Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods were among the numerous celebrities who hailed Serena Williams’ glittering career today as she played what could be her last professional tennis match.
Serena, who will be 41 on September 26, lost her third round match in three sets in the early hours of today to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic to bow out of the tournament in front of an adoring crowd in New York.
She had written in a Vogue article before the US Open that it might be her last tournament as she sought to evolve into other career paths.
After improbable victories over Danka Kovinic and world No.2 Anett Kontaveit gave fans hope of a fairytale ending for Serena, her bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title ended in a battling 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 loss.
Former United States of America First Lady Obama praised Serena as ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’, leading the glowing tributes to the living legend.
“Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams!” Obama tweeted. “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.”
Television show host, actress and billionaire entrepreneur Oprah, who has been Serena’s friend for years, hailed the superstar as a ‘shero’, a coinage meaning female hero.
“25 years. Champion. Shero. Legend forever! @serenawilliams #USOpen,” Oprah tweeted.
Woods, who himself is a sporting icon, having won 15 golf majors, the second most of all time behind Jack Nicklaus, gave Serena credit for inspiring athletes to achieve greatness.
“@serenawilliams you’re literally the greatest on and off the court. Thank you for inspiring all of us to pursue our dreams. I love you little sis!!!!!!” Woods wrote.
A host of other celebrities have been pictured over the last week at the US Open to watch Serena play including Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Anna Wintour and Spike Lee.
Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, Jared Leto, Gigi and Bella Hadid, musician Seal, and Zendaya have also been spotted at the tournament.
Spider-Man star Zendaya also lent her voice to a Nike campaign in honour of Serena, which was released following the conclusion of the match.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar also praised Serena, writing: “Sport inspires society to push limits and achieve the impossible. Congratulations on an inspiring career, @serenawilliams.”