As Serena Williams closed out likely the final chapter in her career at the US Open on Friday night in New York, celebrities and fans took to social media to express their support and admiration for the tennis icon.
Hopes were high in Arthur Ashe Stadium after Williams, 40, dominated early in the first two sets, but her opponent, Ajla Tomljanović of Australia, reeled her back in each time. Tomljanović won the first set 7-5, and Williams eked out a tiebreak win in the second, but couldn’t overcome the Aussie in the third, losing 6-1.
In awe of the performance from the 23-time Grand Slam champion, public figures including Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Tiger Woods, Michelle Obama, and more honored Williams during and after the match that marked the likely end of an era.
“Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!,” the former First Lady wrote Friday. “How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time.”
“I’m proud of you, my friend—and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents,” she added.
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Magic Johnson thanked Williams for her contribution to the sports industry, writing via Twitter“We just witnessed the last US Open for the greatest of all time, Serena Williams!! Serena has meant so much to sports, the game of tennis, the world, every little girl, and even more to every little Black girl across the globes. @serenawilliams #ThankYouSerena.”
He continued, “Serena proves that you can dream bigger than where you came from. From South Central Los Angeles, to the greatest the world has ever seen…what a story! Thank you to her parents, Richard & Oracene Williams, for the job they did in nurturing Serena, Venus & all of their children.”
Bill Gates wrote“What a run. @serenawilliams will be leaving behind an extraordinary tennis career that challenged the double standard between male and female players. I look forward to watching her continue building her amazing legacy off the court.”
Simone Biles said, “thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sports for black athletes, female athletes and every athlete — such a pleasure to watch, thanks for being an inspiration.”
Calling Williams “GOAT,” Legend wrote of the match, “What a riveting final bow. Such a gift to watch her incredible career.”
Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff also tweeted, “@SerenaWilliams has inspired all of us with her grit, grace, and fearlessness on and off the court. It is her legacy that we will build on as we continue to fight for equal pay and gender equality in sports.”
“Her incredible career made its mark on tennis history,” Billie Jean King wrote. “And yet her greatest contributions may be yet to come. Thank you, @serenawilliams. Your journey continues.”
Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness also honored Williams by simply tweeting, “Champion forever #SerenaWilliams” while NFL quarterback Russell Wilson added, “Thanks @SerenaWilliams Greatest Champion & Competitor! Heart of a Lion!”
In her post-match interview, Williams got emotional as she thanked her parents, including her father Richard Williams, the focus of the Academy Award-winning movie King Richard.
“Thank you, Daddy. I know you’re watching,” she said, tearing up. “Thanks, Mom. Oh, my God.”
“I thank everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side so many years, decades,” she said. “Oh, my gosh, literally decades. But it all started with my parents. And they deserve everything. So I’m really grateful for them.”