Williams falls to Australian Tomljanovic and, if she doesn't repent, this will be the last match of her career
A defiant Serena Williams bowed out of the US Open with a third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, in what could have been the last singles match of her glittering career.
Loss has always been hard for the fiercely competitive Williams to digest, and the 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1 loss to the No.46-ranked Australian certainly hit her hard.
But after a joyous run to the third round, there was no shame in losing to the battle-hardened Tomljanovic, allowing the 23-time Grand Slam winner to emerge with dignity intact and head held high.
Her three matches, highlighted by a second-round victory over world number two Anett Kontaveit, were a gift to her fans, the relentless never-give-up attitude that made her the dominant player in tennis for more than two decades, displayed until the last point.
"It's clear I'm still capable," Williams told reporters. "But it takes much more than that." To which he added, "I have such a bright future ahead of me."
Always ready to fight, the 40-year-old went all out, forcing Tomljanovic to go the distance.
The Aussie needed six match points to deliver the knockout blow and end an enthralling three-plus hour contest.
Williams had signaled her intention to retire in a Vogue article earlier in August, saying she was "evolving outside of tennis" but without confirming that the US Open would be her final event.
Given the opportunity to end speculation that the US Open might not be the end, Williams left the door open just a crack.
When asked if she might be tempted to return to tennis, she replied: "I don't think so, but you never know."
"I've always liked Australia though," he later told reporters, hinting at a run at the Australian Open in January.
For fans, however, the message was clear: The US Open would be the place where Williams said goodbye.
The New York crowd, which has supported her from the beginning and throughout the years, fueling her six US Open titles, was at her side again, but could not lead her to one more victory.
If she retires, Serena says goodbye with 986 games played, a balance of 835 wins and 151 losses; 73 titles, 23 of them Grand Slam (7 Australian Open, 3 Roland Garros, 8 Wimbledon and 6 US Open) and 5 WTA Finals; 23 in doubles (14 in majors), a Federation Cup and four Olympic golds, one individual (2012) and three in pairs with her sister Venus (2000, 2008 and 2012).
Tomljanovic, who has yet to win a WTA tournament, seemed to have little chance against Williams, winner of 73 career titles, but she was not intimidated.
Before stepping out onto center court, Tomljanovic paused for a moment and touched the plaque that quotes Billie Jean King that hangs at the entrance: "Pressure is a privilege." Despite an electrifying atmosphere, the match got off to a slow start, with the players exchanging breaks before settling down.
Williams seemed to have taken control as she broke Tomljanovic to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the set. But with Williams within two points of a 1-0 lead, Tomljanovic hung on, breaking and sweeping four straight games to steal the set, leaving the stadium stunned.
A defiant Williams, as she has done so many times, raised her game hitting back in relentless style in the second and breaking the Australian twice en route to 4-0.
In their fourth match in five nights, Williams seemed to run out of gas and Tomljanovic, showing some steel of his own, leveled at 5-5 as the set went to a tie-break.
Everyone in the Arthur Ashe, now on their feet, knew that Williams was not going to go down without a fight, and pulling out all the stops he drew on his reserves to take the tie-break 7-4.
Williams had the crowd roaring again when he broke Tomljanovic early in the third, but he just had nothing left in the tank. The Australian put the former world number one on the ropes, who won the next four games with a 4-1 lead.
But Williams wasn't going to give Tomljanovic the win, but would have to earn it, needing six match points to do so.
Translation done with the free version of the translator www.DeepL.com/Translator