Family and friends of Serena Williams milled around the lobby of the players’ area at Flushing Meadows late Friday night and there was no mood of mourning.
The retiring superstar had just lost in the third round of the US Open, but the atmosphere was relaxed as husband Alexis carried daughter Olympia and let himself be entertained.
They appeared at peace with this major turning point in Serena’s life, as did the woman herself after going down in a superb fight against world No. 46 Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-7 6-1 .
Serena Williams refused to confirm her retirement after her third-round loss at the US Open
The final media conference for Williams was unforgettable, certainly compared to some of the more high-profile occasions seen in the past.
The record will show the 23-time Grand Slam winner has lost the last six games of her bye-bye stand, although that would mean missing a thrilling second set that got Arthur Ashe Stadium on its feet.
There was drama to the last breath as she saved five match points with a string of forehand winners, repeatedly delaying a moment that a sea of cellphones tried to capture.
Was it really the last breath of a 27-year career? Williams was asked one last time: “I don’t know. I don’t think about that. I’ve always loved Australia though,” she replied with a teasing smile.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion lost 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 in Flushing Meadows on Saturday afternoon
However, the conclusion was clear that she will not be in Melbourne next January.
She has other things to do and if she has had one lesson from her three rounds in New York it is that, approaching her 41st birthday, it takes absolute dedication to continue to compete with the likes of athletic Aussie Tomljanovic.
The fact is that the American ran out of breath despite all the ball power. And it wasn’t that she didn’t prepare properly for this event, unlike Wimbledon. There was a scientific build with a big emphasis on practice sets, but there just wasn’t much left in the tank as two hours on court turned into three.
Had she gone through and faced the in-form Russian Ludmilla Samsonova in the fourth round, you probably would have had a devastating result.
The 40-year-old said she’s not thinking about the next chapter in her career just yet
So that’s probably it, although Williams is a teaser who has a keen antenna for self-promotion.
Depending on how the next few years go with her business plans and the expansion of her family, one could not entirely rule out that she might consider returning when it suits her.
She now faces what is sometimes referred to as the first death in an athlete’s life, death when a playing career comes to an end.
Williams insisted she was unfazed by the prospect: “I have such a bright future ahead of me. Also, I kind of have an advantage because Covid happened. Everyone closed for a year and we had to see what our life would be like if we didn’t play tennis.
Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović may have been Williams’ last individual opponent
There hasn’t been a major post-mortem in her career, although she singled out victory at the French Open in 2015, which took her three quarters to victory at all four majors, as a likely highlight.
She dryly joked about her proudest moment of the week, citing some of her outrageous on-court behaviors in the past: ‘I didn’t smash racquets so that was a plus and I had a good attitude even when I didn’t mean to.’
They will miss the US Open as well as American tennis in general. She was a rare connection with mainstream attention for a sport that has been largely marginalized in the United States due to the lack of homegrown superstars.
She leaves Jessica Pegula as the national No. 1, a worthy performer but not someone who will change the gamut of the general public.
American youngster Coco Gauff is being touted to fill the void left by Serena Williams
Her best hope is Coco Gauff, the articulate and engaging teenager on the cusp of the world top ten.
She will find a great focus of attention on her, especially since the American men have no one ready for an instant breakthrough. Gauff is in the fourth round and could now be burdened with Emma Raducanu-like expectations. However, she is better equipped to deal with it as her development has been more gradual.
As for Williams, she didn’t have many solid plans for the coming days: “Probably spend some time with my daughter. I’m a super hands-on mom. I will definitely sing karaoke tomorrow.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-11177039/Serena-Williams-refuses-confirm-retirement-despite-Open-loss-Ajla-Tomlajanovic.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Serena Williams refuses to confirm retirement despite her US Open loss to Ajla Tomlajanovic