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“I feel like the villain” says Tomljanovic after defeating Williams

Serena Williams might have played her final singles match, with the tennis great having fallen to Ajla Tomljanovic at Flushing Meadows.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 02: Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia returns ball during 3rd round of US Open Championships match against Serena Williams of USA at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 2, 2022. Tomljanovic won in three sets. (Photo by Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Ajla Tomljanovic admitted having conflicting emotions after becoming the last player to beat Serena Williams as the American legend’s playing career came to an end this weekend. Williams’ called time on her illustrious career following Friday’s 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 loss to the Australian, though did leave the door open to a possible return. The 23-time grand slam champion did not let it go easy, clawing back five match points before Tomljanovic finally clinched the deciding set.

While Tomljanovic is sad to see Williams go, she could not say she was sad to have won, sealing a place for herself in tennis history in the process. “No one’s going to pronounce my name right,” she quipped after it was suggested she would now be the answer to a common trivia question regarding Williams’ final opponent. “That’s going to suck. I don’t think I’ve of been part of tennis history [before], so that’s pretty cool. I do feel a little bit like the villain. Like I said in Cincinnati, I really did want to play Serena before she retired. If I was the loser today I’d probably be really sad. I don’t want to say I’m sad, but just conflicted. Probably the most conflicted I’ve ever felt after a win. During the match I was so eager to win. I mean, I wanted to win as much as the next person because I didn’t look at her like, ‘oh, Serena, her last tournament’. But then when it ended, it almost didn’t feel right. When she started talking about her family and everything, I got emotional because I can relate to having a strong bond with your family. When she said that she wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them, I relate to that a lot. Just the whole moment after was just tough to handle a little bit.”

Incredible Serena

Asked what Williams meant to her, Tomljanovic replied: “Growing up I didn’t really have idols, but Serena and Venus [Williams] were just so good that I looked up to them the most, I’d say. What always drew me to them was their bond with their family, like the togetherness. They always spoke about that, like it was so important to them. I can relate to that because I’m very close to my family and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. From a young age I remember seeing them with their dad and thinking that’s kind of like my story a little bit. Just the fact that you don’t have to have anything other than supportive family, a dream, and just will and passion and love for the game to make it. Not just make it, but what she’s achieved is absolutely incredible. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be repeated while I’m still around. I still have years left in me. I want to dream bigger than I have so far because that’s what she embodies.”

Williams bows out with the most grand slam titles in the Open Era, though one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.