Serena Williams ends career with third round defeat, but tennis legacy will only grow

Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Serena Williams in a thrilling three-hour fight Friday night at the US Open. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Legend, icon, GOAT Serena Williams lost in the third round of the US Open and played her last game as a professional tennis player.

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Williams in a thrilling 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 fight at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night. The three-hour match made a wild, long comeback that ended in a heated tiebreak in the second set before Tomljanovic finally finished the match in the third set – what would have ended as one of the best and most watched matches ever came to an end. the entire tournament.

“I’m really sorry that I love Serena as much as you do, and I think what she did for me, the sport of tennis, is incredible,” said Tomljanovic. said after winning. “When I remember watching him in all those finals as a kid, I never thought I’d get a chance to play in his last game. It’s a surreal moment for me.”

Williams also took a 4-0 lead in the second set and looked ready to push the third set. Still, Tomljanovic, who won four games in a row to close the first set, gave him the strength to force the tiebreak. He almost got Williams there too, but Williams escaped with a 7-4 win to extend the game.

Although Williams took a 1-0 lead in the last set, he quickly knocked down the next two sets and looked exhausted after more than two and a half hours on the court. Tomljanovic apparently rolled from there to get the final set and move on to the fourth round and also end Williams’ career, even if the whole stadium was against him.

Williams got emotional as she walked off the field – she cried “happy tears, I guess” in her last interview – and thanked her parents and sister Venus.

“Thank you so much, you were great today. I wish I played a little better. Thanks dad, I know you’re watching. Thank you mom,” Williams said on the court. “Thank you to everyone who has stood by me over the years, decades. Oh my God, literally decades. But it all started with my family and they deserve everything, so I’m really grateful for them.

“These are tears of happiness, I guess! I don’t know. And I wouldn’t be Serena without Venus, so thank you Venus.”

Williams is more than this loss

Williams wouldn’t want to end his career with such a loss, but it’s not something to remember for him. His career is so incredible, any moment is too important to describe him.

Williams first got his tennis racket at the age of three (although he said he was 18 months old), and in a way, his fate was sealed from there. As the younger sister of tennis legend Venus Williams, she spent time watching Venus play, succeed and fail, while waiting in the shadows and learning all she could from what she saw.

Venus was the center of attention at first, but Serena followed closely. She came official in 1999 and won the US Open, then in 2002-2003 she achieved what is now called the Serena Slam: holding four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for two calendar years. She won the 2002 French Open, 2002 Wimbledon title, 2002 US Open and 2003 Australian Open. To win the trophy in each of these finals, she had to beat her own sister. Williams would win the Serena Slam again in 2014-2015.

He never managed to win a calendar Slam (he won all four majors in the same year), but he became the first tennis player in history to win a Career Gold Slam (winning all four majors and Olympic gold medals) in both singles and doubles. . Williams is so dominant in singles that his double career playing alongside Venus is often forgotten. As a doubles team, they were undefeated in the Grand Slam finals, winning 14 and not losing any.

Williams spent a total of 319 weeks as the WTA’s #1 tennis player in the world. Only Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova spent more time at the summit than he did. While she often chooses to focus on the Grand Slams rather than playing heavily on the WTA tour, she still won 73 singles titles, the fifth all-time in women’s tennis history. She has won the most 23 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era and one behind Margaret Court for the all-time record.

Crossing borders sparked support and criticism

While Williams was good, there was more to him, making headlines and attracting attention in a way that transcended tennis and athletics in general. She was brave and daring, not caring about the norms of female tennis players. She wore clothes that no one had ever seen on the tennis court, she wore bright colors, cat clothes and a tutu. She had her hair braided, beaded, straight and natural as she wished. She proudly showed off her body, refusing to hide her overworked muscles. She has become a fashion icon, solo on the cover of Vogue, designing multiple clothing brands, and being a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

At the same time, there were few athletes who inspired such passion from the public – both for and against him. She was criticized for her hair and tennis clothes. He was criticized for being too muscular and too loud when playing. He was criticized for bringing the race to tennis. Williams wasn’t a perfect player and wasn’t a perfect person, for which reason he deserved some criticism – as when he was called out for being too selfish and belligerent after a lengthy on-court argument with the chair referee at the 2018 US Open women’s game. He made the final against Naomi Osaka, which he continued to lose.

But even this example has a racist twist. After that match, an Australian newspaper published a racist cartoon of Williams using racial stereotypes to portray her as an overly muscular animal creature with an ape-like face and huge lips, while Osaka was drawn as a blonde white woman. Some of Williams’ criticisms were fair and justified, but some stemmed from the inside and outside of tennis as a Black woman who dared to challenge the sport’s white female norms.

Williams’ legacy is enormous

Williams has been so good for so long that he’s been competing against players who’ve been playing tennis for the past few years because they’ve seen him do it. They are the Serena Generation, who play in their own way and their own way but carry a piece of Williams with them every time they play.

So his legacy will only grow. The Serena Generation is not static, because her sporting background will continue to influence girls and women around the world, whether they play tennis or not. The women inspired by Williams will inspire their own generation and carry him into the future long after he leaves the competition. Venus and Serena walked so actors like Coco Gauff could run. And Gauff is running so that others can fly in the future.

Williams dominated for a very long time and in individual sport, which was as much about mental preparation and performance as it was physical. The only real comparison you can make is Tiger Woods, who also plays in a solo sport. Both were wildly successful beyond the sport. Both have challenged the white norms of their sport and largely white history. And they’ve both managed to fall far short of a historic spot in their sport: Williams will retire from just one major title before Margaret Court can win 24 Grand Slam titles, and Woods continues to beat Jack Nicklaus’ three majors for the all-time record.

But if incompetence doesn’t define Woods’ legacy, it certainly doesn’t define Williams. If you look at his career as a whole or at a micro level, he did things that no one expected or expected. For example, even after more than a decade of excellence, no one could have imagined that she would (or could) win the 2017 Australian Open when she was eight weeks pregnant. He then missed the competition for a full year after emergency cesarean section surgery caused him to develop a pulmonary embolism that left him bedridden for six weeks. Not many expected him to come out of this with the same strength and motivation as he used to, but he did it nonetheless, returning to make it to the finals of four Grand Slams in 2018 and the semi-finals of the other two.

Now, having done (almost) everything he wanted to do in tennis, he’s on his way. Concentrating on his venture capital firm, expanding his family and doing whatever he pleases. She deserved it.

There is nothing like Serena Williams and there will never be another like her. He didn’t just change the sport of tennis; she changed the world.

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