Aussie Tomljanovic ends Serena's career

·4-min read

There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Ajla Tomljanovic ended Serena Williams' storied career with a famous and gripping third-round US Open triumph over the retiring legend in New York.

Australia's self-confessed underdog defied the sellout, partisan crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium with a nerve-jangling 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 victory over the 23-times grand slam champion on Friday night.

The epic encounter lasted three hours and five minutes with Tomljanovic finally prevailing on her sixth match point.

The last titanic game alone stretched more than 15 minutes.

For all Williams' fighting spirit, Tomljanovic could not be denied with the two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist advancing to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time after her illustrious opponent netted one last forehand.

Turning 41 in three weeks, Williams announced last month she was "evolving away from tennis" after more than two decades dominating the women's game.

"I tried but Ajla was just a little bit better," Williams said, before being overcome with "happy tears" as she paid an emotional tribute to her family, led by her father-coach Richard, her mother Oracene and seven-times grand slam-winning sister Venus, two years her senior.

"Thank you Daddy, I know you're watching. Thanks Mum. Oh my God.

"Just everyone that's here who's been on my side for so many years - decades. Oh my gosh, literally decades.

"But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything so I'm really grateful for them.

"And I wouldn't be Serena if there was no Venus. So thank you Venus. She's the only reason Serena Williams ever existed."

Triumphant over world No.2 Anett Kontaveit in the second round, it seemed like Williams was about to storm into the second week when she produced some breathtaking tennis to take the second set in a tiebreaker.

"It's been a fun ride," the living legend said.

"It's been the most incredible ride and journey that I've ever been on in my life and I'm just so grateful to every single person that's said 'Go Serena' in my life.

"I'm just so grateful because you got me here."

Even Tomljanovic felt subdued in victory.

"I'm feeling really sorry because I love Serena just as much as you guys do and what she's done for me and the sport of tennis is incredible," the 29-year-old said after booking a date on Sunday with Russian Lludmila Samsonova.

"I never thought that I'd have a chance to play her in her last match when I remember watching her as a kid in all those finals.

"So this is a surreal moment for me.

"I just thought she would beat me so the pressure wasn't on me - she's Serena. Even 'til the last point, I knew she's in a really good position to win even if she's down 5-1.

"I don't know how many match points I needed to finish it off but that's just who she is. She's the greatest of all time - period."

The American will walk away one major title short of Margaret Court's all-time record 24 grand slam singles crowns.

Williams, though, remains the holder of the most grand slam singles titles in the 54-year era of professional tennis, having eclipsed Steffi Graf's 22.

All up, she won six US Open titles, Wimbledon and the Australian Open seven times each and the French Open on three occasions.

Her last slam came while three months pregnant with daughter Olympia at the 2017 Australian Open when Williams beat older sister Venus in the final.

Williams subsequently lost four more grand slam deciders in her obsessive pursuit of Court's record, all four in straight sets - at Wimbledon and the US Open in both 2018 and 2019.

Earlier on Friday, Tunisian fifth seed Ons Jabeur also advanced to the last 16 at Flushing Meadows for the first time with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 comeback win over American Shelby Rogers.

And US young gun Coco Gauff rolled through her third-round match against fellow American Madison Keys 6-2 6-3.

with Reuters