Leave it to Serena Williams to not want to go quietly, to not want this match, this trip to the US Open, this transcendent career of hers, to really, truly end. Right down to what were, barring a change of heart, the final minutes of her quarter century of excellence on the tennis court, and an unbending unwillingness to be told what wasn't possible, Williams tried to mount one last classic comeback, earn one last vintage victory, with fans on their feet in a full Arthur Ashe Stadium, cellphone cameras at the ready. The 23-time Grand Slam champion staved off five match points to prolong the three-hour-plus proceedings, but she couldn't do more and was eliminated from the US Open in the third round by Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 on Friday night in what's expected to be her final contest, per the AP.
Williams turns 41 this month and recently told the world that she's ready to start "evolving" away from her playing days—she has expressed distaste for the word "retirement"—and while she remained purposely vague about whether this appearance at Flushing Meadows definitely would represent her last hurrah, everyone assumed it will be. With 23,859 of her closest friends cheering raucously on Friday, Williams faltered against Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian who's ranked 46th. Williams gave away leads in each set, including the last, in which she was up 1-0 before dropping the final six games. "I'm feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do," said Tomljanovic, who's never been past the quarterfinals at any major. "And what she's done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible. This is a surreal moment for me."
"Oh, my God, thank you so much. You guys were amazing today. I tried," Williams told the audience after her loss, before mentioning, among others, her parents and her older sister, Venus, a seven-time major champion who's 42. "I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't Venus. So thank you, Venus," Williams said. "She's the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed." Asked what she planned to do on the first day of the rest of her life on Saturday, Williams said she'd rest, spend time with her 5-year-old daughter, Olympia, and then: "I'm definitely probably going to be karaoke-ing." Asked during an on-court interview whether she might reconsider walking away, Williams replied, "I don't think so, but you never know." A little later, pressed on the same topic, Williams joked, "I always did love Australia," the country that hosts the next Grand Slam tournament in January.
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