Serena Williams's last ever match is most watched in ESPN's history

Serena Williams’s last ever tennis match is the most watched in ESPN’s 43-year history with a peak of 6.9m viewers – as her three US Open singles contests and doubles tie with sister Venus increased audience by 101%!

  • Serena Williams’s defeat at the US Open on Friday has smashed ESPN records 
  • Loss to Ajla Tomljanovic in third round was broadcaster’s most-watched match
  • Williams’s three singles matches and doubles match helped drive up viewership

Serena Williams’s defeat at the US Open on Friday 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 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 and sister Venus took the tennis world by storm when they emerged from the courts of Compton, California as teenagers and went on to dominate and change the face of the predominantly white sport.

The winner of 23 Grand Slam singles tournaments, Williams transcended the sport and her likely departure from competitive tennis to focus on growing her family and business interests led to a flood of tributes from athletes, celebrities and politicians.

Williams’s three singles matches and one doubles match alongside Venus helped drive up viewership through the first five days of the tournament as an average of 1.1. million viewers tuned in to ESPN networks, up 101 percent versus 2021.

Serena Williams’s final tennis match last Friday was most watched in ESPN’s 43-year history

‘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 network, whose stable of tennis analysts include former stars Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Caroline Wozniacki, last week told Reuters 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. 

Williams’s three singles matches and doubles match with Venus helped drive up viewership

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 leave the door slightly ajar to a comeback. Asked if that was the case she replied: ‘I think so, you never know,’ before leaving the court promptly. 

Williams had breezed past Danka Kovinic in the opening round of the Grand Slam before stunning World No. 2 Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday. 

Williams played her last ever tennis match on Friday night and was overcome with emotion 

She shared an insight with fans into her first days of tennis-free life – tucked up in bed

However, her fairytale of New York came to an end on the enormous Arthur Ashe Stadium after three hours and four minutes of an excellent 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.’ 

Williams, choked with emotion, continued to credit her elder sister Venus as an inspiration for her instrumental role in her career.

‘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.’ 

Williams gave fans an insight into her first days of tennis-free life, posting a photo of herself tucked up in bed on Monday.

Alongside the photo of her asleep under Disney character Moana bedding, she wrote: ‘How was your weekend? This was mine ….’ 

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