Serena Williams fights back tears as she gives an on court interview before walking off of the court, for possibly the last time, after losing to Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia in three sets in the third round at the 2022 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, N.Y., on Friday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Serena Williams held the lead several times over Ajla Tomljanovic, but couldn't hang on in what might have been the final match of her storied tennis career at the 2022 U.S. Open on Friday in Flushing, N.Y.
The Aussie won the three-hour, third-round match 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 to advance to the Round of 16. A crowd of about 30,000 vocalized heavy support for Williams throughout Friday's match.
"It has been a fun ride and journey I have ever been on," Williams, who announced last month that the U.S. Open would be her final tournament, said in an on-court interview.
"I'm just so grateful to every single person that's ever said 'go Serena' in their life. I'm so grateful because you got me here."
Williams fired 11 aces, 49 winners and converted 5 of 13 break point opportunities. She also totaled 51 unforced errors.
Tomljanovic logged three aces, 32 winners and converted 8 of 13 break points. She totaled 30 errors.
Tomljanovic broke Williams' first serve for an early edge. Williams broke Tomljanovic in the second game. Each player held for their next two respective service points.
Williams held again to win the seventh game and broke Tomljanovic in the eighth to take a 5-3 edge.
Tomljanovic then roared back to capture the set. She broke Williams in the next game and held her serve to tie. She broke Williams for a third time in the 11th game for a 6-5 edge held for set point.
Williams held to open the second set. She then earned a break point in the second game for a 2-0 lead. Williams held and broke Tomljanovic for a second time in the set for a 4-0 edge. Tomljanovic broke Williams in the fifth game and held in the sixth the tighten the set.
Williams and Tomljanovic each held service to win their next games. Tomljanovic then broke Williams for the second time of the set and held serve to tie the set at 5-5. Williams and Tomljanovic each held their next serves to force a tiebreak.
Williams won that tiebreak 7-4 to claim the set and force a third.
She translated that momentum into breaking Tomljanovic's serve in the next game, but her Australian foe broke her next serve to tie the set.
Tomljanovic also held to claim the third game. She broke Williams again in the fourth game, held in the fifth and broke Williams once more in the sixth to take control.
Williams saved match point five times before she hit her final return into the net, which gave Tomljanovic the victory.
Tears streamed down Williams' face as she stayed on the court for a post-match interview.
She thanked her mom, dad, sister Venus and others for their support throughout her career. She also was asked if she would consider extending her career.
"I don't think so, but you never know," Williams said. "I don't know."
Tomljanovic, when asked how she remained so calm throughout the match when virtually the entire stadium was rooting for Williams, generated laughter from the crowd when she replied, "I knew she was going to beat me."
Tomljanovic will face Russian Ludmilla Samsonova on Sunday for a spot in the quarterfinals. The winner of that match will face No. 5 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or No. 18 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia for a spot in the semifinals.
"I'm really sorry because I love Serena just as much as you guys do," Tomljanovic said. "What she has done for me and done for tennis is just incredible.
"She is Serena. Even to the last point I knew she was in a really good position to win even when she was down 5-1. That's just who she is. She is the greatest of all time, period."
The women's singles final will be Sept. 10.
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