A Queen's Farewell: Serena Williams bids adieu to tennis at US Open 2022
Tears, nerves and a bundle of emotions - Serena Williams falls to Ajla Tomljanovic in her career's final match at the US Open 2022, dropping the curtains on a career that inspires and illuminates the entire tennis galaxy.
First, there were tears. Uncontrollable, gushing out, watching in sheer disbelief at what was happening. Pinch self, bite nails..will this be the final point? Gah! Another save, a crushing winner, a cheeky half-volley, the heart in the mouth, the nerves in bundles - and a Queen dictating and directing her final show at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Could this be Serena Williams' one last dance at Flushing Meadows and on the tennis court forever?
Some 3 hours and 5 minutes later, amidst deafening roars from an electric crowd, the New York City night found itself on its feet, a little weak on the knees with the flurry of emotions, but hoarsely joining in the 'Serena! Serena! Serena!' chorus as the Queen did one final twirl on a tennis court - but not before saving some five odd match points before Ajla Tomljanovic could finally, finally, most unwillingly nail the final blow to Serena Williams' illustrious career, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1.
The lights on it are now off. Let that sink in.
Serena Williams will no longer be seen wielding that racquet at a Grand Slam again, her screams, her grunts, her emphatic fist pumps, the squeals of delight and oh, the roar, the triumphant, bellowing roar - all of it will now quietly slip into the pages of well-thumbed history for us to scramble for, again and again.
How is it that you try and find the good bit about goodbyes like this? How are we to ever be ready for seeing someone for the last time doing what they do best, knowing it is for the one final time? How are we to be okay?
And in Serena Williams' final match she did everything in her power to showcase how simply unprepared the tennis universe is to watch her leave - not at all with a whimper, but with a bang, as she went all-out, throwing her everything at the cool and composed Australian on the other side of the net, who was sure, "Serena would beat me."
Queen of the tennis galaxy
Much like the bling and the glitter on her attire, very symbolically indeed, Serena Williams shone and dazzled in her last match - as a Queen must, as the Queen has always - for 25 long years on the tennis court.
Playing her heart out, sneaking in the jaw-dropping winners and punctuating almost every point in her favour with majestic roars and sighing and gasping loudly at every unforced error - Serena Williams served up the perfect farewell show and Ajla Tomljanovic was the most deserving co-star, half-rooting for Serena, half-pinching herself at the surrealness of it all.
"Growing up, watching Serena in all those finals, I would have never thought I would be the one to play her in her final match," an apologetic Tomljanovic tells the teary-eyed crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium moments after becoming the one to switch off the lights on Serena Williams' career in the third round of the US Open 2022.
Yet the deed was done. No sorries could change the inevitable - the one that all of us saw coming for a while and one that we were reluctant to acknowledge even after Williams wrote for Vogue about her decision to 'evolve' from tennis, only too recently, all too suddenly.
What this farewell means for tennis, we are yet to completely grasp but the vacuum left behind is already fast-staring at us the moment Williams did her final twirl and with the tears flowing freely from her eyes as she thanked her fans, her family - father, mother and sister Venus, without whom 'Serena Williams wouldn't have existed' - we knew this is real, this is happening - we will not be seeing Serena Williams in a post-match interview. Ever again.
But what we can do now and be grateful for - is our stars for letting us witness magic from this dazzling Queen in her all glory, for a quarter of a century, leaving us with enough pixie dust to make the tennis galaxy glitter, long after her last ace was served and a final winner was fired.
Thank you, Serena Williams. You will be missed.