In a dazzling sparkly black ensemble with a matching headband, Serena Williams took command of the court at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York during the US Open.
Arguably the greatest athlete of all time and widely considered to be the best tennis player in history, Williams lost in the third round of the Open late Friday night, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, after spending three hours and five minutes facing off against her opponent, 29-year-old Australian Ajla Tomljonavic.
This may be the very last time Williams will compete in a tournament.
“It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on in my life. I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s ever said ‘Go Serena’ in their life. I’m just so grateful because you got me here,” she told reporters after the match.
The 40-year-old has been vocal about stepping away from the court to focus her attention on her family and growing business empire, including her venture capital firm.
Williams doesn’t have anything left to prove– she leaves the court as one of the most decorated athletes: she has earned four Olympic gold medals, is a 23-time grand slam champion, holds the record for the most women’s singles matches won at the majors with 367. She is the only tennis player, male or female, to win three of the four Grand Slams at least six times. This does not begin to scratch the service and does not even include her numerous ESPYs, WTA, Forbes and BET awards.
The Williams sisters were responsible for ushering a new era of how women were perceived and paid.
In 2006, Venus’ push to be paid equal prize money at Wimbledon, led to then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to back her argument. In February of the following year, Wimbledon announced equal prize money for competitors of any gender in all rounds. The French Open followed suit the day after Wimbeldon made that announcement.
Through tears Friday night, Serena paid tribute to her legendary big sister. “I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you, Venus. She’s the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed.”
In her victory speech, Tomljanovic also counted Serena among her inspirations.
“She embodies that no dream is too big, and it doesn’t matter where you come from, the circumstances, you can do anything if you believe in yourself, you love what you do and you have an incredible support system and family around you,” she told the U.S. Open.
After 27 years playing on the world’s most elite stages at the highest levels, one might wonder– will we ever see Serena leave it all out on the court again?
“I don’t think so, but you never know,” she smirked.