NEW YORK –
Serena Williams lost what was expected to be the final match of her transcendent tennis career on Friday night, beating Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round at the US Open 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-1 in front of an electric crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium .
Unwilling to go quietly, Williams saved five match points to extend the more than three-hour proceedings while some spectators watched with camera phones at the ready. No one – except Tomljanovic, of course – wanted this to end.
It happened on Tomljanovic’s sixth chance when Williams got a shot.
Turning 41 this month, Williams recently told the world she’s ready to “evolve” away from her active days — she expressed dislike for the word “retirement” — though she’s purposely remained vague on whether that appearance at Flushing Meadows is definitely their final tournament, everyone assumes.
If this was indeed the final hurray, she was taking her fans on an exhilarating throwback ride at the hard-court tournament that has hosted half a dozen of her 23 Grand Slam championships. The first came in New York in 1999 when Williams was just 17 years old.
But she failed against Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian who is ranked 46th. Williams was giving away leads in every set, including the last in which she was 1-0 ahead before losing the last six games.