The Queen of the court played her last professional match in the US Open and a young star’s run ended on Tuesday. Serena Williams, who will turn 41 on Sept. 26, and 18-year-old Coco Gauff are at distinctly different stages of their lives and careers.
Williams reached the third round at the US Open but was defeated in a thrilling match by Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5,6-7,6-1. Afterwards, she honored the adoring crowd at a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium with her signature twirl and wave while receiving a thundering standing ovation.
In an emotional farewell speech, Williams thanked her family, friends and fans for supporting her throughout her wondrous journey as a tennis and social icon. “Thank you daddy, I know you’re watching,” she said in acknowledging her father Richard Williams.
“Thanks mom. I just want to thank everyone that’s here, that’s been by my side so many years, decades, my gosh…but it all starts with my parents, and they deserve everything, so I’m really grateful to them.”
Williams also extended a special thanks to her older sister, Venus Williams, with whom she lost in their first round doubles match. “I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus. So thank you, Venus, she’s the only reason that Serena Williams existed.”
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, second all-time behind Margaret Court who had 24 during her career spanning 1960-1977 but the most in the Open Era of tennis which began in 1968, lastly thanked her husband Alexis Ohanian and her daughter Olympia.
The gifted Gauff, a native of Atlanta, advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open on Sunday by defeating 33-year-old Shuai Zhang in straight sets 7-5, 7-5. It was the first time playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium for Gauff and Zhang.
“I mean, Ashe Stadium chanting my name, I was trying not to smile on the bench on the last changeover,” she said. “I was trying to stay in the moment. But in my head I was smiling.”
Gauff’s father, Corey Gauf, said the noise was so loud that he had to take an Advil and was surprised by the exuberance for his daughter. Zhang said it was the most noise she had ever heard at a match.
Gauff fell short of making it to the semifinals when she lost to 28-year-old Caroline Garcia from France in straight sets on Tuesday 6-3, 6-4. Gauff entered the Open ranked No. 12 world and Garcia ranked No. 17.
Earlier in the tournament in first round play, Gauff and Jessica Pegula, the No. 2 seeds in the women’s doubles, were defeated by Leylah Fernandez and Daria Saville 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5). It was a controversial match in which the American duo of Gauff and Pegula accused chair umpire Christian Rask of “stealing points” by making several questionable calls. Both Gauff and Pegula shouted at Rask at various times during the match.