Serena Williams on Friday lost a three set thriller against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia and was knocked out of the U.S. Open.
The American 23-time Grand Slam title winner, and six-time champion in New York, lost her third round clash 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.
Serena, 40, after going down in the first set, put on a brilliant performance to take the second set. But Tomljanovic refused to give in and came back strong to pocket the third set as well as the match.
Williams let a 5-3 lead vanish in the first set. She did something similar in the second, giving away edges of 4-0 and 5-2, and requiring five set points to finally put that one in her pocket. From 4-all in the tiebreaker, meaning Williams was three points from defeat, she pounded a 117 mph ace, hit a forehand winner to cap a 20-stroke exchange, then watched Tomljanovic push a forehand long.
Momentum appeared to be on Williams’ side. But she could not pull off the sort of comeback she did so many times over the years.
“I don’t think so but you never know” says a tearful Serena after the match when asked if she would reconsider retiring from the sport. Last month, she announced that she was “evolving away” from tennis to focus on growing her family and her business interests.
“I’m feeling really sorry just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. What she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible,” said Australia’s Tomljanovic.
“I never thought I’d have a chance to play her in her last match when I remember watching her 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. Even to the last point, I knew that she’s in a position to win even when she’s down 5-1,” added Tomljanovic.
“That’s just who she is and she’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
(with inputs from AP)