Former US First Lady Michelle Obama led the tributes to Serena Williams following her US Open third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, likely the final game of her exceptional career.
She lost to the Australian, 46th in the world ranking, by 2 sets to 1, partial 7/5, 6/7 and 6/1.
“Congratulations on an amazing career! How lucky we were to be able to see a young woman from Compton grow up to be one of the greatest athletes of all time,” Michelle said on social media. “I’m proud of you and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.”
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also mentioned Serena’s future in the tribute made through social media.
“Serena will leave behind an extraordinary tennis career,” he said. “I look forward to seeing her continue to build her incredible legacy off the court.”
Magic Johnson, basketball star, defined Serena as the greatest of all time and highlighted the importance of the athlete for sports and for black girls.
“Serena has meant so much to sports, to the game of tennis, to the world, to every girl and even more to every black girl in the world,” she said. “Serena proves you can dream bigger than where you come from. From South Central Los Angeles to the biggest the world has ever seen. What a story!”
Johnson thanked the tennis player’s parents, Richard and Oracene Williams, for caring for Serena, sister Venus and the other children.
Former tennis player Billie Jean King highlighted that Serena’s career has left a mark on the history of the sport. “And yet her greatest contributions may still be ahead,” she said.
Swimmer Michael Phelps praised Williams not only for changing tennis, but also for empowering the next generation.
“Her tennis achievements speak for themselves, but one of the things I admire is that she just doesn’t give up,” said the Olympic champion. “On or off the court, her will, her strength, her determination, she just never gives up. She’s a great example to all of us.”
Tiger Woods, golf star, also lavished praise. “You are literally the best on and off the court. Thank you for inspiring us all to chase our dreams. I love you little sister,” tweeted the sportsman,
Spaniard Rafael Nadal, tennis star, thanked what Serena did for the sport.
World No. 12 American Coco Gauff said Williams is the reason she keeps dreaming.
“The impact you’ve had on me is beyond any words that can be put together and so I say thank you, thank you, thank you,” said the young man.