For Ajla Tomljanovic, who defeated Serena Williams in the third round of the US Open on Friday, her earliest memories of Serena and Venus Williams feature their dad Richard Williams and the bond they shared.
Tomljanovic upset a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday by putting an end to the 40-year-old’s US Open campaign with a 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1 win. Serena Williams, now ranked No. 605 in the world, put up a fight against the Australian, saving five match points before eventually coming up short.
In her post-match press conference, Tomljanovic touched upon the influence the Williams sisters had on her as a kid and what attracted her towards them.
“Growing up I didn’t really have idols, but Serena and Venus were just so good that I looked up to them the most, I’d say. What always drew me to them was their bond with their family, like the togetherness. They always spoke about that, like it was so important to them. I can relate to that because I’m very close to my family and I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” she said.
“From a young age I remember seeing them with their dad and thinking that’s kind of like my story a little bit. Just the fact that you don’t have to have anything other than supportive family, a dream, and just will and passion and love for the game to make it. Not just make it, but what she’s achieved is absolutely incredible. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be repeated while I’m still around,” she added.
“The most conflictive I’ve ever felt after a win” – Ajla Tomljanovic on defeating Serena Williams in 2022 US Open 3R
In her on-court interview, Ajla Tomljanovic apologized for beating Serena Williams as she, like the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, was also a fan of the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
She explained her words in her post-match press conference, stating that while she was very happy with the victory, she also felt a little conflicted about it.
“Probably the most conflictive I’ve ever felt after a win. During the match I was so eager to win. I mean, I wanted to win as much as the next person because I didn’t look at her like, Oh, Serena, her last tournament,” she stated.
“But then when it ended, it almost didn’t feel right. When she started talking about her family and everything, yeah, I got emotional because I can relate to having a strong bond with your family. When she said that she wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them, I relate to that a lot. Yeah, just the whole moment after was just tough to handle a little bit,” she added.
The 40-year-old Williams, in her on-court speech, paid tribute to her parents and sister Venus for their contributions in making her a legend of the sport.