After her emotional farewell with wet eyes and a heavy heart, Serena Williams just wanted to let go.
"I think I'll definitely do karaoke tomorrow," said the sports icon about her plans on the first day as a supposed tennis retiree. If she actually picked up the microphone, then the Tina Turner hit "The Best" should definitely have been on the playlist.
With this evergreen, the 40-year-old American was said goodbye to the big tennis stage on Saturday. It wasn't just the selection of songs that went perfectly with what is probably the last match of what is considered by many to be the best tennis player in history: Night session at the US Open in New York, 24,000 euphoric fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, millions of banned TV viewers, a dramatic course - and one in over three hours of never giving up Serena Williams. This is exactly how the 23-time Grand Slam tournament winner wants to be remembered.
"I'm such a fighter," said the 40-year-old proudly after beating Australia's Ajla Tomljanović 5-7, 7-6, 1-6. "I feel like I've really given and still give to tennis. The different look, the winning fist, the crazy intensity." She was "so grateful that I had these moments, that I'm Serena".
Thanks in tears
"I don't think so, but you never know," said Williams, who, looking ahead to the Australian Open early next year, added with a smile: "I've always loved Australia..." But a return is not realistic. She is now ready to be even more "mother, to be a different version of Serena". "A bright future" lies ahead of her.
Many celebrities paid the utmost respect to Williams. "I'm proud of you my friend," tweeted Michelle Obama. For golf star Tiger Woods, Williams is "literally the greatest on and off the court", and three-time Grand Slam tournament winner Angelique Kerber wrote to her long-time rival: "You changed the game of tennis forever."
Fighter heart convinced
At the US Open, where she won her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17 in 1999, Williams made a final attempt at Australia's Margaret Court's record (24 Grand Slam victories). Hardly any game practice, slipped to 605th place in the world rankings - but Williams defied the low expectations. At times she played at Flushing Meadows Park almost like she was in the best of times. "I'm very sorry, I love her like all of you," said Tomljanović afterwards into the stadium microphone: "She's the greatest of all time".
But even the greatest have to step down at some point. Williams said the tears in her eyes weren't from grief, they were more "tears of joy." But she didn't know for sure herself.