Every time Serena Williams wobbled, the crowd asked for her strength to steady her.
Every time she double-faulted, the fans clapped to comfort and cheer her on. With each point she won from Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic on Monday, roars cascaded from the upper reaches of the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium. No one wanted this emotionally charged moment, this US Open first-round match, Williams’ groundbreaking career, to end.
When asked about the crowd, Williams said: “They really helped me get ahead. I was really excited. I was like, ‘I have this.’ ”
Williams, who turns 41 next month and recently said she is “evolving” away from tennis, gave the crowd what they wanted. Wearing a black skater dress with a sparkly top, a matching sparkly headband, sparkly shoes, and sparkly stones woven into her hair, she overcame an erratic serve and cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 victory over her player. 27 years old. her old opponent, prolonging her career by at least one match. Ella’s daughter Olympia de ella, almost 5, dressed in an identical outfit, sat courtside to cheer her on.
A six-time winner at Flushing Meadows and a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, Williams came here unseeded because she is about to return after a year-long absence due to a hamstring injury. Always a fighter, she fought back after Kovinic took a 3-2 lead in the first set and won the last four games thanks to her determination and her impressive good movement. Her serve became more consistent in the second set and she finished with nine aces and six double faults. She also had 23 game winners and 25 unforced errors, to Kovinic’s 18 and 25, respectively.
Her victory earned her the right to stage one more fight, against No. 2 seed Anett Konteveit of Estonia, on Wednesday. That appears to be a tougher match than the one Williams had against Kovinic, who is ranked 80th, but Williams’ resilience knows no bounds. He has missed a step, but his heart is bigger than any physical flaw.
He walked out in court on Monday to the accompaniment of a video montage of his remarkable career, narrated by Queen Latifah. She was proclaimed queen of Queens, the New York City borough that is home to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but she is also the queen of queens of tennis.
Williams and her older sister Venus, who began their spectacular careers on Compton’s public courts with their father Richard as their coach, will team up in doubles this week. That will be a fitting end for two sisters who often felt like it was them against the world, until they took the world of tennis by storm.
When asked what she wanted people to think, especially Compton girls:
“I just wanted people to be inspired by my story,” he said. “I’m from Compton, California, and I made it.”
During a post-match ceremony, Billie Jean King praised Williams’ bravery and fire to win. “She has touched our hearts and minds to be our authentic selves, to use our voices, to dream big,” King said. “You are starting”.
Oprah Winfrey, narrating a video, thanked Williams for “never backing down…for changing the face of the game.”