Sure, there’s one golf tournament to think about – hitting balls, making putts and strategizing as players competed in the weekend’s Marathon-presented Dana Open. But there was also history to see this week. Many players on the LPGA Tour did just that, leaving Highland Meadows Golf Club in time on Friday to catch some tennis on TV.
In what is almost certainly her last Grand Slam match, Serena Williams bravely fought her way through three sets before losing to Australia’s Ajla Tomlijanovic at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. Afterwards, an emotional Williams, who is 40 and a 23-time major champion, thanked fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium and said an emotional goodbye to everyone who had been watching at home.
A 23-time Grand Slam champion.
A tough competitor.
— LPGA (@LPGA) September 3, 2022
Tickets for Friday night’s game cost more than $45,000 for an unobstructed upper-level view. The story was worth every penny. When the match was over, not a dry eye stayed on Long Island.
The best of the LPGA Tour understood the implications of what they were seeing. They know better than most what Serena means to women’s sport as a whole.
“I heard one of the broadcasters say she was okay with being wild as a woman,” Amy Olson said. “I thought that was such a perfect word. It’s sports, business – I think she’s someone to look up to.
“You see history. She’s spent so much time on the pitch but knowing it was her last is of course very special to see. I enjoy watching them play no matter what the result.”
Gaby Lopez has also taken a lot from Watch Williams over the years.
“She’s such a huge inspiration,” Lopez said. “This mentality of not being comfortable with ten Grand Slams, aiming for the next one, and the next, this hunger is what drives the best athletes in the world. I’m trying to get more of this. Sometimes when you get a good score you either lay back or try to protect something. But there is nothing to protect. You just have to go, keep going, with the accelerator down. I think (Serena) did that.
“Unlimited goals, that’s what drives us all. Not only was Serena impressive on the women’s side, but you see Tiger Woods and all these (athletes on) the men’s side, they all want to be like Serena.
“To me, she’s probably the greatest athlete in history, both male and female. It’s really hard to compare but that’s what I think. This hunger for the next, the next title, the next championship, the next game, the next shot; that takes you forward instead of back.
Mariah Stackhouse agreed with her friend. “It was pretty emotional watching the whole match,” Stackhouse said. “Serena was one of my biggest inspirations and obviously one of the greatest tennis players to ever touch a racquet.
“It is sad to see her retire and see her era on the pitch come to an end. She played really well and you almost wish she had another season in her. But it’s amazing to watch someone perform and retire throughout their career. I feel special to be alive to witness this.”
Azahara Munoz, coming back for the first time since becoming #LPGAMom, has a different relationship with Williams. Serena’s daughter Olympia turned five on Thursday, a day before her mother’s last game.
“I love tennis,” Munoz said. “It’s my favorite sport. What Serena has accomplished is incredible. She is the GOAT of all time. I’m sure it’s been more of a challenge for her in recent years with a baby, especially with such a physical sport. But she did so great.
“I saw a quote from her: I’m going from a good mom to a great mom. It hurts because it’s true. When I was traveling the other day I was like, ‘Oh god, I’m tying up my baby so much.’ It also has positives. There are things my baby will experience that other babies will never experience. I really want to travel with him for at least a few years and see what it’s like.”
Lydia Ko, who like Williams was a teenage sensation and has spent her entire adult life in the spotlight, called Serena: “One of the greatest athletes of all time, not just in tennis.
“She was a dominant tennis player, and then she had her beautiful daughter, and then she came out dominant again,” Ko said. “It’s very difficult to do. Even when I see some of the LPGA moms I’m like wow it’s hard enough doing one thing but juggling not two it’s multiple things it’s pretty crazy.
“I think what she did for, not just tennis and not just sports, but women’s empowerment, is so special.
“She changed the game and I think she changed the perception of female athletes. She is a role model.”