Serena Williams lost what was expected to be the final match of her transcendent tennis career on Friday night, knocked out of the US Open in the third round by Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7 (4) , 6-1 in front of an electric crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Not wanting to go on quietly, Williams withheld five match points to extend the proceedings for another three hours, when, as some spectators watched, camera phones were at the ready. No one – saving Tomljanovic of course – wants this to end.
It happened with Tomljanovic’s sixth chance, when Williams made a shot.
Williams turns 41 this month and recently told the world she’s ready to start “growing” out of her competitive days – she expresses distaste for the word “retirement”. ” – and while she remains purposefully vague about whether this appearance at Flushing Meadows will definitely represent her final tournament, everyone assumes it will.
If this is indeed the last hurdle, she’s taken her fans on a thrilling one-minute backtrack at the hard court tournament, where half a dozen of the 23 championships take place. Her Grand Slam. The first took place in 1999 in New York, when Williams was 17 years old.
But she lost to Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian ranked 46th. Williams took the lead in every set, including the last, in which she led 1-0 before skipping six games. final.