NEW YORK — Serena Williams’ long-awaited retirement will have to wait at least another two days. The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who is playing the final tournament of her 27-year career, won her first-round match, 6-3, 6-3, over Danka Kovinic at the US Open on Monday night.
Since the 40-year-old Williams announced her impending plans to “evolve” tennis in a first-person essay in Vogue earlier this month, she has been given something of a farewell tour and received standing ovations at both the Canadian Open as in the Western & Southern. Open.
On Monday night, the sold-out crowd of nearly 24,000, which included a long list of A-list celebrities and notables, including former President Bill Clinton, Spike Lee, Lindsey Vonn, Bella Hadid, Vera Wang, Queen Latifah Mike Tyson, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Gladys Knight, Martina Navratilova and even Coco Gauff were on their feet before Williams walked onto the court. After a video summarizing her legendary career narrated by Queen Latifah was shown, Williams was introduced to the crowd as the “Greatest of All Time” to loud cheers that continued during any lull in the action throughout the match.
It was Williams’ 102nd victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the most by any player since it opened in 1997, and extended her record for most Grand Slam wins by a woman to 366.
Tickets for the Monday night session became a hot commodity after Williams’ announcement. According to TickPick, a secondary ticketing website, the cost to attend Monday night’s session was higher than any US Open women’s final on record. The average secondary market ticket price was trading at $987 as of Monday morning, according to ticket analytics firm TicketIQ.
Even his pregame practice session drew thousands of fans who thronged to catch a glimpse of the legend, with lines lining up to catch a glimpse through a mesh fence.
But despite the fanfare, Williams was not yet ready to end his career. On Monday, wearing a figure skating-inspired dress with six layers to represent her six US Open titles and matching diamonds in her hair, Williams glided down the court — and turned at the end — showing glimpses of what has been made her one of the all-time greats. He had nine aces and hit 22 winners in the 99-minute match.
Rennae Stubbs, the former player turned coach and analyst, has been working with Williams this week in New York. In an interview with ABC before the match, Stubbs said that Williams was nervous but that she was still preparing for the match and the tournament with the same characteristic intensity.
“Practice has been really tough,” Stubbs said Monday. “He’s been practicing really, really hard this week. He’s been practicing with other players, which he’s never done in the past. And, you know, he’s trying to do everything he can to be at his best tonight.” .
Williams wants the next move to No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday in the second round, as well as playing doubles alongside her sister Venus. The two have won 14 major titles together as a team, most recently at Wimbledon in 2016. This is the first time they have played together since the French Open in 2018.
The pair is scheduled to open the game against Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova on Wednesday or Thursday.
Venus, 42, has revealed no plans to retire but has played sparingly over the past year.