Obama leads tributes to Serena after farewell at US Open

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Former US President Barack Obama and tennis great Billie Jean King led tributes to Serena Williams following her US Open third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, likely the last match of her glittering career.

The defeat of the 23-time Grand Slam champion caused an avalanche of messages on social networks. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The defeat of the 23-time Grand Slam champion by 7-5, 6-7(4) and 6-1 caused an avalanche of messages on social networks, in which current and former athletes, as well as the world in general, celebrated their achievements of the past 25 years.

“Congratulations, Serena, on your heart, your skill, your intelligence, your dedication and your grace,” Obama wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Few athletes have inspired more people both inside and outside of their sport!”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, who had appeared with Williams at her “Let’s Move!” to promote children’s physical activity while in the White House, he gave her “congratulations on an incredible career.”

“How lucky we have been to watch a young woman from Compton grow up to be 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 talent.”

Former world number one King, who watched from the stands on Friday, later tweeted that Williams would remain in the limelight.

“Her incredible career left her 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 athlete’s mental health who is widely regarded as the greatest of all time in her own sport, paid tribute to her partner “GOAT” and thanked her for being “an inspiration.”

“Thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sport for Black athletes, female athletes, and all athletes,” she wrote on Twitter. “Such a pleasure to watch,” she noted.

Swimming great Michael Phelps praised Williams for not only changing tennis, but also empowering the next generation.

“Her achievements in tennis speak for themselves, but one of the things I admire about her is that she just doesn’t give up,” said the Olympic champion.

“Both on and off the track, his will, his strength, his determination… he just never gives up. He’s a great example for all of us.”

Williams on Wednesday had credited Tiger Woods as one of the main reasons he kept playing tennis. The golfing great, who saw her beat world number two Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday, showered her with praise.

“@serenawilliams you are literally the greatest on and off the court. Thank you for inspiring us all to chase our dreams. Love you sis,” Woods tweeted.

World No. 12 Coco Gauff of the United States said Williams was the reason she kept dreaming.

“The impact you have had on me is beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you thank you thank you GOAT,” the 18-year-old said, using the abbreviation for “greatest of all time”.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing in Spanish by Juana Casas).

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