Former World Number 1 falls short of winning one last U.S. Open
Typically, at the end of a sporting event, spectators will rush out of their seats to get to their cars and beat traffic. Not a single person moved out of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday September 1, though, as all of them wanted to get one last glimpse at maybe the greatest tennis player of all time.
In what is said to be her last U.S. Open, Serena Williams was defeated in three sets by Ajla Tomljanovic. Williams showed no let up and fought right down to the last point.
After the match, not even Tomljanovic left the court, wanting to watch as Williams delivered an emotional farewell to the crowd, and perhaps the tennis world.
The poise shown by Tomljanovic in the match was impressive, never letting the moment get too big. Tennis is not a sport where a player has home field advantage too often. But the last U.S. Open for the great Serena Williams is a different event.
The whole stadium was committed to every point, the decibels rising with the importance of every shot. If the umpire made a controversial call against Williams, the crowd would express their displeasure. However, the professional that Williams is would not let that happen. She would quickly check the crowd, as if to say, “don’t worry, I know you’re behind me.”
In attendance at her matches were some big names, including New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and golf legend Tiger Woods. During her win over Number 2-ranked Anett Kontaveit, Williams let out a huge, “Let’s go!!!” while Woods delivered a signature fist pump.
After her defeat at the hands of Tomljanovic, Williams gave an emotional interview at center court with tears running from her eyes.
She paid tribute to her sister, Venus Williams, who paved the way for her to become a professional tennis player. “There’s no Serena without Venus,” said Williams. “Thank you Venus.” It’s fitting the sisters got to share this moment in Arthur Ashe Stadium, as them and Ashe are three of the most pivotal and influential black athletes in the sport who paved the way for generations of young athletes of color.
“I knew even down 5-1 she was in a position to win,” said Tomljanovic. “She’s definitely the greatest of all time.” It’s true. Williams was not Number 1 in the world for nothing. She compiled 23 major championships. She could win from anywhere.
“Will you ever think of a return or is this really it?” asked ESPN reporter Mary Joe Fernandez. “I don’t think so, but you never know,” said Williams, with a chuckle. She walked off the court to thunderous applause and roars from the crowd.
An illustrious 25-year career may have been put to rest on Friday. If this was the end for Serena, she exited the same way she came into the tennis world: swinging.