The sports world reacts as Serena Williams bids farewell
New York, New York - Tennis icon Serena Williams' appearance at Flushing Meadows was set to be her career swan song, but her third-round defeat led to an outpouring of support and affection from across the sports world.
Tiger Woods called Serena Williams "literally the greatest" via Twitter after she bowed out of professional tennis with a third-round defeat at the US Open.
The 23-time grand slam singles champion produced a memorable second-set fightback in a raucous atmosphere inside Arthur Ashe Stadium but succumbed 7-5, 6-7 7-(4), 6-1 to Ajla Tomljanovic.
Woods, the 15-time major golf champion who was in attendance for her second-round win, said: "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!!!!!!''
American gymnast Simone Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, and 19-time world champion, hailed Williams' impact beyond the tennis court.
"Such a pleasure to watch, thanks for being an inspiration."
Sports legends pay tribute to Serena Williams' legacy
"You're a GOAT," James said, using the common sports term for "greatest of all time."
"What you've done for the sport of tennis, what you've done for women and what you've done for the category of sport is unprecedented," James continued.
"I just want to say thank you for being this inspiration for so many and... for showing the world every time you were out there you were the greatest. Win, lose or draw, it didn't matter. We all knew that you were the greatest."
The LA Lakers star concluded, "You have been unbelievable. I salute you. When I see you I'll give you a big giant hug as well, to show my appreciation."
Billie Jean King, a 12-time grand slam singles champion, tweeted that Williams is only just getting started with her lifetime achievements: "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."
Coco Gauff said Williams was responsible for her believing in the possibility of her own tennis career: "Serena, THANK YOU. It is because of you I believe in this dream." She continued, "The impact you've had on me goes beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you. GOAT!"
India batter Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored the most runs in Test cricket, wrote: "Age is not what the body tells you, but what your mind tells the body. Teenagers can solve world's biggest problems, adults can pick up something new & excel."
Tendulkar continued, "Sport inspires society to push limits & achieve the impossible. Congratulations on an inspiring career, @serenawilliams."
Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot / Instagram / serenawilliams / COREY SIPKIN / AFP