The saddening day has arrived where Serena Williams has to exit the US Open and officially retire from Grand Slam tennis.
The 23-time Grand Slam Champion battled her way to the third round of the tournament but was forced to face a loss to Ajla Tomljanovic with the score 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-1.
Tomljanovic, described the moment after the match as completely “surreal”.
She said: “I’m feeling really sorry because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. What she’s done for the sport of tennis is incredible. I never thought I’d have the chance to play her in her last match when I was a kid watching all those finals.”
Tomljanovic is now in line to play Liudmila Samsonova in the fourth round of the Open.
96 career titles.
39 Grand Slams.
319 weeks as World No. 1.
$94M in career prize money.
The highest-earning female athlete ever.
A career over, but a legend forever: Serena Williams. pic.twitter.com/UmzVGTbc8p
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) September 3, 2022
Thousands of star-struck fans flocked to the Flushing Meadows courts after Williams displayed stunning victories against Danka Kovinic and Anett Kontaveit in previous rounds, hoping to see a fairy tale ending for the legend of tennis.
After the match, Williams made a teary address to the crowds of fans applauding her saying: “Thank you so much, you guys were amazing. I tried. Thank you, daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks, mom."
“I just thank everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side for so many years, literally decades, But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything so I’m really grateful for them. And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you, Venus. It’s been a fun ride.”
Despite a relatively early exit from the competation, Williams should hold pride in her performance in the tournament considering she has played less in recent months and focused more on other aspects of her personal life such as family and business interests.
The greatest to ever do it.
Thank you, @serenawilliams ❤️ pic.twitter.com/lZ6OezBoGu
— ESPN (@espn) September 3, 2022
“This week has been really great,” she said. “Just so much support, so much love. It was really amazing and overwhelming. I am so grateful for it. I’m so thankful and grateful for that.”
Williams, having struggled to get past the first round this year in various tournaments, and having not won a Grand Slam since 2017 at Wimbledon, has had a successful goodbye tour having beaten some of the highest ranked players in the world and having ample opportunity to bid farewell to her fans. “I’ve come a long way since last year at Wimbledon,” she said. “Making it a different moment I think is much better".
She has expressed much optimism and excitement for her retirement. Williams has publicly shared plans to try for another child, spend more quality time with her family especially her five-year-old daughter Olympia and expand her business interests - such as Serena Ventures - which has attracted a lot of recent success.
She closes with “It takes a lot of work to get here. Clearly I’m still capable. It takes a lot more than that. I’m ready to be a mom, explore a different version of Serena. Technically in the world I’m still super young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking.”
While Serena is sure to have a very happy retirement from tennis, the world of sport will never feel the same, as the greatest player of all time says goodbye.
Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!
How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time.
I'm proud of you, my friend—and I can't wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents. pic.twitter.com/VWONEMAwz3
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) September 3, 2022