Williams, playing in what is widely assumed to be her final Grand Slam tournament, won her opening match 6-3, 6-3 against Danka Kovinic on Monday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in an atmosphere more like a carnival than a farewell.
Williams informed the gathering, “There are other chapters in life” when asked about her plans for the future now that she will no longer be competing in tennis.
Serena Williams Wins First Night Match in French Open History
Williams was not performing at her peak early on. Perhaps the gravity of the occasion had a role. A couple of double faults occurred. Various other squandered chances. She had a 2-0 lead but soon found herself down 3-2.
Then, all of a sudden, Williams, who was less than a month away from turning 41, looked a lot more like someone who had won six trophies at Flushing Meadows and a total of 23 Grand Slam titles, an accomplishment no one has ever accomplished since the professional era of tennis began in 1968.
She powered through the final points of the first set, finishing with a service victory to which she yelled her signature “Come on!” Over 23,000 fans were in attendance (thousands more watched on a video screen outside Ashe), and they gave Williams and his team a rousing standing ovation before and after the 1 hour and 40 minute match.
Williams pleaded, “As long as I’m here, just keep supporting me.”
And there’s no doubt that the people who came out in droves to support Williams on Monday will make the trip to Flushing Meadows again this year to cheer on Serena (no last name necessary, as befitting someone as much of an icon as a superstar athlete) whether they get tickets to see her play or not.
They wanted to demonstrate their appreciation for her efforts on and off the court by attending the event in her honour. In celebration of Serena’s victory over Kovinic, fans waved “We (Heart) Serena” signs in blue, white, and red from the seats surrounding the court.
After Kovinic was merely presented by her name, making it plain to even her how much of an afterthought she was on this sweltering evening, Williams was welcomed by a video tribute narrated by Queen Latifah, who referred to the American as the “Queen of Queens.” Announcing Williams’ final match at the U.S. Open, the announcer referred to her as “the greatest of all time” and said, “This U.S. Open marks the concluding chapter in her remarkable tennis legacy.”