Serena Williams (pictured) will face Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the 2022 U.S. Open at 7 p.m. EDT Friday on ESPN2. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Serena Williams take the court again for what could be the final major match of her career, unless she can beat Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the U.S. Open on Friday in Flushing, N.Y.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who announced plans to "move on" from tennis after the Grand Slam in August, will face the Australian at 7 p.m. EDT at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The match will air on ESPN.
Williams, 40, entered the tournament as an underdog to advance through her first two matches. The American tennis icon is now favored to beat Tomljanovic and play for a spot in the quarterfinals.
"I've been practicing really well, but it hasn't been coming together in matches," Williams told reporters Thursday. "Now, it is kinda coming together, I guess."
The average admission price for Williams' third-round match was about $400 on the secondary market as of Friday afternoon. The most expensive tickets were nearly $10,000.
Williams is the all-time leader in career prize money, with $94.6 million in earnings, according to the WTA. She has earned at least $188,000 from her run so far in Flushing and would receive another $90,000 if she beats Tomljanovic.
Williams could earn a total of $2.6 million if she wins a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.
"I can't think that far [ahead]," Williams said. "I'm having fun and I'm enjoying it. I've had so many tough matches. Being prepared for every one I play is going to be very difficult."
Serena Williams fights back tears as she gives an interview before walking off of the court for possibly the last time ever after losing to Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia at the 2022 U.S. Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Forest Hills, N.Y.,on September 2, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The winner of the Williams-Tomljanovic match will face either Russian Ludmilla Samsonova or Serbian Aleksandra Krunic in the fourth round.
No. 5 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will face No. 18 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia in the fourth round. The winner of that fourth-round meeting will face Samsonova, Krunic, Tomljanovic or Williams in the quarterfinals.
Large and energetic crowds are expected at each of Williams' remaining matches, as was the case in her first two matches. Several celebrities, including Tiger Woods, Bella Hadid, Offset, Rebel Wilson, Queen Latifah, Lindsey Vonn, and other tennis players were among those to attend her first- and second-round victories.
Williams said she has tried to recognize the ceremonial fanfare and experience of her last major tournament, while staying concentrating on the court.
"I've mostly been blocking everything out, but at the same time I'm embracing a little bit of it," Williams said. "I want to enjoy the moment because these moments are clearly fleeting."
The fans at Williams' matches provided an advantage for her against opponents in previous matches, due to their obvious -- and loud -- support the tennis legend.
Tomljanovic recently told reporters that she plans to pretend those cheers are for her as a way to combat the distraction.
"I think it's hard to block out when she's standing across the net," Tomljanovic said. "Like, I know who she is. I just remember watching her in the Wimby finals with my sister in front of the TV after my practices. It's a little surreal to me that I made it, and played in the same era as her."
Serena Williams returns the ball to her sister, Venus, during their match at the Lipton Tennis Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28, 1998. Venus Williams, defeated her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo
Williams, a six-time U.S. Open singles champion, has never faced Tomljanovic, Samsonova, Krunic, Jabeur or Kudermetova. No. 12 Cori "Coco" Gauff of the United States is the highest- ranked player Williams could face in the semifinals. That potential match would be their first meeting.
Gauff will face fellow American Madison Keys (No. 20) in the third round. No. 17 Carolina Garcia of France and No. 29 Alison Riske-Amritraj of the United States are among the other seeded players Williams could meet in the semifinals.
No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 8 Jessica Pegula of the United States, No. 9 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, No. 19 Danielle Collins of the United States, No. 21 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, No. 22 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and No. 26 Viktoria Azarenka of Belarus are the only seeded players Williams could face in the final.
Williams has never faced Gauff, Swiatek or Garcia. She is undefeated in matches against Keys (3-0), Collins (2-0), Sabalenka (1-0), Pegula (1-0) and Riske-Amritraj (1-0). She is 18-5 versus Azarenka and 5-2 against Kvitova. Williams split 14 matches with Muguruza (3-3), Bencic (2-2) and Pliskova (2-2).
"It was pretty obvious Serena was going to be in the spotlight in this tournament," Swiatek said Thursday. "It's kind of her time right now."
The women's semifinals will be at 7 p.m. EDT Thursday on ESPN. The women's final will be Sept. 10 on ESPN. The men's semifinals and final will air Sept. 9 and 11, respectively, on ESPN.
"This is completely her tournament, in my opinion," men's No. 1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia said. "It's great. ... She is playing great tennis. I'm really happy for her and hoping to see what she can do at the end."