Serena Williams suffered a likely career-ending defeat when she was knocked out of the US Open on Friday by Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

The 23-time Grand Slam title winner, and six-time champion in New York, lost her third round clash 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.

Williams, who turns 41 in three weeks’ time, had said she remained “vague” over her retirement plans but without a major title since 2017, her 27-year-career is now almost certainly over, even though she did end her interview on court after the match with a ‘you never know!’

Tomljanovic, who had not reached the fourth round at US Open before this year, trailed 3-5 in the first set before reeling off four straight games to take the first set. The second set started with Williams taking a 4-0 lead before the Aussie fought back again to bring it on serve, forcing a tiebreak after saving multiple set points on the way. But the 23-time Major champion pulled off a sensational tiebreak then to force a third set.

The decider started with Williams breaking serve but Tomljanovic took control from 0-1 down, reeling off five games in a row. Serving for the match, the 29-year-old had a bagful of match points which were thrillingly saved by Williams, each one cheered to blow the roof at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But on her sixth match point, the world No 46 prevailed in a match that witnessed some sensational rallies.

Williams, who didn’t play for a year before returning to singles tennis at Wimbledon in June, had been careful to dampen down expectations in what is likely to be her final tournament. She had spoken about playing the tournament with an attitude of nothing to lose and a freedom that she has not had since breaking out on to the scene before 2000.

But the manner of her second round win over Kontaveit, when she reeled off a series of vintage winners to clinch the decisive third set, gave hope to her legion of fans that a dream ending could still be possible.

Here’s our thread on Twitter of how the match unfolded

With AFP Inputs