Former U.S. President Barack Obama and tennis great Billie Jean King led the tributes to Serena Williams after her U.S. Open third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday, likely the final match of her sparkling career.

The 23-time singles Grand Slam champion's 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 defeat sparked a flood of messages on social media, as current and former athletes across sport as well as the world at large celebrated her achievements over the last 25 years.

"Congratulations, Serena, for your heart, skill, intelligence, dedication, and grace," Obama wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "Few athletes have inspired more people both in and beyond their sport!"