In her gruelling 6-3 6-3 victory against Danka Kovinic on Monday to advance to the second round of the US Open, Serena Williams gave the impression that she is not yet ready to retire.
Williams may feel more confident after her win against Kovinic, who is ranked 80th, but the road to a record-tying 24th Grand Slam is now more difficult.
Anett Kontaveit, the second seed from Estonia, is standing by after easily defeating Jaqueline Cristian 6-3, 6-0.
Williams made her retirement intentions known in an early August Vogue piece, claiming that she was “moving away from tennis” but never explicitly stating that the US Open would be her last match.
But it was evident to tennis fans that she would make her last appearance at the US Open.
Will there be a reprise?
The former world number one has been evasive, refusing to even rule out competing in the Australia Open in 2019.
Williams, though, provided the strongest indication yet that the US Open would really be her last event and elaborated on that later in her press conference at a weird post-match ceremony honouring her career, which was not yet over.
I genuinely like being outside, so it’s still quite challenging, said Williams. “I feel more like I belong in the world the more tournaments I play.
But I need to get to the next thing, you know.
When questioned about whether the US Open will be her last competition, Williams once again pulled back.
Williams grinned, “I’ve been rather vague about it, huh. I won’t say anything specific since you never know.
Before Williams took the court, a documentary summarising her career was aired, leaving the possibility of a comeback open. It concluded, “If you ever chose to return Queen, your throne will be waiting.”
However, a stubborn Williams made it obvious that she was not yet abdicating that reign.
Opening night at Flushing Meadows is typically exciting, but on Monday the crowded stadium erupted with a unique atmosphere the minute Williams stepped onto the court dressed in a dazzling black robe and specially created diamond-encrusted sneakers.
The 40-year-old American’s attire may have shone more than her game, but the crowded Arthur Ashe Stadium didn’t care since Williams’ battling edge remained razor sharp even when her serve and ground strokes weren’t.
Williams urged the cheering throng, “It’s very vital to give your best.” “I’ve had so many low points in the spotlight.
“All I want is for my story to inspire others.
“I’m from California’s Compton… and I succeeded.
A city that has been in her camp from the start, supporting runs to six US Open titles, was undoubtedly the most appropriate location to pull the curtain down on one of tennis’ most extraordinary careers.
The 23,000 spectators that jammed into Arthur Ashe not expecting to witness greatness but to celebrate it, including former US president Bill Clinton, fashion designer Vera Wang, filmmaker Spike Lee, and others, were aware of the gravity of the situation.
Williams, who had held the top spot for 319 weeks, came in New York with a ranking of less than 600 and without a seed.
Even if Williams was not at her peak, the Montenegrin woman, 27, faced overwhelming odds.
Williams, who is competing in her 21st U.S. Open, had never suffered a first-round defeat, and her triumph against Kovinic was her 106th at Flushing Meadows.
Kovinic has not won a match since Roland Garros, despite having the finest Grand Slam season of her career and making it to the third round of both the Australian and French Opens.
As the match began, Williams was the one displaying symptoms of nervousness by accumulating double faults as Kovinic took a 3-2 lead.
But Williams, as she has so many times before, improved when it was necessary, winning the next four games to take the opening set.
Williams, who was in control by this point, did not let the lead slip away in the second set. She broke to go up 3-2, and when it was match point and the crowd was standing, she danced joyfully as Kovinic’s return hit the net.