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Serena Williams loses to Ajla Tomljanovic in U.S. Open farewell

Serena Williams loses to Ajla Tomljanovic in U.S. Open farewell

Serena Williams loses to Ajla Tomljanovic in U.S. Open farewell

THE NEW YORK Never one to leave softly, Serena Williams refused to let this match, her trip to the U.S. Open, or her extraordinary career completely, truly end.

Williams sought to create one more great comeback and achieve one last vintage triumph with spectators on their feet in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium and smartphone cameras poised, right down to what was, barring a change of heart, the closing minutes of her quarter-century of excellence on the tennis court.

Serena Williams is a tennis legend who excels at so much more than that.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner saved five match points to extend the almost three-hour match, but she was unable to save any more and was defeated by Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 on Friday night in what is likely to be her last encounter.

"I've experienced defeat before. I truly don't give up, "added Williams. "I've never given up in my professional life. I persevere during games. There was no way I was giving up tonight."

She announced recently that she is ready to begin "evolving" away from her playing days and that she dislikes the word "retirement." Although she purposefully avoided saying whether this appearance at Flushing Meadows would be her final performance, everyone assumed it would be. She will turn 41 this month.

After one final shot found the back of the goal, Williams stated with tears running down her cheeks, "It's been the most unbelievable ride and adventure I've ever been on in my life."

Williams was asked if she may think twice about leaving during a courtside interview, to which she said, "I don't think so, but you never know."

Williams remarked, "I always did adore Australia," when asked about the subject at her post-match news conference a little while later. Australia will host the following Grand Slam competition in January.

At the hard-court event where she won half a dozen of her titles, Williams gave her fans a thrill-a-minute throwback experience with two singles victory this week, including one over the No. 2 player in the world, Anett Kontaveit, on Wednesday.

The first occurred while Williams was a teenager in 1999 in New York. She is now married and a mother; on Thursday, Olympia became 5 years old.

I'm ready to be a mom and explore a different version of Serena, she said, adding, "Clearly, I'm still competent. I want to live a little while I'm still walking since, technically, in the world, I'm still quite young.

Williams struggled against Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian who is ranked 46th, on Friday despite having 23,859 of her closest friends shouting raucously.

Williams lost sets when she had led, including the last set where she had a 1-0 lead before losing the final six games.

Tomljanovic grew up watching Williams play on television and is an unashamed Williams devotee.

"Just because I adore Serena as much as you guys do makes me feel so awful. And it's unbelievable what she's done for me and for tennis "added Tomljanovic, who has never advanced past the major quarterfinals. "For me, this is a strange time."

Then Tomljanovic said, to laughter: "I just believed that she would defeat me. It's Serena. She is the best of all time because it is who she is. Period."

Williams responded, "I'm absolutely probably going to be karaoke-ing," when asked what she intended to do on the first day of the rest of her life on Saturday. She also said she would rest and spend time with Olympia.

Although not flawless, her performance with her racket on Friday showed tenacity and featured some fantastic serving.

Williams' feet became twisted at one point in the second set, causing her to fall to the ground and lose her racket. She had 51 unforced mistakes in total, 21 more than Tomljanovic.

Williams allowed the opening set to end with a 5-3 deficit. Similar mistakes were made in the second set, as she surrendered leads of 4-0 and 5-2 and needed five set points to ultimately win. Williams smashed a 117 mph ace, blasted a forehand winner to finish a 20-stroke exchange, and then saw Tomljanovic push a forehand long in the tiebreaker from 4-all, which meant she was three points from losing.

Williams seemed to have the momentum. But she was unable to accomplish the same kind of never-admit-defeat triumph she frequently achieved over the years.

Serena Williams loses to Ajla Tomljanovic in U.S. Open farewell

When they were little, their father, Richard, taught them the game by coaching them. He did this after witnessing a tennis player collect a winner's check on television. He served as the protagonist of the Oscar-winning movie "King Richard," which was made by his daughters.

On Thursday night's doubles competition, the brothers lost together, drawing another sold-out crowd. And it was clear who the paying audience preferred on Friday, as it was for the younger Williams' earlier performances this week.

When Williams missed a shot, they sympathized by saying "Awwwwww," and when she accomplished something amazing, they sprang out of their chairs. A standing ovation seemed appropriate at a very typical service break.

At changeovers, Tomljanovic covered her head with a blue-and-white U.S. Open towel to protect herself from the commotion and interruptions.

"I simply did my best to block it out. It did occasionally affect me inwardly. I mean, I didn't take it personally because, well, if I wasn't playing Serena, I would be rooting for her, too "said Tomljanovic. But it was undoubtedly difficult.

The reaction was audible as Williams scored a swinging backhand volley winner to take a 4-0 lead in the second set, her performance getting better by the second. Hall of Famer Billie Jean King, who has won 39 Grand Slam championships overall in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, raised her phone to take pictures of the action.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who was in the courtside guest box with power couple Russell Wilson and Ciara, exclaimed, "You're everywhere!" at Williams.

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