Serena Williams of the United States thanks the fans after being defeated by Ajla Tomlijanovic of Australia during their Third Round match on Day Five of the 2022 US Open in New York City on September 2, 2022. Credit – Matthew Stockman—Getty Images
Friends and family all lingered near the player exit at Arthur Ashe Stadium, at least three dozen deep, to witness Serena Williams walking out of the U.S. Open—and almost certainly stepping away from her singular tennis career—one last time. Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Williams 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1, in a 3 hour, five minute epic match Friday night in New York City, and those close to her felt it was only proper to salute Williams for her fine final effort. Her sister Venus commiserated with Billie Jean King. Singer Ciara, a close friend of Williams, and her husband, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, stood near an elevator. Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, entered the waiting area, holding their daughter Olympia, who was wearing braids with beads, just like her mom and aunt did during their early years on the pro tennis tour. Olympia gave Ciara a fist bump.
The gathering was far from funereal, which is common for a typical Serena Williams defeat at the U.S. Open. For example back in 2015, after a shocking semifinal loss to Italy’s Roberta Vinci cost her a calendar-year Grand Slam, Williams darted out of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as fast as she could. “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me,” she said in her curt post-match press conference that day. “If you have any other questions, I’m open for that.”