Serena Williams gave an emotional speech after what was possibly her last tennis match on Friday September 2, a more than three-hour 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 loss to Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open.
“Thank you daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks mom,” Williams said before starting to cry during her postmatch on-court interview with ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez. “Everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side, for so many years, decades …
“These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know. 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.”
40 year-old Serena Williams, first referenced her looming goodbye to tennis in a Vogue magazine posted during the Canadian Open last month, refering to her craving to have another child.
According to the tennis legend, she preferred the word “evolution” instead of “retirement” and acknowledged how difficult it was to come to the decision.
During her news conference after the match, Williams said she was amped up for investing more energy with her little girl, and “investigate an alternate rendition of Serena.” However, she didn’t totally close the door on a future rebound.
When asked as to whether there was any opportunity she would reexamine retiring, she smiled.
“I don’t think so, but you never know.”
Since her declaration, Williams has been given a legend’s goodbye from the crowds in Toronto, Cincinnati and New York. Each of the three of her matches assisted break US with opening participation records and included everybody from former President Bill Clinton to Tiger Woods.
Even her doubles match with sister Venus was played on Ashe on Thursday night to a capacity crowd. Williams’ practice session Friday drew thousands, just hoping to catch a glimpse.
Williams’ career was celebrated following her first-round match with an on-court service hosted by Gayle King and featured a video described by Oprah Winfrey and a recognition from Billie Jean King.
“Thank you for showing us what it means to come back and for never, ever backing down,” Winfrey said. “Thank you for changing the face of the game, for inspiring the next generation. Thank you for thinking outside the lines and encouraging us to evolve. Thank you for showing us how to love the sport, and for always loving us back.”
During the match, the crowd – – which included Spike Lee, Gayle King, Stan Smith, Saquon Barkley, Russell Wilson, Ciara, Bella Hadid, P.K. Subban and Venus – – gave her applauses all through, including different “Se-re-na” drones. Notwithstanding their aggregate energy and clear appreciation, moving Williams to another victory wasn’t sufficient.
After dropping the first set, a decider looked all but guaranteed after Williams won the first four games of the second set, but Tomljanovic and her powerful forehand relentlessly fought back. She staved off four set points in the nine-deuce eighth game of the set. Ultimately, after an intense tiebreak, Williams forced a third set.
But she had little left for the decider and struggled with her movement. After breaking Tomljanovic in the opening game, the Australian won the next six games to clinch the match. Williams, however, fought until the end, and Tomljanovic needed six match points to prevail.
“I’ve been down before. … I don’t really give up,” Williams said. “In my career, I’ve never given up. In matches, I don’t give up. Definitely wasn’t giving up tonight.”
Tomljanovic said she wasn’t surprised by Williams’ fight until the end. “She’s Serena,” Tomljanovic said during her own on-court interview. “That’s just who she is, and she’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
Subsequent to congratulating her opponent, Williams waved to the crowd and momentarily covered her sorrowful face with a towel prior to doing her interview. As Williams ventured off the court for the last time in singles play at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best” played, it marked the possible end of a 27-year career that transcended the sport and made her a global superstar.
Williams’ mark of 23 major titles is the most by any player in the Open Era and trails only Margaret Court (24) for the most ever. Her lengthy list of accomplishments includes 73 career singles titles, 16 major doubles and mixed doubles titles, 4 Olympic gold medals and 319 weeks at No. 1.
She owns various records, including the most hard-court major titles (13) by any player, the most Grand Slam victories (367) by a woman and is tied with Chris Evert for the most US Open singles titles (6) in the Open Era.
Williams is one of four tennis players in the Open Era to record a singles titles in four different decades. At 35, she became the oldest woman to win a major and hold the No. 1 positioning.
Williams also made her mark off of the court since bursting onto the scene. A longtime member of the WTA’s Player Council, she advocated for equal prize money for women alongside Venus, and has become an advocate for equality and social justice.
“It’s been a long time. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life,” Williams said Friday night, after performing one last twirl-and-wave move usually reserved for victories. “It is a little soon, but I’m also happy because, I mean, this is what I wanted, what I want.”