US Open 2022 – What it is prefer to be Ajla Tomljanovic, the villain within the Serena Williams’ fairy-tale farewell

September 4, 2022

NEW YORK — Ajla Tomljanovic’s first phrases in her postmatch interview Friday after beating Serena Williams had been, “I am feeling actually sorry.”

She spoke only a minute after Williams had walked off the courtroom at Arthur Ashe Stadium, for what’s more likely to be the ultimate time as a professional. Tomljanovic had bested her in a three-hour epic match.

It was one of many greatest victories of her life, however there have been no celebrations.

“I like Serena simply as a lot as you do,” Tomljanovic advised the group, remembering how she’d idolized her rising up. “It is a surreal second for me.”

Williams had saved 5 match factors till the sixth one ended her marketing campaign. She had been constructing on the US Open, after successful her opening two matches towards Danka Kovinic and world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit. In opposition to Tomljanovic, she was the favourite — for the primary time in a match this match. There was a rising feeling that she may do the unthinkable and win the entire thing; the farewell tour was metamorphosing into probably the most unbelievable remaining final dance that solely Serena Williams may craft.

However exceptional sports activities fairy tales are uncommon. And for each a type of unicorns, there are much more tales of dream narratives being ruined by reluctant protagonists.

“I really feel like a villain,” Tomljanovic stated afterward.

She’s not the primary to really feel like that, nor the final. A few of sport’s biggest figures have been unable to complete their careers on a excessive word and it leaves a lingering impression on those that halted their heroes within the remaining steps.

Take Larry Holmes when he stopped Muhammad Ali in October 1980. Ali had come out of a yearlong retirement to take the combat with Holmes, however Ali was a shadow of his former self, and Holmes gained conclusively with Ali’s coach Angelo Dundee stopping the combat within the tenth spherical. Holmes cried in his postfight interview. “Whenever you combat a pal, to me a brother, you may’t get happiness,” Holmes stated. “I fought a no-win state of affairs.” Ali would combat another time, and lose.

There are the opposite kinds of nice sports activities narratives the place one old-timer manages to roll again the years to throw the youthful technology off guard, solely to fall brief. There have been these 4 memorable days on the 2009 Open the place 59-year-old Tom Watson simply missed out on the Claret Jug as he misplaced a 1-shot lead on the ultimate day after which fell in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

Afterwards, Cink was requested whether or not he felt he had ruined the top of a Hollywood film. “No, I do not really feel that means. I really feel like that whether or not Tom was 59 or 29, you realize, he was one of many subject, and I needed to play towards all people on the sector and the course to come back out on prime,” Cink stated. “I do not assume something may be taken away. Any person could disagree with that, however it will be laborious to persuade me.”

He added: “I do not really feel ashamed. I do not really feel dissatisfied. I am happy as punch that I’ve gained this match.”

After which there are the pre-planned farewells, like Serena’s, the place nostalgia and perception create a frenzy to all these watching, hoping to witness one final golden second. Usain Bolt’s farewell to the game seemed for all of the world to be a assured gold medal within the 100 meters on the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London.

However as an alternative, it was Justin Gatlin who got here via for gold, with Bolt in third.

As Gatlin did his victory lap, he was booed by the group. “Bolt got here to me after the race and stated I did not deserve all of the boos from the group, and he is glad I’ve stayed stylish,” Gatlin stated. “It is a surreal second. He will be a determine that is extensively missed, even by me.”

Six days later, Bolt’s hamstring gave out on the ending straight of the boys’s 4×100. It might be his remaining act on the monitor — the picture of the fallen hero, his physique giving out, solely including to the legend.

On Friday at Arthur Ashe, Tomljanovic’s triumphs had been met with silence, after which a crescendo of noise to try to rouse Williams. The victory took Tomljanovic 3 hours, 5 minutes, however was constructed on a lifetime of ability and psychological energy. Each time she hit her first serve into the web, the fault was cheered. The one time her frustration boiled over and she or he spoke to the umpire about being interrupted by noise from the group, her irritation was met with boos.

To deal with having the overwhelming majority of the 23,859 viewers cheering for her opponent, she channeled Novak Djokovic’s tactic. “When the group was towards him, he simply pretends it is for him,” she stated after her second-round win. “After they chant, I do not know, Rafa, Roger, whoever, he hears Novak, Novak. I sort of favored that response.”

It labored for her. “I used that [tactic] and I additionally simply actually blocked it out as a lot as I may,” Tomljanovic stated after beating Williams. “It did get to me a number of occasions internally. I imply, I did not take it personally as a result of, I imply, I’d be cheering for Serena, too, if I wasn’t enjoying her. But it surely was positively not simple. There was no different means.”

She fashioned her personal “little bubble,” after which after three units of blistering tennis, she watched Williams’ on-court interview and had 1,000,000 feelings working via her.

“[It was] most likely probably the most conflicted I’ve ever felt after a win,” she stated. “Throughout the match I used to be so wanting to win. However then when it ended, it virtually did not really feel proper. When she began speaking about her household and the whole lot, yeah, I acquired emotional as a result of I can relate to having a powerful bond with your loved ones. When she stated that she would not be there if it wasn’t for them, I relate to that so much. The entire second after was simply robust to deal with a bit bit.”

The gang applauded after she spoke — and it felt like the primary cheers she had heard that evening, barring the 15 or so individuals who sat in her field for the sport.

On Sunday, Tomljanovic faces Liudmila Samsonova within the fourth spherical. It will not be again on Ashe, however as an alternative on the subsequent greatest present courtroom — Louis Armstrong. To get again on to Ashe, she’ll must preserve successful.

Her biggest return in a Grand Slam to this point is 2 quarterfinal exits at Wimbledon. She’s overcome one monumental hurdle to attempt to higher that.

However no matter occurs right here, she’ll all the time have that honor of being the participant to knock Williams out of her remaining US Open. And with that, she’ll be the reply to certainly one of sport’s nice trivia questions.

“I imply, nobody’s going to pronounce my identify proper,” she stated. “That is going to suck. However, I imply, I do not assume I might of been a part of tennis historical past, in order that’s fairly cool. … I actually did wish to play Serena earlier than she retired.

“If I used to be the loser right this moment I might most likely be actually unhappy. I do not wish to say I am unhappy, however simply conflicted a bit bit.”

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