Serena Williams ends her career with a third-round loss at the US Open

Serena Williams is eliminated from the US Open and professional tennis with a third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic.

Williams’ performances against Danka Kovinic and Anett Kontaveit had given hope to the tens of thousands who had flocked to Flushing Meadows hoping their swan song might have a fairytale ending.

But despite a memorable second-set comeback in a rough atmosphere, there will be no record-breaking 24th Grand Slam singles title as Williams succumbed to a 7-5 6-7(4) 6-1 loss.

The 40-year-old, who played her first professional tennis match in 1995, walked calmly to the net after a final forehand before waving to all sides of Arthur Ashe Stadium as “Simply The Best” played over the speakers.

Addressing the crowd in tears, Williams said: “Thank you so much, you guys were amazing. I tried. Thanks daddy, I know you’re watching. Thank you mum.

“I just want to thank everyone who is here, who has been on my side for so many years, literally decades. But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything so I’m really grateful to them. And I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t for Venus, so thank you Venus. It was a fun ride.”

When asked if there might be another chapter, Williams added, “I don’t think so, but you never know.”

Williams, making her appearance again after a montage that hailed her greatness, made a nervous start and dropped serve immediately, but she quickly rallied, broke back Tomljanovic again and started to get in front.

Williams’ movement was sharp and her groundstrokes strong, and Arthur Ashe was ready to celebrate another set in the bag when she broke serve again to lead 5-3.

But Williams, who has played very little tennis in the past 18 months, tightened at just the wrong moment, struggling to find her serve and Tomljanovic won the set with four straight games.

The 29-year-old was aiming to reach the fourth round in New York for the first time, but the second week of Slam is no stranger to her as she reached back-to-back Wimbledon quarter-finals.

This opportunity, of course, was something completely new and she felt the full force of Williams’ frustration at missing the first set.

The 40-year-old stormed to a 4-0 lead with a serve that was now on. Coming back was Tomljanovic with two straight games and the Aussie was pushing for another break but Williams dug deep and roared long and loud as she held on.

But once again she struggled to get over the line, failing to convert four set points in a long eighth game and then giving up at love when Tomljanovic equalized 5-5.

Serena Williams shouts at herself (Frank Franklin II/AP)

(AP)

At 4-4 in the tiebreak, Williams was three points from the end, but she took a deep breath, served an ace and forced a decider.

The insane crowd was on their feet and Williams started the third set perfectly, breaking Tomljanovic’s serve again.

But as the match neared the three-hour mark, the physical exertion Williams had put in began to take its toll and she had little left to give.

Ajla Tomljanovic kept his nerve (Charles Krupa/AP)

(AP)

When the score was 5-1, Williams received a precautionary standing ovation. She held on grimly, saving five match points in classic fashion, but it was all over by the sixth.

Tomljanovic, who will next play Liudmila Samsonova, described the moment as “surreal”.

She said: “I’m really sorry just because I love Serena as much as you do. What she has done for tennis is incredible. I never thought I would have the chance to play her in her last match when I was a kid watching all these finals.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/serena-williams-ajla-tomljanovic-arthur-ashe-stadium-anett-kontaveit-venus-b2158849.html Serena Williams ends her career with a third-round loss at the US Open

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