NEW YORK. After the last week of her trademark magic, Serena Williams’ legendary playing career came to an end on Friday night with a third-round loss to Ayla Tomljanovic at the US Open in front of nearly 24,000 fans.
The match wrapped up a tumultuous 3.5 weeks since Williams revealed her plans for the future, filled with countless tributes and record-breaking crowds. From her Vogue announcement to her latest, emotional press conference, here’s what happened in front of the cameras and beyond.
August 9: Toronto
8:41: The morning after playing in just her second game of the season, a first-round match in Toronto, Williams announced her impending retirement — or “evolution” — in a first-person essay in Vogue. She indicated that the US Open would be her last tournament.
“There is no happiness in this thread for me,” Williams wrote. “I know it’s not customary to say this, but I feel a lot of pain. This is the hardest thing I could ever imagine. I hate this.
“I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep telling myself I wish it was easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want this to end, but at the same time, I’m ready for what’s next.”
In the September issue of Vogue @serenawilliams prepares to say goodbye to tennis on his own terms and in his own words. “This is the most difficult thing I could ever imagine,” she says. “I don’t want this to end, but at the same time I’m ready for what comes next” https://t.co/6Zr0UXVTH1 pic.twitter.com/YtGtcc18a9
— Vogue magazine (@voguemagazine) August 9, 2022
August 10: Toronto
20:41: The day after her reveal, Williams lost in her second round match in Toronto to Belinda Bencic, 6–2, 6–4. After the match, she was given a ceremony on the court. She was emotional when she addressed the crowd.
“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” Williams said. “It’s a terrible goodbye, but goodbye, Toronto!”
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 11, 2022
August 14: Cincinnati
22:53: Williams’ first round matchup against reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanou was scheduled for Monday, the opening day of the game. But when the draw for the Western & Southern Open was announced, there was no match when the order of play was announced late Sunday night – much to the outrage of many fans who bought tickets and arranged a trip specifically to watch their clash.
A tournament spokesperson said the change was due to “a number of scheduling factors”. Fans later told Sportzshala that they were unable to obtain a refund or provide an option to change tickets for Tuesday.
August 15: Cincinnati
11 am: At least the fans who were there on Monday hoping to see Williams got a consolation prize: hundreds of people came to see her on Practice Court No. 16. one fan tweeted after practice: “I just watched Serena practice (in person) and you would think I just watched her win the US Open and I was happy.”
— Western and Southern Open (@CincyTennis) August 15, 2022
August 16: Cincinnati
16:31: Several hundred fans crowded to catch a glimpse of Serena training, again on Court 16. Some stood on the benches, others fought for a seat near the court, and still others watched from the upper levels of the nearby stands.
There were frequent “We love you, Serena!” applause and attempts to take a selfie with her in the background. One woman loudly declared that watching Williams, even just in training, was “a wish list item completed.” When the session ended, 32 minutes later, Williams waved to the crowd as she walked off the court.
17:08: According to a press release, Williams has been formally announced as an investor in the Venus Happy Viking brand, a plant-based nutrition company, as part of an “important investment round.”
19:11: With an almost full crowd in the stands, including four-time world champion Naomi Osaka, and after several days of hype, Williams entered the court to face Radukane. When she emerged from the tunnel, she received a standing ovation. Despite her reaction, she didn’t show much emotion before the match, not even a hint of a smile in the pre-match photo at the net with Radukan. But she couldn’t completely hide her disappointment as she hit the hole early 4-1.
20:19: Williams made a valiant effort to bounce back in the first set, winning three of four games after an early loss, but it wasn’t enough. And the second set was all Radukan.
Williams ultimately lost 6–4, 6–0 in 65 minutes. This is the third-lowest number of games Williams has won in a completed match in 15 years. Although it was rumored that there would be an on-court farewell ceremony for Williams after the match, she instead hurried to grab her bag and headed for the exit almost immediately.
As she approached the tunnel, she was stopped by the interviewer at the trial, but she seemed to brush him off and kept walking. Then the microphone, placed in front of the place where Radukan was going to give an interview, was removed.
