THE NEW YORK The anticipated retirement of Serena Williams will have to wait.
At the US Open on Monday night, the 23-time major champion defeated Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 to get to the second round.
After the game, Williams told the crowd, “You know, I always just got to do the best that I can.” When I step out onto the court, all I want to do is play my best game that day. “I feel so at ease on this court, in front of everyone here. That’s basically all I can do.
Before Williams even stepped onto the court on Monday night, the nearly 24,000-person sold-out crowd, which included a long list of A-list celebrities and notables, including former President Bill Clinton, Spike Lee, Lindsey Vonn, Rebel Wilson, Vera Wang, Mike Tyson, Dr Ruth Westheimer, Gladys Knight, Martina Navratilova, and even Coco Gauff, was standing. Williams was introduced to the fans as the “Greatest Of All Time” to raucous shouts that persisted during any pauses in the action throughout the match. This came after a film narrated by Queen Latifah summarised her illustrious career.
Williams told reporters, “It was a pretty tremendous reception.” “I could feel it in my chest, and it was loud. It was a very positive sensation. I truly — yeah, that meant a lot to me because it’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Williams now has 366 Grand Slam victories, which is the most of any female player since the stadium debuted in 1997. This victory was her 102nd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Following the match, Williams was honored on the court with a ceremony that included Gayle King, Billie Jean King, and an Oprah Winfrey “Thank you, Serena” video.
Williams acknowledged the crowd, “First of all, thank you, I didn’t expect all of this,” before thanking them for helping her to the victory.
Despite losing, Kovinic was gracious in his remarks, saying that playing Serena was “probably a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially in a night session match on Arthur Ashe,” and that it was “an experience that I could only conceive of and dream about maybe in my entire career.”
Following Williams’ announcement in Vogue, tickets for Monday’s night session quickly became in high demand. TickPick, a secondary ticket marketplace, reports that Monday’s night session’s admission price was the most of any US Open women’s final in history. As of Monday morning, the average secondary market ticket cost was $987, according to the ticket analytics company TicketIQ. A US Open record of 29,402 spectators attended the night session on the grounds.
Thousands of spectators crowded into her practice before the match to get a sight of the legend, with rows lined up to look through a mesh fence.
Williams wasn’t quite ready to call it a career, despite the hoopla and the fact that she had dropped three of her four matches since making a comeback at Wimbledon after a year-long sabbatical. In a dress with matching diamonds in her hair and a figure-skating motif that was initially intended to have six layers to represent each of Williams’ six US Open victories, Williams glided around the court on Monday. At the conclusion, she performed a twirl and displayed some of the skills that have made her one of the all-time greats. In the 99-minute match, she recorded 22 wins and nine aces.
Williams has been working with Rennae Stubbs, a former player who is now a coach and commentator, all week in New York. Williams was apprehensive, but Stubbs claimed she was still prepared for the match and the tournament with her usual intensity in an interview with ABC before the match.
Stubbs admitted on Monday that the sessions had been quite challenging. “She has been practicing a tonne this week. She did something she had never done before—she practiced with other players. Additionally, she is making every effort to perform at her very best tonight.”
In addition to playing doubles with her sister Venus, whom she referred to on Monday as her “rock,” Williams will next face No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday. Together, the two have won 14 major championships, most recently at Wimbledon in 2016. Since the French Open in 2018, they haven’t competed together. On either Wednesday or Thursday, the pair will make their debut against Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova.
Venus, 42, hasn’t stated that she intends to retire but has played just occasionally over the past 12 months.
Williams said she was eager to extend her winning streak in singles but wasn’t yet paying attention to her next match.
Right now, everything is a bonus for me, Williams admitted. “I mean, I believe that every opponent is incredibly challenging. I’ve witnessed that all summer. The following one is significantly more challenging.
It’s fantastic that I was able to complete this. I’m simply not even thinking about that, I dunno. I’m only considering the present time. I believe it’s healthy for me to merely be present right now.
Williams responded with a knowing smile when asked if this would be her last tournament: “Yeah, I’ve been fairly ambiguous about it, right?”
“I’m going to keep ambiguous because you never know,” she continued.