Serena Williams Receives Standing Ovation After Final Match of Her Career at US Open

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Tennis legend Serena Williams lost in the third round of the U.S. Open, likely marking the end of her career. It was a hard-fought Sept. 2 matchup, with Serena bouncing back in the second set after her opponent Ajla Tomljanović won the first with 7-5.

However, Williams’ fortune was short-lived as she fell 6-1 to Tomljanović in the third. Williams expressed gratitude for her parents’ support in an emotional post-match interview. She paid tribute to her sister, saying she would not be Serena “if there weren’t Venus.” The icon also thanked her fans, saying, “It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on in my life.” Williams also said she is still open to returning to the court in the future.

Celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Russell Wilson and Ciara, Spike Lee, Zendaya, Mike Tyson, and more came out to support the 23-time Grand Slam winner. Williams ends her career on a high note with seven Australian Open victories and seven Wimbledon victories.

Throughout her career, she has also won the U.S. Open six times and the French Open three times and was the #1 ranked women’s player for an extensive period. Read further to see how others reacted to this monumental moment in the life of one of the most influential tennis players ever to live. 

‘I’m ready to be a mom.’

After having years of her life wholly dedicated to tennis, Williams expressed a renewed focus on motherhood. Following her historical Sept. 2 match, she told the press, “I’m definitely resting tomorrow. Then probably spending some time with my daughter.”

As the mother of 5-year-old Olympia, she spoke of having a greater purpose to which she would devote herself. “I’m ready to be a mom, explore a different version of Serena,” she said. “Technically, in the world, I’m still super-young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking . . . I’m a super-hands-on mom. I’ve been with her almost every single day of her life, minus two days or three days. It’s been really hard on her, my career. So it will be nice just to do that and spend some time with her, do things that I never really have done or had an opportunity to do. I have such a bright future ahead of me.”

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‘I always did love Australia, though.’

Williams announced she would “evolve away from tennis” weeks before the U.S. Open, but moments after stepping off the court, she was already hinting at a comeback. She was asked whether she would consider playing another tournament in her post-match press conference. Williams replied, “I don’t know. I’m not thinking about that. I always did love Australia, though.”

When questioned about her final tournament earlier in the week, she was vague but admitted that while she was “capable,” she was unsure whether to continue training. “It takes a lot of work to get here,” she said of her level. “Obviously I’m still capable but it takes a lot more than that. I’m ready to be a mum, explore a different version of Serena.”

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A can to toast the G.O.A.T.

Following Williams’ U.S. Open singles match, Michelob Ultra announced that it would release 100 limited-edition packs of 24 cans in her honor. Packs include one can commemorating each major title won by Williams during her tennis career, as well as one honoring her achievements off the court. Michelob Ultra’s social media channels are giving fans a chance to win the commemorative packs.

Williams teamed up with the beer company earlier this year for a Super Bowl 56 commercial featuring Peyton Manning, golfer Brooks Koepka, soccer athlete Alex Morgan, WNBA player Nneka Ogwumike, the NBA’s Jimmy Butler, and others.

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Full circle.

An underdog with the oddsmakers against the No. 2 seed, Williams adopted unconventional methods to prepare for her showing at the U.S. Open. Now a few weeks from turning 41, Williams quickly returned to form following a lengthy absence.

According to The New York Times, she hired a new coaching consultant, Patrick Mouratoglou, after missing nearly a year of competitive tennis. She was ranked No. 605 worldwide after winning just one match in four this season. Williams’s new coach, Eric Hechtman, believed he had laid the foundation for her success in New York. “The shotmaking was there, and the serve was there,” he said in an interview. “She was actually moving well in practice, so in New York, we added in some more side-to-side running drills, and I think that’s helped.”

Hechtman stated that the Williams-friendly sellout crowds in Ashe Stadium were “a game changer. It takes a little bit of time to get some rhythm, but it’s starting to come together…it’s still just the second round. None of us are getting carried away.” The New York Times noted that a loss against Tomljanovic would “bring Williams full circle.” The athlete lost in the third round of her U.S Open singles debut in 1998 but won six titles in 19 appearances afterward.

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THE Blue Print and Best Mommy!

Amongst the many celebrities in attendance for the match was singer Ciara and her husband Russell Wilson, cheering on Williams in her box in Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. The following day, Ciara tweeted to her good friend, “@SerenaWilliams, Thank you for the inspiration you’ve continually given us all! It has been a blessing to be a part of your incredible journey! The Goat, Icon, Best Competitor, THE Blue Print, and Best Mommy! We love you so much!”

Bella Hadid was also on hand at the U.S. Open, attending the third round of matches alongside a friend and her boyfriend, Marc Kalman. Hadid appeared to become emotional at the end of the match, as Williams lost to Ajla Tomljanovic. The supermodel cried with Williams during the athlete’s heartfelt farewell speech, thanking her family and close friends for their support.

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Thank you.

Williams’ career and accomplishments at the U.S Open during the week prompted reactions from all corners, from politicians to athletes considered to be among the best.

President Biden posted a tweet saying,”@SerenaWilliams, you’re an inspiration, a champion of all time. Thank you for dreaming, daring, and proving that anything is possible.”

Former president Barack Obama left a tweet that read,”Congratulations, Serena, for your heart, skill, intelligence, dedication, and grace. Few athletes have inspired more people both in and beyond their sport!”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote in tribute to the tennis superstar, “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.”

Bill Gates wrote, “What a run. @serenawilliams will be leaving behind an extraordinary tennis career that challenged the double standard between male and female players. I look forward to watching her continue building her amazing legacy off the court.”

Four-times gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles tweeted, “Thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sports for Black athletes, female athletes and every athlete. Such a pleasure to watch, thanks for being an inspiration.”

Basketball star LeBron James recorded a video message for the long-time friend, which he captioned ‘#SerenaWilliams THANK YOU!! You’re so damn DOPE!!’.

‘Serena, [it’s] LeBron here,’ he said. ‘Wow, where do I start. First of all, I can start by just saying congratulations to you, to an unbelievable career. You’re a GOAT. What you have done for the sport of tennis, what you’ve done for women, and what you’ve done for the category of sport, period, is unprecedented.”

“It’s been an honour to watch your journey, to watch you conquer all the goals you ever set out, to see you break records, to see you be amazing and transcendent, not only on the tennis court, but also off. I literally could sit here and talk about your journey and just talk about watching you from afar and our relationship now for an hour, but I don’t want to bore you too much about stuff that you already know!

“So I just want to say thank you for just being this inspiration for so many and never putting yourself out there where you didn’t feel like you were the greatest. And showing the world that every time you were out there, you were the greatest. Win, lose, or draw, it didn’t matter, we all knew that you were the greatest.

“Congratulations once again and I wish you nothing but the greatest journey ahead of you and every endeavour that you have outside of your respective sport. You’ve been unbelievable, I salute you and when I see you I’ll give you a big, giant hug as well to show my appreciation.”

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