Serena Williams isn’t done yet; wins the 1st match at the US Open

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams is not yet ready to say goodbye. Nor, clearly, his fans.

In his first match at what should be the last US Open — and last tournament — of her remarkable playing careerWilliams overcame a shaky start to overwhelm Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 on Monday night in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium with an atmosphere more akin to a festival than a farewell.

Looking forward to a future without competitive tennis, Williams told the crowd, “There are other chapters in life.”

At first, Williams was not at his best. Perhaps that was the importance of the moment. There were double faults. Other missed shots, missed opportunities. She went up 2-0, but then quickly trailed 3-2. Then suddenly Williams, less than a month shy of turning 41, looked much more like someone with six championships at Flushing Meadows and 23 Grand Slam titles in all – numbers never surpassed by anyone in the world. professional era of tennis, which began in 1968. .

She rolled to the end of that opening set, capping it with a service winner to which she reacted with clenched fists and her trademark shout of “Come on!” The more than 23,000 people in the stands (thousands more watched on a video screen outside Ashe) rose to a raucous standing ovation – and did so again when the contest ended. an hour and 40 minutes, celebrating as if another trophy had been won.

Instead, there’s still a lot of work to do. Williams will play the second round of singles action on Wednesday against second seed Anett Kontveit of Estonia on Wednesday. And there are doubles to come, too: Williams and her sister, Venus, are entered into this competition together, with their first match scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday.

“Keep supporting me,” Williams said, “as long as I’m here.”

There’s no doubt that the folks who support Williams so enthusiastically on Monday will come a long way back to the US Open for Serena – no last name required, suiting someone as much an icon as a superstar athlete – eager to seeing her play or, if she’s not lucky enough to hold the right ticket, hoping for an autograph, a peek at her practice or just the chance to breathe the same Flushing Meadows air as her.

They were there to honor her and show their appreciation for what she did on and off the field. After watching the victory over Kovinic, the spectators held up blue, white or red signs which were distributed to their seats to spell out “We (Heart) Serena”.

After Kovinic was introduced simply by name, making it clear how much of an afterthought she was on that wet evening, Williams’ entry was preceded by a tribute video narrated by Queen Latifah, who called the American the “queen of queens”. The arena announcer called Williams “the greatest of all time” and intoned, “This US Open marks the final chapter in his storied tennis history.”

While Williams didn’t exactly say the US Open would definitely be her last hurray, she made it look like it would.

This opening output has therefore become an event with a capital “E”.

Spike Lee participated in the pre-match draw. Former President Bill Clinton was in the stands. Just like Mike Tyson and Martina Navratilova, sitting next to each other.

When Williams made the short walk to the training grounds next to Ashe Stadium for a half-hour kicking session to warm up before Monday’s game, people filled the stands above the area workouts greeted her with shouts of “Serenaaaaa!” as he entered, and shouted again as he exited, receiving a wave of his racquet in thanks before Williams pursed his lips back into the stadium.

She means a lot to a lot of people. As a tennis player. Like a woman. As an African American. As a mother. As a businesswoman.

“When she started, female athletes weren’t recognized. She’s done so much,” said Quintella Thorn, a 68-year-old from Columbus, Georgia, who is on her eighth trip to the US Open. “And now she’s…”

“Evolving,” chimed Thorn’s friend, Cora Monroe, 72, of Shreveport, Louisiana, which she says is where Richard Williams — Serena and sister Venus’ father and figure central to the Oscar-winning film “King Richard” – also comes.

That word, ‘evolve’, is one Williams said she preferred to the more commonly used ‘retirement’ when she wrote in an essay for Vogue published about three weeks ago that she was ready to focus. about having a second child and his venture capital solidifying.

Her daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Thursday, wore white pearls in her hair as she sat with her father and grandmother in the stands on Monday, a nod to her mother’s hairstyle when she won her first US Open in 1999 at age 17.

“Once Serena announced that she would be playing the US Open, we sold out in a nanosecond for Monday night and Tuesday night. You can see on the secondary market that the price of entry is $230. I I saw $5,800 for a place on the court tonight. Look, this is a historic moment for the Williams family, for Serena and our sport,” said Stacey Allaster, Tournament Director of the US Grand Slam. “It’s so hard to really capture what Serena and Venus have done for the sport of tennis. They’ve transformed our sport. They’ve made us more inclusive. And they’ve transcended sport.

That’s why Monday counted more than the usual first day of a major tournament. And why the daily program made no mention of any other of the dozens of athletes in action, instead showing a montage of six images of Williams holding her six US Open trophies above the headline: “Serena Williams, A Legacy of Greatness”. And why there was a feeling of lesser importance for matches involving wins for other elite players such as former US Open champions Bianca Andreescu, Andy Murray and Daniil Medvedev, or the Open runner-up from France Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American.

Kriti Kamath, a 9-year-old girl from Boston, carried an oversized yellow tennis ball in hopes of collecting signatures – possibly even after Williams’ scheduled pre-game hitting session in the evening, before her competition – as she walked outside Ashe with her mother, Neethor Shenoy.

Shenoy spoke to her daughter, who plays tennis, about the importance of Williams.

“She is very motivated. She is very motivated. And she is an inspiration to all women; all women of color, especially,” Shenoy said. “She gives a child a positive path to follow.”

Mom said she’s been traveling from Boston to New York for the US Open since 2004; it was Kriti’s first day of competition, but they were there earlier in the week for “Fan Week”. The US Tennis Association said more than 90,000 free online passes had been downloaded for this period leading up to the main draw, an increase of more than 35% from the last pre-pandemic tournament in 2019.

The USTA said it sold more than 16,500 tournament tickets on the day Williams revealed his intentions, more than the previous seven days combined. This included over 4,600 for Monday night alone, making it a sold-out sale.

Monroe and Thorn said they have day and night session tickets, which are sold separately, for each of the first three days of the tournament.

On Monday, the two wore blue T-shirts: Monroe’s featured “Serena” four times in different shades of purple; Thorn carried a black and white photo of Williams alongside the words “Greatest Female Athlete” – with “Female” crossed out.

___

More AP coverage of US Open tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Leave a Comment