Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts during the first round of the US Open tennis championships against Danka Kovinic, of Montenegro, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

US Open: Serena Williams’ party continues after first-round win over Danka Kovinic

New York celebrated Serena Williams’ career in loud fashion on Monday night, but the party isn’t over thanks to her first-round win over Danka Kovinic.

Williams announced earlier this month that the US Open will most likely be her final tournament, ending a 27-year career that has seen her transcend tennis.

But the 40-year-old is first and foremost a formidable competitor and she secured at least one more night in the spotlight with a 6-3 6-3 triumph, with the second seed from Estonia. Anet Kontaveit Now waits in the wings after overtaking Jaqueline Cristian 6-3 6-0.

Williams will also play doubles with her sister Venus and, an enigma until the end, refused to close the door completely on further appearances.

“I’ve been pretty vague about that, haven’t I,” she said. “I’ll keep it vague because you never know.”

A record crowd had come to honor Williams and the noise grew louder as a montage voiced by Queen Latifah played Williams’ six singles titles at Flushing Meadows.

Then out came the woman herself, dressed, as only she could be, in a dress she had designed and shoes adorned with diamonds, crystals and gold.

“I think when I came out, the reception was really overwhelming,” she later said.

Serena Williams picked up an emotional first-round victory at the US Open on Monday night

“It was strong and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget. It meant a lot to me.”

Williams had won just one singles match since Roland Garros last spring, but Kovinic was also out of form, losing his previous five matches.

Nerves were very evident from both, particularly in the form of early double faults, but, with a wall of noise greeting each Williams winner, she began to give the crowd what they wanted.

She was certainly moving better than she had in the loss to Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati earlier this month, and her serve and groundstrokes increased in penetration as the match progressed.

The second set, although not a vintage Williams, was an indication that this farewell round could still have some way to go as she set up a clash with Kontaveit on Wednesday.

In Cincinnati, Williams had walked straight off the field, avoiding the celebration planned for her, but here she was able to enjoy the moment as a post-match ceremony saw her revered by Billie Jean King and Oprah Winfrey.

“I feel different,” she said.

“I think I was very emotional in Toronto and Cincinnati. It was very difficult. I’m not saying it’s not difficult now. It’s still extremely difficult because I love being there.

“The more tournaments I play, the more I feel like I belong. It’s a hard feeling to have, and to go away knowing that the more you do it, the more you can shine.

“But it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. I think it’s important because there are so many other things I want to do.”

The 40-year-old has kept a low profile since announcing her decision in a Vogue essay earlier this month, while other Williams players, especially those she directly inspired to follow her traces, stood in line for
revere his heritage.

“I will soon have plenty of time to do all of this,” she added.

“I’m so grateful that they see it. I can see it too, but I don’t think about it too much. I’m still here at the moment, just enjoying it.

“I’m grateful to be able to have this impact. I never thought I would have this impact, ever. I was just a girl trying to play tennis at a time when I could develop this impact and be a voice.”

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Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith discusses the impact Serena Williams has had on tennis

Elsewhere, last year’s finalist Leylah Fernandezwho had an extraordinary run in New York, reached the second round with a 6-3 6-4 win over Oceane Dodin.

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US Open: Serena Williams’ party continues after first-round win over Danka Kovinic

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