Serena Williams’s defeat at the US Open in the final match of her glittering career was the most-watched tennis telecast in ESPN’s 43-year history.
Williams’s third-round loss to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, September, 2, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, averaged 4.8 million viewers from 7:15 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. ET and peaked with 6.9 million viewers in the 10:15 p.m. quarter-hour.
Williams’s three singles matches and one doubles match alongside Venus also helped drive up viewership through the first five days of the tournament at an average of 1.1. million viewers tuned in to ESPN networks, up 101 percent versus 2021.
‘These are the most-viewed first five days of the US Open on record on ESPN networks,’ ESPN said in a press release.
A spokesman for the network told Reuters last week that the network would be happy to discuss the possibility of bringing Williams into the broadcast booth if she wanted to go in that direction in retirement.
Williams revealed in an interview with Vogue last month that she intends to ‘evolve away’ from tennis and it is expected that her appearance in Flushing Meadows was her final tournament.
The 40-year-old said after her final match: ‘I’m ready to be a mom and explore a different version of Serena.
‘And technically in the world, I’m still super young so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking,’ she added with a little chuckle.
In her on-court interview, Williams appeared to hint she might make a comeback. Asked if that was the case she replied: ‘I think so, you never know,’ before leaving the court promptly.
Williams had defeated Danka Kovinic in the opening round of the Grand Slam before stunning World No. 2 Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday.
However, her victory came to an end at the Arthur Ashe Stadium after three hours and four minutes of the contest against Tomljanovic.
‘Oh my god, thank you so much, you guys were amazing today,’ she said in an on-court interview filled with emotion. ‘I tried but Ajla just played a little bit better.’
With tears in her eyes, she added: ‘Thank you Daddy, I know you’re watching. Thanks Mom. I just want to thank everyone that’s here, that’s been on my side, so many years, decades. But it all started with my parents and they deserve everything, so I’m really grateful for them.’
‘These are happy tears I guess,’ she said. ‘And I wouldn’t be Serena if it wasn’t Venus so thank you Venus. She’s the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed.
‘It’s been a fun ride, it’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever had in my life. And I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s ever said “go Serena” in life. I’m just so grateful because it got me here.’