20:57: Tournament officials confirmed that Williams would not hold a press conference following the loss. At that point, she had not spoken to the media since her announcement.
August 17: Cincinnati
Evening: Williams was spotted at Carlo & Johnny in Cincinnati. The next morning, general manager Charlie Bledsoe posted a photo of Serena at the establishment.
Thanks@serenawilliamsfor spending the evening at Carlo and Johnny’s last night. Our staff appreciated your kindness. Congratulations on your well-deserved place in American sports history. pic.twitter.com/1uA3VfYvXp
— Jeff Ruby (@TheRealJeffRuby) August 18, 2022
August 23: New York
9 am: Together with world No. 3 Maria Sakkari Williams first US Open practice at Arthur Ashe Stadium. In addition to her coach Eric Hechtman, with whom she began working before Wimbledon, former player-turned-coach and Sportzshala analyst Renna Stubbs also made her first appearance on the court with the team.
Williams’ dog Chip also showed up, much to Sakkari’s surprise.
12:13: Spotify released the first episode of the new Archetypes podcast series from Meghan Markle, Duchess of Cambridge, and it featured an interview with Williams. The two, who are longtime friends, discussed ambition while juggling careers with motherhood and Williams’ retirement.
“I just wanted to just quietly leave,” Williams. disclosed about her original plans. “And that’s how I’ve always seen my career. Just like I wanted to leave without saying goodbye.”
August 24: New York
9 am: Williams and her team returned to the court at Ash in front of a small group of fans, but this time with her Eastbourne doubles partner Onse Jaber. It was an energetic session and Jaber later told reporters that she was “very lucky” to get the opportunity to meet and play with Williams.
— TroubleFault (@troublefault) August 24, 2022
August 27: New York
9:30: Three days before the start of the US Open, Williams rang the New York Stock Exchange’s bell to celebrate her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which aims to fund underrepresented entrepreneurs.
“It was incredible to see a room filled with photos of our founders showing off our diversity,” Williams later said of the day.
Friday she rang the bell @NYSE.
Her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has raised $111 million to help a diverse group of entrepreneurs pitch their innovative ideas to the world. pic.twitter.com/xdh9VnTTgo
— CNBC Prime (@CNBCPrimeTV) August 29, 2022
Afternoon: Williams announced the death of her 18-year-old dog and constant companion Lauerley in an Instagram post. “She was the smallest, but the strongest puppy, and I will miss her very much …” Williams wrote in part. “Truly the end of an era.”
August 28: New York
11 am: While Angel City FC owners Alexis and Olympia Ohanian, also known as Williams’ husband and daughter, attended the game against Gotham FC in Harrison, New Jersey, Williams had one last practice on Ashe before the start of the tournament and spent time on-court joking with her longtime pal (and rumored ex-boyfriend) Grigor Dimitrov.
August 29: New York
7:03: Time magazine released its latest issue with Williams on the cover and an accompanying headline that simply read “The Greatest”. In the article, Williams admitted that she was pleased with the progress she had made over the summer and already knew she would have doubts about her decision ahead of the Australian Open.
“I see my improvement and I’m like, ‘Damn it, I’ll be fine in January,'” she said.
9:35: Even before play began at the US Open, there was already palpable excitement around the field before the Williams match. Several vendors stood at the entrance selling T-shirts commemorating her career. One read “Goodbye Serena Williams” and the other read “GOAT” on the back and listed some of her accomplishments. They cost $20 (or two for $30). One salesperson said he usually sold these items outside of concerts, but not at the US Open.
12:34: Williams match type has been revealed from Nike. Inspired by figure skating dresses and originally made up of six layers to symbolize her six US Open titles, the glittery ensemble was paired with diamond-encrusted sneakers with “Queen” and “Mother” laces.
It was later revealed that Olympia was wearing a matching dress for the match, with her hair in braids and beads as a tribute to her mother for her early performances at the US Open.
18:14: With diamonds in her hair and thousands of fans all around…