Icon Serena Williams gave her final bow on Friday, Sept. 2 after she lost in the third round of the women's singles at the U.S. Open to Australian Ajla Tomljanović. The loss likely marked the end of her solo tennis career.
After an intense night, Tomljanović won the match 7-5, 6-7, 6-1.
After she lost, Williams, 40, waved and made a heart shape with her hands to the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
In her post-game interview, Williams said, “I tried but Ajla just played a little bit better.”
“Thank you, daddy. I know you’re watching. Thanks, mom,” she said as she teared up. “I just thank everyone that’s here, that’s been by my side for so many years, decades... But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything. So, I’m really grateful for them.”
“These are happy tears, I guess, I don’t know,” she continued, before thanking her sister, Venus. “I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus.”
Nike also posted a video, honoring Williams and her incredible legacy.
“Serena Williams redefined what it means to be a true champion. Her legacy transcends sport and has inspired generations. We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with her,” the company said in a statement. “And, we thank her for all she has done and will do in the future. Here’s to never changing who you are.“
Williams won in her first round of the U.S. Open against Danka Kovinic on Monday. She upset the No. 2 seed, Estonian player Anett Kontaveit, in her match on Wednesday. On Thursday, however, Williams and sister Venus Williams lost in the first round of doubles to the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova.
Following Monday's match, she was honored for being the “greatest of all time” in the sport.
“Thank you for showing us how to be graceful, powerful, fearless,” a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey for the event said. “Thank you for changing the face of the game. For inspiring the next generation.”
The video showed Williams with her daughter, Olympia, as well as her fans, competitors and famous supporters.
“Thank you for thinking outside the lines and encouraging us to evolve,” Winfrey said in the video. “Thank you for showing us how to love the sport and for always loving us back.”
Winfrey ended the tribute by telling her that her fans will stick around for the next chapters.
“We’ll be watching,” she said. “With love, all of us.”
In an essay for Vogue earlier this month, Williams said she plans to take a step back from the sport that has made her an icon.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” Williams wrote. “I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
Williams said she plans to have a second child with her husband, Alexis Ohanian, and that she received “information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family.”
“I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena,” she wrote.
She also wrote that she "wouldn't be writing this" if she were a man because she wouldn't have had to choose between expanding her family and her career.
“If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family,” she wrote. “Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity.”
She went on to thank her fans for everything over the years.
“Please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words,” Williams said. “You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”