Serena Williams struggles to win another match on the big tennis stage, yet she is already being honored for her career. But in the second round of the US Open, her final farewell looms.
New York. Serena Williams herself was a little surprised by the farewell ceremony in her honor – because she had not lost at all.
“Thank you, I did not expect this,” said the tennis star. Organizers of the US Open had planned a big show following what was supposed to be the last singles match in the 23-time Grand Slam tournament winner’s glorious career – and pulled it off despite the protagonist’s success.
There were thank-yous from tennis icon Billie Jean King, for example, and images of earlier days of success were shown on the video screen. The spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium performed a choreo (“We love you, Serena”), and at the end her family was also allowed onto the court. And Williams herself? She smiled and thanked them. The 40-year-old U.S. player was able to postpone the big farewell pain a little by beating Danka Kovinic from Montenegro 6:3, 6:3 in the opening match on Tuesday night.
Tough task in round two
“Just come back and support me as long as I’m here,” the long-time world number one said into the stadium microphone, addressing the fans. In her farewell tournament, Williams will face second seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round on Wednesday – a very tough task.
Against Kovinic, Williams initially showed her lack of match practice. At the beginning, her first serve was hardly there, and she rarely had the right feeling for timing and strokes. But the longer the match lasted, the more confident Williams became. The reward: the 21st win in her 21st US Open opener – and at least one more appearance on the big tennis stage.
Victory in glitter outfit
This one should also be celebrated again. Against Kovinic, Williams appeared in a black glitter outfit. According to media reports, the dress, headband and shoes were studded with 400 small diamonds. The guest list for the highlight match included plenty of A-list celebrities: Hugh Jackman, Mike Tyson, Lindsey Vonn, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, Bill Clinton and many more. In addition, there were almost 24,000 fans, some of whom had paid horrendous prices for tickets on the black market.
At the hard-court tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where she won her first Grand Slam title as a 17-year-old in 1999, Williams is still competing with her sister Venus in doubles.
Williams announced her retirement as a competitive athlete three weeks ago – in style for her in the fashion magazine “Vogue.” She feels “great pain at the thought of it. It’s the hardest thing I could ever imagine,” the soon-to-be 41-year-old American explained. As to whether the US Open is really her last tournament, as everyone expected, Williams was asked after her opening victory. “I’m staying vague about it,” she replied with a smile, “you never know.”
Williams is considered by many to be the best female tennis player in history, although she may fall just short of Margaret Court’s all-time record. The Australian achieved 24 singles triumphs at the four most important tournaments.
Out for Tsitsipas
In the men’s singles, meanwhile, the first title co-favorite bowed out on Tuesday night. Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece surprisingly lost to Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 0-6, 1-6, 6-3, 5-7. Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, on the other hand, did not show any weakness, beating his Australian compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). (dpa)