NEW YORK — Serena Williams fought to the end. Serena Williams fought hard. Serena Williams fought.
For every victory, for every person who dreamed of being great, and for every person who wanted to excel in fields dominated by people who don’t look like them, Serena Williams was a champion to all of them.
And Serena Williams was the greatest champion the history of tennis has ever seen.
“Thank you!” is not enough to encapsulate the gratitude that so many have, but it’s a start.
After 24 years standing on the stage as tennis’ grand dame, the curtain on Serena’s magical career has been drawn down for what is believed to be the last time. Her first memorable crowning achievement and her final farewell came on that same stage, Arthur Ashe Stadium, as Serena, after she made a stirring run to the third round, was defeated by Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets during the third round of the 2022 US Open on Friday night.
The accomplishments she has earned on the court are well-known. The discrimination and body-shaming she had endured from the start of her professional career is well-known to those who had the ability to watch her evolution though the game of tennis with discernment. However, it is the never-give-up attitude that she has pretty much trademarked over her career may be the defining image of not only her career but in her final match as a professional.
Tomljanovic, after coming back from 2-5 down in the second set to force a tiebreak that she would eventually lose, built off that momentum, spraying a number of forehand winners in the third set to all but put away the match at 5-1.
Then came match point. And a third. A fourth, fifth and sixth also came and went. Serena hit winner after winner, and she defended as if a worse fate than defeat was on the horizon. The over 15 minutes that elapsed in that final game embodied Serena, and the cacophony of noise that swelled from loud to deafening with every match point saved seemed to epitomize the love and utmost respect that both the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd and the entire tennis world has, and forever will have, for Serena.
Serena lost the match. Her professional career has ended.
Serena won at tennis, earned her place as an icon, and her impact to the game and to millions will continue to grow as her legend is passed down to future generations.
Thank you is not enough, but it is a start.