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Serena Williams bids emotional farewell after last US Open match

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Serena Williams’ professional career has come to an end after she lost to Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open, 5-7, 7-6(4), 1-6.

It was a marathon, three-plus hour match that featured every bit of fight the 23-time Grand Slam champion had in her. Williams put up 11 aces and won just five of 13 break points but was ultimately overpowered by Tomljanovic, who continued to chip away.

After the match, Williams thanked her family, in particular sister Venus Williams who now becomes the active player with the most Grand Slams.

“I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed,” said Williams. “It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on.”

Williams first announced that she would be “evolving away from tennis” in a Vogue article in August. The knowledge that this US Open would likely be her last was met with swansong in her first match. On Friday, there wasn’t as much fanfare save for the crowd – packed with the likes of Spike Lee, Gayle King, Stan Smith, Saquon Barkley, Russell Wilson, Ciara, Bella Hadid, P.K. Subban and Venus – who cheered her on throughout with constant standing ovations.

Ultimately, not even the crowd was enough for Williams to overcome the Australian.

“I’ve been down before. … I don’t really give up,” Williams said. “In my career, I’ve never given up. In matches, I don’t give up. Definitely wasn’t giving up tonight.”

In her on-court interview, Tomljanovic credited Williams for her fight.

Tomljanovic said she wasn’t surprised by Williams’ fight until the end.

“She’s Serena,” she said. “That’s just who she is, and she’s the greatest of all time. Period.

“I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. And what she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible. This is a surreal moment for me.”

She continued, saying that she thought it would be Williams moving on to the fourth round: “I just thought she would beat me…She’s Serena. That’s that’s just who she is: She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”

As for Williams, she said on Friday that she’s excited to spend more time with daughter Olympia and “explore a different version of Serena.”

“It’s been a long time. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life,” she said. “It is a little soon, but I’m also happy because, I mean, this is what I wanted, what I want.”