Eurosport tennis expert and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander paid a glowing tribute to Serena Williams after the tennis icon lost in the third round of the US Open to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
The 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 defeat has seemingly brought Williams’ illustrious tennis career to an end – although she has refused to officially confirm her retirement.
Williams, in typical fashion, put up a brave fight and forced a decider by producing some of her best tennis. However, Tomljanovic showed incredible resolve to win the third set on her sixth match point and book her place in the fourth round for the first time in her career.
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Appearing on Eurosport after Williams’ defeat, Wilander spoke of his admiration for the 40-year-old.
"Serena has meant so much for tennis and the world, but for America as well,” he said.
“I was watching the crowd and there are so many people here that have never been to a tennis match before - they didn’t know what the score was, they were talking through the points – she has just brought tennis to a completely new level and transcended the sport. We are going to remember Serena the person forever.
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"Of course, Serena Williams’ serve is absolutely beautiful, but we’re going to remember her mostly for her fighting spirit. Even today she showed it, she refused to go away. Amazing.
"I have to say I am so impressed with the way she went about this whole journey playing these three matches. She clearly doesn’t want to lose but she never got to the point where she was desperate. The balance was completely right.
“She gave people hope she could win the US Open, but then again it was the reality that it doesn’t really matter because we are watching Serena maybe for the last time. I am so impressed with not only her greatness, but her spirit. Unbelievable.
“We’ve seen a lot of players quit, but this is the best retirement I’ve seen by far – if she retires."
Meanwhile, former world No. 7 and Eurosport’s Barbara Schett believes her sister Venus Williams will also now retire, as tennis bids farewell to two sporting greats.
"It’s hard to believe the Serena Williams era is finished, probably the Venus Williams era is finished as well,” said Schett.
“It was just unbelievable how she held up such a big fight at the end as well. I don’t know the last time Serena played a match that lasted over three hours, it was such a battle and it took Ajla Tomljanovic six match points – Serena just wanted to stay out there.
"It was amazing how Serena played in those moments [facing the match points], she was so aggressive and came up with some of her best shots actually every single time.
"Serena and Venus have been through thick and thin pretty much whatever happened on the tennis court, off the tennis court, they started this tennis journey when they were little kids.
“I remember when Venus came on tour and said in an interview, 'just wait until my little sister Serena comes along' – and we all thought what is she talking about, it’s impossible that someone plays faster and better."
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