Serena Williams’ Last Goodbye

Written by: Jeonghyeon

Edited by: Justin

Visual by: Zoe

On the evening of September 3, 2022, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City, the final chapter of Serena Williams’ iconic career took place. After a three set (5-6, 7-6 (4), 1-6), three hour match, the tennis legend lost to the No. 46 ranked Ajla Tomljanović, concluding her attempt for a 24th Grand Slam singles title, and bringing a close to Williams’ unparalleled, historic career. 

The captivating game resulted in the single most-viewed tennis broadcast in ESPN history, which had an average of 4.6 million viewers, reaching as high as 6.9 million viewers later into the match. 

A month before the match, Williams’ essay in Vogue magazine marked the beginning of the end, where she stated that she was “evolving away from tennis” to focus more on other aspects of her life such as her family and multiple business ventures. Instantly, various social media and news platforms were flooded with articles and posts about the tennis legend, Serena Williams. Her achievements, legacy, highlights, and other significant moments of her career were spread across the internet.

In her first match against No. 77 Montenegrin Danka Kovinić, where she managed to win 6-3, 6-3, a surprise celebration had been planned without her knowledge. Williams’ daughter, husband, and mother all came onto the court, where Billie Jean King made an appearance, as well as a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey. Williams moved onto the second round where she racked up another 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2 win against Anett Kontaveit, who is currently ranked No.2. 

As a partisan crowd cheered for Williams, both Kovinić and Kontaveit played the roles of villains in what would be one of the biggest tennis spectacles in both their lives. While close to 30 thousand fans were rooting for Williams to win, Kontaveit said that the crowd “just wanted Serena to win so bad. I don’t think it’s a personal attack against me or anything. It’s fair. She deserves this.” She later went on to state that she was “not sure if (she’ll) ever experience something like this again.” 

Now came the third round against Tomljanović. Williams took an early lead, with a score of 5-3 in the first set, but Tomljanović managed to overcome adversity to come back and take the first set with a score of 7-5. In the next set, Williams managed to gain another early lead of 5-3, but Tomljanović managed to come back yet again to force a tiebreaker for the second set. After both were weighed down with fatigue, Williams managed to take the set 7-6(4). The third set, however, was fully controlled by Tomljanović, managing to build a dominant 5-1 lead before taking the set, and the win. 

As the post-game excitement began to subside, Williams said that “when it ended, it almost didn’t feel right.” Soon after, the atmosphere was emotionally charged, with a tennis giant experiencing her final moments as a professional player. 

This was the end. Nobody would have expected Serena Williams to lose here. She had managed to overcome controversy and adversity for nearly 30 years, and take her place as a legend not only in the world of tennis, but in the global scale, fighting for both women’s rights and racial equality. After thanking the fans and Venus Williams, her sister, she left with a final goodbye– “you got me here.”

References:

 Kristen Conti, Sanjesh Singh. “Serena Williams Loses to Ajla Tomljanović in US Open.” RSN, NBC Sports, 3 Sept. 2022, https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/serena-williams-loses-ajla-tomljanovic-us-open.

Branch, John. “Serena Williams Last US Open.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/04/sports/tennis/serena-williams-last-us-open.html.

Waldstein, David. “It Was Anett Kontaveit against Serena Williams, and the Crowd.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Sept. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/31/sports/tennis/serena-williams-kontaveit-crowd-us-open.html.