Williams falls to Australia’s Tomljanovic in what will be, if she doesn’t regret it, the last of the 986 matches of her extraordinary career.
She didn’t want to leave and fought tooth and nail to remain on court in what may well be, if she doesn’t regret it, the last game of an extraordinary career - one that started professionally as a 14-year-old with a qualifying match at the 1995 Canadian Open that she ended up losing to Anne Miller. A couple of years later, she had already established herself on the women’s circuit. Today, aged 40, Serena Williams fended off five match points in the third round of the US Open, the very tournament where her legend began with her first major trophy in 1999. And it came to end after she lost in the sixth set to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, the farewell party of a legend. Tomljanovic will go down in history as the last person to beat who, for many is the best player of all time, an icon of sport and society.
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The 29-year-old Australian, ranked 46th in the world, did what neither Danka Kovinic nor Anett Kontaveit had been able to do in the previous rounds. She beat Williams 7-5, 6-7 (4) and 6-1 in a dramatic duel, played to the limit of her resistance by Serena, who hit the ball as if her life depended on it, but who was not as successful as in her two previous games. Still, she had the first set in hand, when she served at 5-3 and came within two points of winning it.
All good things come to an end and she says goodbye after having played a total of 986 games, with a balance of 835 wins and 151 defeats, 73 titles, 23 of them Grand Slams (7 at the Australian Open, 3 Roland Garros, 8 at Wimbledon and 6 at the US Open) and five WTA Finals; 23 in doubles (14 in majors), a Fed Cup and four Olympic golds, one individual (2012) and three in pairs with her sister Venus (2000, 2008 and 2012). These are some of the distinctions that adorn a career that goes far beyond tennis, for what she stood for, above all, for the empowerment of women, especially black women - not only from the United States, but from all over the world. She had already received a tribute on the day of her debut in this US Open, so the farewell was shorter than expected, with an interview at the Arthur Ashe stadium, by former player Marie Jo Fernández, in which she couldn’t hold back the tears.
emotion and tears
“Oh my God. Thank you so much. You guys were amazing today. I tried but Ajla just played a little bit better. Thank you Daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks mom (crying). I just thank everyone that’s here, who has been by my side for so many years, decades. Oh my gosh, literally decades. But it all started with my parents. And they deserve everything so I am really grateful to them. These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know,” she began with great difficulty. “And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you, Venus. She’s the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed, so... I don’t know. Everyone from Jill to Isha, my sister Lyn, my husband, Olympia, and Jarmere. Everybody in that box there today. Alexis, Kristy, Derrick. It’s been a fun ride. The most amazing thing I’ve ever had in my life. I’m so grateful to every person who has said ‘Come on, Serena’, in their life. I’m very grateful. You got me here,” she continued, before being asked if she was going to reconsider her decision to retire. “I mean, I’m literally playing my way into this and getting better. I should have started sooner this year! I don’t think so, but you never know. I don’t know (smiling)”. Time will tell, but now it’s time to recognize her greatness and wish her the best