It was match point, which Serena Williams had faced many times before. It was career point, which was startlingly new territory for one of the greatest athletes of any era.
But Williams, on this night like no other at the U.S. Open, remained true to herself and her competitive spirit on Friday, with the end of her 27-year run as a professional tennis player suddenly becoming very real.
Yes, Ajla Tomljanovic was about to serve for a place in the fourth round, at 40-30 with a 5-1 lead in the third set. But Williams, clearly weary after nearly three hours of corner-to-corner tennis, was not yet prepared to accept what looked inevitable.