Serena Williams bids farewell with third-round loss at U.S. Open

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The legendary tennis career of Serena Williams likely ended on Friday night when the 23-time career Grand Slam champion lost in the third round of the U.S. Open in New York.

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic emerged with a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 win. Williams saved five match points in the last game but couldn’t take advantage of three break points in the 14-minute game.

After her final shot landed in the net, Williams waved repeatedly to the fans. Williams, who previously announced her plans of a pending retirement, held back tears while doing her on-court postgame interview.

“I tried, but Ajla just played a little bit better,” Williams said, adding, “These are happy tears, I guess. I dunno.”

She thanked her parents and her sister Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion.

“I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you Venus,” she said, adding, “It’s been a fun ride. … I’m just so grateful to every single person that ever said ‘Go Serena’ in their life. I’m just so grateful because you got me here.”

Asked if there was any chance she would reconsider retirement, Williams replied, “I don’t think so, but you never know. I don’t know.”

Tomljanovic said of Williams, “She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”

Williams, 40, owns the second-most Grand Slam singles titles in history behind the 24 of Australia’s Margaret Court. She won the U.S. Open six times, most recently in 2014. Her most recent major championship came at the 2017 Australian Open, when she played while pregnant with her daughter Olympia, who turned 5 on Thursday.

Tomljanovic, who is ranked 46th in the world, has never reached the semifinals of a major event. Her best results were quarterfinal losses at Wimbledon last year and this year. She has never won a WTA Tour event, losing in all four of her appearances in finals.

Tomljanovic will oppose Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova in the fourth round. Samsonova rolled to a 6-3, 6-3 win over Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic.

After taking an early lead, Williams twice served for the first set but was broken each time as Tomljanovic won the final four games.

Williams led Tomljanovic 4-0 and 5-2 in the second set before finally prevailing in a tiebreaker.

Williams maintained the momentum by breaking serve to open the third set, but Tomljanovic won the final six games.

–Field Level Media

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