Serena Williams’ last match was played at the same arena where she won her maiden Grand Slam championship 23 years prior, creating a momentous milestone.
The Greatest of All Time was defeated by Ajla Tomljanovi last night in the US Open in the third round.
The passionate New York City audience erupted in shouts for Williams throughout the three-hour match as she continued to prove why she is the GOAT. However, Tomljanovi, ranked 46th in the world, ultimately defeated Williams 7-6, 6-7, 6-1, a loss that would go down in history as both a legendary and heartbreaking loss.
Williams scored the game-winning point for Tomljanovi in the waning seconds by putting the ball in the net. The tennis pro covered her heart with her palm as tears streamed down her cheeks as she looked out at the spectators. Bella Hadid, Ciara, Gayle King, and Spike Lee were among the celebrities in the audience who joined her in applauding, cheering, and crying. They also gave her a standing ovation. To Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best,” Williams performed her trademark spin and waved goodbye before leaving the court.
Williams gave an emotional post-match interview on the court.
“Oh my god, thank you so much, you guys were amazing today,” she said. “Thank you, Daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks, Mom. Thank you everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side—so many years, literally decades. But it all started with my parents, and they deserve everything. So I’m really grateful for them.”
“These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know,” she continued. “And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed … It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on.”
In her court interview, Tomljanovic, too, praised Williams.
“I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. And what she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible,” she said, calling the moment—her first time passing the quarterfinals at any major—”surreal.”
“I just thought she would beat me. … She’s Serena. That’s that’s just who she is: She’s the greatest of all time. Period,” Tomljanovic added.
Williams made the decision to retire from tennis last month in an emotional essay that was published on Vogue. In the essay, she wrote openly about the place she is in life and the daily juggling act she undertakes in order to be both the world-famous star athlete she is on the tennis court and the mother and wife her family needs her to be. Although it was a difficult decision, she admitted that she is ready for the next stage and eager to grow her family.
“I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next,” she wrote. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to look at this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis. This sport has given me so much.”
“But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” she added. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”