Ajla Tomljanovic has ended Serena Williams' storied career with a famous third-round US Open triumph over the retiring legend in New York.
Tomljanovic silenced the sellout, partisan crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium with a stirring 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 third-round victory over the 23-times grand slam champion on Friday night.
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Williams battled to stay in the match after slipping behind 5-1 in the deciding set but couldn't hold off an inspired challenge from Tomljanovic.
After shaking hands with the beaten former champion, Tomljanovic promptly left the centre stage for Williams in a classy act for the 23-time grand slam champion.
The gravity of the occasion hit Williams during an emotional post-match interview in which she thanked her family for inspiring her to levels of greatness in women's tennis.
“It’s been a fun ride,” she said.
“Thank you daddy. Thanks mum. Oh my god, mum.
“I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Williams even teased fans with a response to a question about her future that suggested maybe this wasn't the end for the 41-year-old.
She replied: “I don’t think so, but you never know. I don’t know”.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 3, 2022
Serena's most beautiful tribute was saved for big sister Venus, who looked like she was struggling to hold it together watching from the stands.
“These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know," Serena said.
"And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn't Venus. Thank you, Venus.”
Tennis world hails Serena Williams after farewell match
Tributes to Williams came pouring in on social media after the match, as fans praised the extraordinary legacy that the American has left on tennis.
Tennis Wouldn't Be Same Without Serena Williams.
Won The Us Open In 1999 And Tried Her Best In 2022. Incredible, What An Incredible Journey. ❤️❤️@BadgotiMohit @devatwal97 @kantiya7Gaurav @HarshitPareek12 https://t.co/ogaIXxN7Qm
— Akshay Meena (@AkshayMeena25) September 3, 2022
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2022
Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!
How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time.
I'm proud of you, my friend—and I can't wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents. pic.twitter.com/VWONEMAwz3
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) September 3, 2022
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) September 3, 2022
Serena. Thank you for being you and the inspiration to so many men and women. I’ve never seen a more intense competitor and it was an honor to share a court with you and watch history. Simply the best. @serenawilliams
— James Blake (@JRBlake) September 3, 2022
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) September 3, 2022
Her incredible career made its mark on tennis history.
And yet her greatest contributions may be yet to come.
Thank you, @serenawilliams.
Your journey continues. #serena #USOpen https://t.co/0wDFfRN3Dq
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 3, 2022
The epic encounter lasted three hours and five minutes with Tomljanovic finally prevailing on her sixth match point.
The last titanic game stretched more than 15 minutes alone.
For all Williams' fighting spirit, Tomljanovic could not to 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 a forehand into the net.
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.
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.
Alas, 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.
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