Williams subsequently lost four more grand slam deciders in her obsessive pursuit of Court’s record, all four in straight sets – at Wimbledon and the US Open in both 2018 and 2019.
Tomljanovic needed six match points before she secured the famous victory. Tomljanovic’s role in eliminating Williams from her home major adds to a successful year for the Australian who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Tomljanovic had never previously played Williams despite about a decade together on the circuit.
Turning 41 in three weeks, Williams announced last month that her retirement was imminent after more than two decades dominating the women’s game.
“I tried but Ajla was just a little bit better,” Williams said, before being overcome with “happy tears” as she paid an emotional tribute to her family, led by her father-coach Richard, her mother Oracene and seven-times grand slam-winning sister Venus, two years her senior.
“Thank you Daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks Mum. Oh my God.
“Just everyone that’s here who’s been on my side for so many years – decades. Oh my gosh, literally decades.
“But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything so I’m really grateful for them.
“And I wouldn’t be Serena if there was no Venus. So thank you Venus. She’s the only reason Serena Williams ever existed.“
Triumphant over world No.2 Anett Kontaveit in the second round, it seemed like Williams was about to storm into the second week when she produced some breathtaking tennis to take the second set in a tiebreaker.
“It’s been a fun ride,” she said.
“It’s been the most incredible ride and journey that I’ve ever been on in my life and I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s said ‘Go Serena’ in my life.
“I’m just so grateful because you got me here.”
Even Tomljanovic felt subdued in victory.
“I’m feeling really sorry because I love Serena just as much as you guys do and what she’s done for me and the sport of tennis is incredible,” the 29-year-old said.
“I never thought that I’d have a chance to play her in her last match when I remember watching her as a kid in all those finals.
“So this is a surreal moment for me.
“I just thought she would beat me so the pressure wasn’t on me – she’s Serena. Even ’til the last point, I knew she’s in a really good position to win even if she’s down 5-1.
“I don’t know how many match points I needed to finish it off but that’s just who she is. She’s the greatest of all time – period.”
When pressed on the unlikely scenario of somehow extending her career further, Williams said half-jokingly: “I’m literally playing my way into this (tournament), but getting better.“
Williams, 40, had kept hopes of extending her run at the tournament alive after forcing her match against Tomljanovic to a third set.
Williams needed a tie-breaker in the second set that she finally won 7-4 on her fifth set point.
Williams bounced back from her disappointing end to the first set, winning the first four games of the second and racing to a 5-2 lead. But Tomljanovic erased that, just as she erased a 5-3 deficit in the first set, which the Australian won 7-5.
The vocal crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave relentless, ferocious support to the American tennis great throughout the hard-fought match.
Meanwhile, Kyrgios has recorded a career-best result at the US Open, reaching the round of 16 with a straight sets victory over unseeded American J.J. Wolf.
Kyrgios advanced to the fourth round as Australia’s top-ranked man de Minaur, seeded 18th, lost to Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).
Canberran Kyrgios was victorious 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 and could be on track for a blockbuster against world No.1 Daniil Medvedev, assuming the Russian gets past unseeded Chinese Wu Yibing.
Carreno Busta overcame an injury scare and claimed victory with an extraordinary tweener on match point.
De Minaur’s best grand slam results have consistently come at Flushing Meadows, with the world No.20 reaching the quarter-finals in 2020, fourth round the year before and the last 32 on two other occasions.
But Carreno Busta, the tournament’s 12th seed, a two-time US Open semi-finalist and recent winner of the Montreal Masters, had too much firepower on the Grandstand show court.
The big-hitting Spaniard bludgeoned 36 winners, broke de Minaur five times and dropped serve only once to progress to the fourth round in three hours and 33 minutes.
He blew de Minaur off the court in the first two sets before being slowed by an apparent adductor or back issue.
De Minaur threatened a famous fightback after winning the third set and taking the fourth to a tiebreaker.
Tunisian fifth seed Ons Jabeur has recovered from a set down to beat American Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and reach the last 16 of the US Open for the first time.
Veronika Kudermetova, the Russian 18th seed, had no such problems, strolling past Hungarian Dalma Galfi, 6-2, 6-0.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, was ousted by 13th-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3.
Murray hasn’t reached the round of 16 in one of tennis’ four biggest tournaments since Wimbledon in 2017, when he was ranked No. 1, thanks to a series of injuries.
Berrettini, a US Open semi-finalist in 2019, will now face unseeded Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
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