Serena Williams revealed to an enthusiastic US Open crowd that she’s not done beating Danka Kovinic to extend her farewell tour.
Williams announced earlier this month that this tournament would very likely be her last, marking the end of a 27-year career that has seen her transcend tennis.
But Williams is a great competitor first and foremost and she ensured at least one more night under the lights with a 6-3 6-3 triumph.
Broadway may be several miles from the more seedy borough of Queens where Flushing Meadows sits, but there was only one show in town in New York as of Monday night.
The crowd had come to worship their queen and the noise grew louder and louder as a montage of Williams, voiced by Queen Latifah, played six singles tracks at Flushing Meadows.
Then the woman herself came out, dressed as only she could be, in a dress and shoes of her own design with diamonds, crystals and gold.
The diamonds in her hair sparkled in the light while alongside her family and friends at court sat four-year-old daughter Olympia, wearing a matching outfit and pearls in her hair like her mother wore for her first triumph 23 years ago.
It was all a little unfair to Kovinic, who had entered the pitch a few minutes earlier to polite applause and was busy with her pre-game routines as the noise swept around her.
Director Spike Lee, a regular at the tournament, performed the coin toss before both players attempted to collect themselves and focus on what was demonstrably no ordinary tennis match.
Williams had only won a singles match since the French Open last spring, but Kovinic wasn’t in great form either, losing her last five matches.
The nervousness was very evident in both, particularly in the form of early double faults, but with a wall of noise greeting every Williams winner, she began to give the crowd what they wanted.
She was certainly moving better than she did in the loss to Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati earlier this month, and her serve and groundstrokes continued to improve as the game progressed.
The second set, while not a classic Williams, was a hint that this bygone round might still have some time to go as she crafted a clash with second seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday.
Despite the successful result, the match ended with an on-court ceremony with Billie Jean King and Oprah Winfrey on-screen.
Addressing the crowd, Williams said: “First of all thank you, I wasn’t expecting any of this. I feel so comfortable in this place. When I go out on the pitch, I just want to do my best. The crowd went crazy. They really helped me get through. I was really excited, I was like, ‘Yeah, I get that’.”
The 40-year-old has kept a low profile since announcing that she was “moving away from tennis” in an essay in Vogue earlier this month.
“It was such a tough decision because I think when you’re passionate about something and you love something, it’s always hard to walk away,” she said Monday. “I’ve been trying to decide what to do for a while.
“I just thought, ‘I think now is the time.’ There are other chapters in life. I really wanted to spend more time at home. It’s like Serena 2.0.
“I look forward to waking up and just being like, ‘I don’t have to run to court today.’ I look forward to being a mother.”
Williams’ peers, particularly those she directly inspired to follow in her footsteps, have lined up to honor her legacy.
As for the woman herself, she simply said, “It’s so important to give your all. No matter how many obstacles you face – I’ve been down so many times. I just want people to be inspired by my story. I’m from Compton, California and I made it.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/serena-williams-queens-spike-lee-alexis-ohanian-new-york-b2155360.html Serena Williams advances to the delight of an enthralled crowd at the US Open