Tennis-Serena Williams is out in the third round of the US Open, and Reuters expects retirement

Tennis-Serena Williams is out in the third round of the US Open, and Reuters expects retirement

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© Reuters. Tennis – US Open – Flushing Meadows, New York, United States – September 2, 2022 Serena Williams of the United States after losing her third round match to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic REUTERS/Mike Segar

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Author: Steve Keating

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A defiant Serena Williams bid an emotional farewell to the U.S. Open with a third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday in what may have been the final singles match of her glittering career.

Defeat was always going to be hard to swallow for the fiercely competitive Williams and no doubt the 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-1 loss to the 46th-ranked Australian cut her to the core.

But after a joyous run in the third round, there was no shame in losing to the feisty Tomljanovic, allowing the 23-time Grand Slam winner to go out with dignity and his head held high.

Her three matches, highlighted by a second-round win over world number two Anett Kontaveit, were a gift to her fans, a relentless, never-give-up attitude that saw her dominant player for more than two decades on display right down to the last point.

“It’s been a fun ride and the most amazing ride and journey I’ve been on,” Williams told the cheering crowd, fighting back tears.

Always ready for a fight, the 40-year-old came out swinging, forcing Tomljanovic to go from a distance.

The Australian needed six match points to deliver the knockout blow to end an engrossing three-plus hour game.

Williams hinted at her intention to retire last month, saying she had “walked away from tennis”, but never confirmed that the US Open would be her last event.

With a chance to put to rest speculation that the US Open might not be over, Williams left the door open for just a moment.

When asked if she might be tempted to return to tennis, she replied: “I don’t think so, but you never know.”

For fans, however, the message was clear, the US Open would be where Williams would take her final bow.

The raucous New York crowd that had supported her from the start and over the years, fueling her run to six US Open titles, were once again in her corner, but could not lift her to another victory.

Tomljanovic, who has yet to win a WTA Tour event, appeared to have no chance against Williams, winner of 73 career titles, but she would not be daunted.

Despite the electric atmosphere, the match got off to a slow start, with the players alternating breaks before settling down.

Williams looked to take control when she broke Tomljanovic to go up 5-3 and serve for the set.

But with Williams two points away from a 1-0 lead, Tomljanovic dug in, fought back and swept four straight games to steal the set, leaving the stadium stunned.

A defiant Williams, as she has done so many times, raised her game by fighting back in ruthless style in the second, breaking the Australian twice en route to a 4-0 lead.

Playing her fourth match in five nights, Williams suddenly ran out of gas and Tomljanovic, showing some of her steel, pulled to 5-5 as the set went to a tiebreak.

Everyone inside Arthur Ashe, now on her feet, knew Williams would not go down without a fight, and ran on the fumes buried in her reserves to take the tiebreak 7-4.

Williams had the crowd roaring again when she broke Tomljanovic to start the third, but she just had nothing left in the tank. The Australian put the former world number one on the ropes, storming through the next four games to take a 4-1 lead.

But Williams didn’t want to hand over the victory to Tomljanović, she would have to earn it, as she needed six match points to get the job done.



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