Serena Williams has extended her rumored farewell tour for at least two more days.
The 23-time major singles champion overcame early nerves and a missed serve to win 6-3, 6-3 over Danka Kovinić in their US Open first round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, throwing what should be the final tournament of his stellar 27-year professional career on a winning note.
Williams, who announced her intention to retire earlier this month, entered Monday night’s main attraction in Queens, ranked 605th in the world and having won a singles match in 450 days. But the American star picked up her record 107th victory in the tournament which she won six times in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 23,000 spectators who crackled with the atmosphere of a big-prize final – with thousands others to watch on a giant screen from the fountain square outside the stadium.
“When I came out, the reception was really overwhelming,” Williams said afterwards. “It was strong and I could feel it in my chest. It’s a feeling I will never forget. »
Williams, who turns 41 next month, has faced constant pressure on his serve from the start, making five double faults in his first three service games and facing break points in each of them. But she found the rhythm in the closing stages of the rocking first set, collecting 11 consecutive points capped by a love break for 5-3 before serving the opener in 55 minutes.
The American’s serve only got better from there and Kovinić, the 27-year-old Montenegrin ranked 80th, couldn’t match her level. When his opponent scored a backhand from the baseline on match point after 1:40, Williams raised his arms amid deafening thunderous applause.
The road doesn’t get any easier from here. Williams advances to face No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in a second-round match on Wednesday. She also entered doubles with her older sister, Venus, with their first-round match scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday.
Williams’ prospects over the winter of his career were in a state of uncertainty during his 12-month absence from the tour between first-round defeats at Wimbledon last year and this year. But his compromised form has been harshly criticized in the three weeks since his ‘evolution’ away from tennis was announced in a first-person essay that appeared in Vogue’s September issue: a run that included a 6 loss -2, 6-4 to Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in Toronto, immediately followed by a 6-4, 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati.
But Williams rolled back the years in front of an adoring home crowd on her return to Flushing Meadows, moving better on the pitch than she has in years and upping her game on pressure points, securing at least one further appearance on the same court where she beat Venus to the family’s first Grand Slam title in 1999 before answering a congratulatory phone call from US President Bill Clinton, who followed Monday’s proceedings from the court.
The potential final game of Williams’ career virtually obscured any further action on the court on the opening day of the season’s final grand slam. After a tribute video narrated by Queen Latifah played inside the stadium, Williams exited the tunnel to Kanye West’s Diamonds From Sierra Leone in a scene more reminiscent of a boxer’s ringwalk than a traditional player entrance for a first round game.
Spike Lee handled the coin toss and dozens of celebrities dotted the crowd, including Martina Navratilova and Mike Tyson, who sat next to each other in the president’s box. The uncommon pump caused early nerves on both sides of the net, but it was Williams who set up first before showing off a champion’s finishing kick.
Afterwards, Williams, who strongly hinted but not definitively stated that this year’s US Open would be her final event, remained coy when pressed about it.
“Yeah, I was pretty vague about that, right?” She said with a smile. “I’m going to stay vague because you never know.
Serena Williams proves the show isn’t over with impressive US Open win