Retirement postponed as Serena Williams wins US Open first round match
“What do you say to the god of defeats?”
Serena Williams: “Not today!”
With a 6-3, 6-3 win over World No.80 Danka Kovinic, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams has booked her spot in the US Open second round, postponing retirement for one match at least.
It was an electrifying atmosphere inside the Arthur Ashe stadium as tennis lovers and celebrities from all walks of life gathered to witness what could have been Serena’s final match as a professional tennis player. The 40-year-old had announced in early August that she would be evolving away from tennis and the world has since been ready to send her off in befitting fashion.
Adorned in diamonds from head to toe, Serena walked onto the court with a loud cheer from the crowd, ready to face Kovinic.
The match started slowly for both women as they struggled on serve. Serena was made to save two break points in the opening game of the match before finding two good serves to hold. Kovinic’s first service game of the match was a nervy one and the 27-year-old handed Serena a break point with a double fault. Serena took advantage, getting the first break of the match to lead 2-0. With every poin won, Serena had the crowd roaring.
The break did not last though, as double faults and errors from Serena’s racket led to Kovinic breaking right back. The Montenegrin then backed up her break to level 2-2.
Kovinic then got ahead with another break after yet another shaky service game from Serena, but double faulted two consecutive times, giving Serena the break back.
Serena, finally settling and backed up by the crowd, got her first hold without saving a break point, going 4-3 up. Kovinic hit more double faults and got broken again. Serena brilliantly consolidated the break, finding three aces to take the first set 6-3, much to the delight of the Arthur Ashe spectators.
The second set was even more impressive from Serena’s side, while Kovinic showed more signs of nervousness.
Also taking the second set 6-3, Serena earned what was just her second win in five matches since her return from a one-year absence.
With this win, Serena now becomes the fourth player in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam match in her teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, joining 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova, Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm and sister Venus Williams.
The 40-year-old has won all 21 of her first round matches at the US Open, dropping only two sets against Nicole Pratt in 1998 and Anca Barna in 2001.
With 107 wins, Serena has the most career victories at the US Open and 102 of those wins have come at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she has made history multiple times. History was made again this time, as the US Open announced an all-time night-session attendance record on Opening Night with 29,402 fans trooping to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The first day of the tournament also set the second-highest single-day attendance in US Open history, with a total attendance of 71, 332.
After the match, Serena was honoured with an emotional ceremony organized in advance by the tournament, whether her match ended in win or loss. The tribute included an emotional video montage narrated by Oprah Winfrey.
“First of all, thanks. I didn’t expect any of this. You know, I always just got to be the best I can. I feel so comfortable on this court in front of everyone here. When I step out onto the court, I just want to do the best I can do on that particular day,” Serena said after the match.
“It’s been such a hard decision. I think when you’re passionate about something and you love something so much, it’s always hard to walk away. Sometimes it gets harder to walk away than not. I’ve been trying to decide what to do for a while. I do still love this game. I also love it because it keeps you fit, which is a bonus.”
As Serena continues her farewell tour, she will now take on World No.2 Anett Kontaveit in a second round which is expected to be even more thrilling.
She will also play doubles with sister, Venus, with whom she has won 14 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles. They face Linda Noskova and Lucie Hradecka in the first round on Thursday.
For now, Serena’s career is not over and the world of tennis gets to enjoy and bask in every minute she spends on court till her very last match.