never been past the quarterfinals at any major. “This is a surreal second for me.”
Then, drawing laughs, Tomljanovic added: “I just thought she would beat me. … She’s Serena. That’s that’s just who she is: She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
After congratulating her opponent, Williams waved to the group and briefly lined her tearful face with a towel earlier than doing her interview. As Williams stepped off the courtroom for the ultimate time in singles play at Arthur Ashe Stadium, as Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best” performed, it marked the doable finish of a 27-year profession that transcended the game and made her a world famous person.
Williams’ mark of 23 main titles is essentially the most by any participant within the Open Era and trails solely Margaret Court (24) for essentially the most ever. Her prolonged listing of accomplishments contains 73 profession singles titles, 16 main doubles and blended doubles titles, 4 Olympic gold medals and 319 weeks at No. 1.
She owns numerous information, together with essentially the most hard-court main titles (13) by any participant, essentially the most Grand Slam victories (367) by a girl and is tied with Chris Evert for essentially the most US Open singles titles (6) within the Open Era. Williams is one in every of 4 tennis gamers within the Open Era to document a singles titles in 4 completely different many years. At 35, she grew to become the oldest lady to win a significant and maintain the No. 1 rating.
Williams additionally made her mark off of the courtroom since bursting onto the scene. A longtime member of the WTA’s Player Council, she advocated for equal prize Money for girls alongside Venus, and has develop into an advocate for equality and social justice.
“It’s been a long time. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life,” Williams said on Friday night, after performing one last twirl-and-wave move usually reserved for victories. “It is just a little quickly, however I’m additionally comfortable as a result of, I imply, that is what I needed, what I need.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.