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Serena Williams's legendary career ends with US Open defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic

Serena Williams's legendary career ends with defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic
© Reuters
Serena Williams's legendary career ends with defeat to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open.

Serena Williams's legendary tennis career has ended after defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open.

The 40-year-old, who revealed prior to the Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows that it will likely be her final tournament, was beaten 7-5 [4]6-7 6-1 by the Australian in New York.

Williams characteristically refused to go down without a fight, saving five match points before eventually succumbing to a loss in what is expected to be the final match of an iconic and sport-transcending career.

The American stopped short of ruling out a future return to the court after exceeding many expectations by reaching the third round of the US Open, which was only her fourth tournament in more than a year.

"I'm literally playing my way into this and getting better. I should have started sooner this year. I don't think so, but you never know," she told reporters when asked whether her performances might persuade her to reconsider retirement.

Should the defeat prove to be her last bow, though, then it brings the curtain down on a 27-year professional career many consider to be the greatest in the history of women's tennis.

Serena Williams (USA) gestures to the crowd after her match against Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) (not pictured) on day five of the 2022 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center o September 3, 2022© Reuters

Williams played her first professional tournament at the age of just 14 in 1995, won her first Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows in 1999 and has gone on to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in total - the most in the Open Era and just one behind Margaret Court's all-time record.

The tennis icon looked almost certain to pass Court's record when she won what proved to be her last major at the Australian Open in 2017, but a break away from the sport to have a child and subsequent injuries ultimately hampered her pursuit of number 24 and beyond.

Nonetheless, Serena, who was also knocked out of the doubles tournament alongside sister Venus Williams earlier this week, has picked up 39 Grand Slam titles in total, adding 14 doubles crowns and two mixed titles to her singles achievements.

"I thank everyone that's here, that's been on my side so many years, decades. Oh my gosh, literally decades," Williams added.

"But it all started with my parents. And they deserve everything. So I'm really grateful for them.

"And I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't [sister] Venus, so thank you, Venus. She's the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed."

Tomljanovic ignored the significant fanfare surrounding her opponent to progress into the fourth round, where she will face Russia's Liudmila Samsonova, eventually coming out on top after more than three hours on court.

Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia reacts during a match against Serena Williams of the United States on day five of the 2022 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center on September 3, 2022© Reuters

Williams had the chance to serve for the set at 5-3 in the opener, but Tomljanovic battled back and reeled off the next four games in succession to take the first 7-5.

Serena was roared on by a raucous crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and she roared back at the start of the second set to race into a 4-0 lead.

Tomljanovic once again showed that she was in no mood to go along with the script by clawing back both of those breaks and saving four set points in a mammoth eighth game, eventually forcing a tie-break which Williams won 7-4 to set up a deciding set.

The American made a perfect start to that too with a break in the very first game, but world number 46 Tomljanovic spoiled the party again by winning the next six games in a row to progress, finally wearing down Williams's resistance once and for all with her sixth match point at the end of a 15-minute, 22-point final game.

Serena hangs up her racquet having won 73 singles titles during her storied and illustrious career, while she also won four Olympic golds and spent 319 weeks as world number one - including a joint-record 186 weeks consecutively.

Her list of Grand Slam singles titles includes seven at the Australian Open, three at the French Open, seven at Wimbledon and six at the US Open.

In total, Williams played more than 1,000 singles matches in her career, winning 858 of those for an overall win percentage of 84.8%.

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Serena Williams (USA) celebrates after her match against Anett Kontaveit (EST) (not pictured) on day three of the 2022 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center on September 1, 2022
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