Serena Williams bids farewell: Tiger Woods, Simona Biles, LeBron James, Sachin Tendulkar reactions

Serena Williams farewell

Tiger Woods called Serena Williams “literally the greatest” 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 to a 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic.

Williams’ appearance at Flushing Meadows was set to be her career swansong and her defeat led to an outpouring of support and affection from across the sporting world.

Woods, the 15-time major golf champion who had been 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.

She tweeted: “thank you @serenawilliams for transcending sports for black athletes, female athletes and every athlete

“Such a pleasure to watch, thanks for being an inspiration.”

Among others to pay tribute to Williams following Friday’s loss was four-time NBA champion LeBron James, who described her as “unbelievable”.

“#SerenaWilliams THANK YOU !! You’re so damn DOPE!! ”

“You’re a goat,” James said.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

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.

“Sport inspires society to push limits & achieve the impossible. Congratulations on an inspiring career, @serenawilliams.”

Billie Jean King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles champion, believes Williams is only just getting started with her lifetime achievements.

She tweeted: “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.”

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama wrote on Twitter: “Congrats on an amazing career, @SerenaWilliams

“How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time.

“I’m proud of you, my friend—and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.”

Coco Gauff said Williams was responsible for her believing in her own tennis career.

“Serena, THANK YOU. It is because of you I believe in this dream,” the French Open finalist said on her social media accounts.

“The impact you’ve had on me goes beyond any words than can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you. GOAT!”

Among the many others paying tribute from within the tennis world was former US Open champion Andy Roddick, who tweeted: “I love you @serenawilliams. It’s been the pleasure of a lifetime to watch you become what you have.

“Can’t wait to see what you do next. Thank you my old friend.”