NEW YORK – US former President Barack Obama and tennis great Billie Jean King led the tributes to Serena Williams after her US Open third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, likely the final match of her sparkling career.
The 23-times singles Grand Slam champion’s 7-5 6-7(4) 6-1 defeat sparked a flood of messages on social media, as current and former athletes across sport as well as the world at large celebrated her achievements of the last 25 years.
“Congratulations, Serena, for your heart, skill, intelligence, dedication, and grace,” Obama wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
“Few athletes have inspired more people both in and beyond their sport!”
Former first lady Michelle Obama, who had appeared with Williams at events for her “Let’s Move!” campaign to promote physical activity for children while at the White House, offered her “congrats on an amazing career.”
“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,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I’m proud of you, my friend – and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.”
Former world number one King, who watched on from the stands on Friday, later tweeted that Williams would remain in the spotlight.
“Her incredible career made its mark on tennis history. And yet her greatest contributions may be yet to come. Thank you, #serenawilliams. Your journey continues,” King said.
American gymnast Simone Biles, a champion for athlete mental health who is widely considered the greatest of all time in her own sport, offered tribute to her fellow “G.O.A.T.” and thanked her for being “an inspiration.”
“Thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sports for Black athletes, female athletes and every athlete,” she wrote on Twitter. “Such a pleasure to watch.”