US Open 2022: Inspired Tomljanovic ends Serena's last dance

Just like throughout her standalone career, Serena Williams fought to the very end during a thrilling triumph for Ajla Tomljanovic.

Serena Williams / 3e tour US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Wiping away the tears, Serena Williams said into the on-court microphone, “it’s been the most incredible ride.”

Talk about an understatement! After one last twirl, one last epic, the unprecedented career of Serena has come to a close.

"She embodies that no dream is too big"

73 titles, including 23 Grand Slams, 858 match wins, the numbers are irrelevant in the general landscape of the American icon’s impact across the globe.


The farewell tour was halted on Friday night, aptly on Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was the scene of her maiden major in 1999. Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic’s composure and performance was outstanding, to fend off Serena 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1 to move into the last 16.

“I think she embodies that no dream is too big,” said the gracious Tomljanovic. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, the circumstances, you can do anything if you believe in yourself.”

World No.46 Tomljanovic entered play having won 15 of her 19 last matches and sparkled up against 29,000-plus understandably partisan fans.

The 29-year-old reeled in Serena’s fast start to claim four answered games from 5-3 down in the opener.

Williams, producing outrageous tennis just shy of her 41st birthday, was thriving as the self-proclaimed ‘Serena 2.0’ to blaze 5-2 in front. Despite the Australian’s incessant pressing, the home crowd willed their hero over the line in the tie-break to earn a decider.

"I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t for Venus"

Tomljanovic then simply stamped her authority, dictating play until needing six match points to close out the three-hour epic.

“I just thought she’d beat me,” joked the Australian. “The pressure wasn’t on me, she’s Serena. Even until the last point, I knew that she was in a really good position to win, even when she’s down, 5-1. That’s just who she is. She’s the greatest of all time, period.”

The emotions were running high post-match during the on-court interviews.

Over to Serena.

“I thank everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side for so many years, literally decades,” said Williams as the tears flowed. “It all started with my parents. They deserve everything. I’m grateful for them. These are happy tears, I guess. And I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t for Venus. Thank you, Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.”

Last month Serena announced her “evolution away from tennis” in Vogue magazine – prompting celebratory talk of a legacy like no other.

“I feel like I really brought something, and bring something, to tennis. The different looks, the fist pumps, the just crazy intensity. I think that obviously the passion I think is a really good word,” mused Serena.

“Just continuing through ups and downs. I just honestly am so grateful that I had this moment and that I'm Serena, so...”

The sporting world has been grateful too, as Serena left one final tease.

“I always did love Australia, though,” said the six-time US Open champion through a smirk.

“Clearly I'm still capable. It takes a lot more than that. I'm ready to be a mom, explore a different version of Serena.”

Samsonova next for Tomljanovic

Tomljanovic, a two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, takes huge credit for prevailing in the “once in a life time opportunity.”

Drawn against Liudmila Samsonova next in the last 16, Tomljanovic wants to build on her historic night at Flushing Meadows.  

“It was just about channelling the positive sides in me because I do have a lot of faith in myself and belief. I know I've put in the work over the last few months. Deep down I know I deserve to have that shot like I had tonight,” declared the 29-year-old.

“It was just about channelling those emotions instead of the ones that are the bad Ajla.

“I felt pressure, from myself, where I'm at in my career. I feel like I belong here now. That's why I expect myself to perform well in these circumstances.”