Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic has played the match of her life to defeat and end the career of Serena Williams.
Tomljanovic found herself taking on not one but 24,0000 opponents, as Arthur Ashe was in full voice to try extend Williams’ tennis farewell.
But the Aussie remained unphased and unafraid of the moment to claim the biggest victory of her tennis life, andmove into the US Open last 16 for the first time.
From start to finish, Williams was playing at a remarkable level – the 40-year-old gifting tennis fans around the world over three hours filled with vintage Serena moments.
With a boisterous American crowd seeking to ensure this wouldn’t be her finale, the 23-time Grand Slam champion continued the form she displayed to defeat world number two Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday – racing to a 5-3 lead in the opening set.
Just as the match looked to be heading in one direction, Tomljanovic broke Williams as she served for the set, before reeling off another three games to take it 7-5.
The second unfolded in very similar fashion, as Williams jumped to a 5-2 lead - this time having four set points to set up a decider.
Once again, the Aussie fought all the way back to force a tiebreaker, but with her 25 years of experience on full array, Serena pushed the match to a third – creating pandemonium inside Arthur Ashe.
Not for the first time, the contest seemed destined to be heading the way of the American – but Tomljanovic had other plans.
The score line may suggest a drop off in Williams’ level, but in reality, the Aussie played remarkable tennis to silence the American crowd and ruin the Serena script.
Leading 5-1 in the deciding set, Tomljanovic found herself on the brink of a famous win.
Yet, Williams was not going to let her career cease without a fight, fending off five match points before eventually succumbing to the Australian’s brilliance.
Even after a career-defining win for herself, the Aussie was full of praise for the 23-time major champion, speaking on-court post-match.
“I’m feeling really sorry because I love Serena just as much as you guys do,” Tomljanovic said.
“What she’s done for me and for the sport of tennis is just incredible.
“I never thought I’d have a chance to play her in her last match, when I remember watching her as a kid in all those finals. So, this is a surreal moment for me.”
The Aussie further explained how she managed her nerves to triumph in such a momentous match.
“I just thought she would beat me. The pressure wasn’t on me.
“She’s Serena. She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
And that, she is.
7 Australian Open titles.
7 Wimbledon titles.
6 US Open titles.
3 Roland Garros titles.
23 Major singles titles – the most by any man or woman in the open era.
14 Grand Slam doubles titles.
2 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
858 career singles wins.
73 career singles titles.
5-time WTA Tour Finals Champion.
4-time Olympic Gold Medalist.
World number 1 for 319 weeks.
Grand Slam singles titles 18 years apart.
A resume like no other – the legend farewelled tennis after 25 years on the tour, speaking on-court after her final match.
“Thank you so much. You guys were amazing today. I tried but Ajla just played a little bit better,” she said.
A very emotional Serena then thanked everyone who has assisted in her journey.
“It all started with my parents. They deserve everything, so I’m really grateful for them.
“And I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t for Venus, so thankyou Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.”
“It’s been the most incredible ride and journey. I’m just so grateful to every person that’s ever said, ‘Go Serena’, because you all got me here.”
While Serena moves into the next chapter of her life, Tomljanovic will face Liudmilla Samsonova in the fourth round – with the Russian having won 13 straight matches – as she looks to further a career-best US Open run.
Away from the main event of Arthur Ashe Stadium, nine Aussies took to the courts on day five in New York.
Nick Kyrgios advanced to the round of 16, setting up a mouthwatering showdown with World No. 1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev after a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over American J.J. Wolf.
Alex de Minaur’s campaign came to a devastating end when he went down to two-time US Open semi-finalist, No. 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-7(5).
Luke Saville and partner Aslan Karatsev got off to a quick start, breaking early, but we’re overrun by defending champions, World No. 1 pairing of Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram 4-6, 3-6.
Ellen Perez and partner Nicole Melichar-Martinez moved into the third round of women’s doubles action with their 14th win from their last 16 matches.
In mixed doubles action, Aussie duo John Peers and Storm Sanders advanced, as did fellow Aussie pair Matthew Ebden and Sam Stosur. Thanasi Kokkinakis and his partner Victoria Azarenka bowed out.