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Serena Williams puts retirement on hold with decisive US Open win

The tennis great beat Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 in New York

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 30 August 2022 13:39 BST
Serena Williams to open her final U.S. Open against Danka Kovinic
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Serena Williams put her retirement on hold as she made it into the second round of the US Open in New York with a straight sets win over Danka Kovinic.

Williams, who has won the event six times, beat the 27-year-old from Montenegro 6-3, 6-3, on Monday night in the first match of her farewell tour.

The 40-year-old tennis legend has won 23 Major titles over her illustrious 27-year professional career, one short of the record held by Margaret Court, and has said she will “evolve away from tennis”.

Williams was watched on from the stands by her husband Alexis Ohanian and daughter Olympia and was cheered on by a raucous Queens crowd.

Olympia, whose outfit matched her mother’s, took pictures with her camera as Serena walked onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, wearing a sparkling skirt.

Former president Bill Clinton was also in the stands, sitting next to talk show host and sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer.

“They’re really involved in some sort of… She’s giving him advice,” co-analyst Chris Evert said. “She just gave him advice. Yep, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that.’”

Other celebrities in attendance included Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, filmmaker Spike Lee and Queen Latifah, Hugh Jackman, actress Rebel Wilson, boxer Mike Tyson, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and designer Vera Wang.

After seeming to deal with nerves early on and struggling with her serve, Williams eventually took control of the opening set and took it 6-3.

Williams then broke her opponent in the fifth game of the second set to take full charge and went on to close the 1hr 40min match out with a 6-3 second set.

She will play again on Wednesday against second seed Anett Kontveit of Estonia, and also plans to play in the doubles competition with sister Venus.

Following the match, Billie Jean King took to the court to pay tribute to Williams and thanked her for what she has meant to woman, particularly women of colour.

After a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey, Williams was interviewed on the court by journalist Gayle King.

“I feel so comfortable on this court and everyone here, I just want to do my best and that is all I can do. The crowd was crazy, they really helped pull me through,” Williams said.

She said it had been “a very hard decision” to retire and that she loved to still play “as it keeps you fit, that’s a bonus.”

“I have a family and there are other chapters in life, I call it an evolution.”

And she added: “I want people to be inspired by my story, I am from Compton, California. We made it.”

Speaking to reporters after her win, Williams said: “I absolutely love being out there. The more tournaments I play, the more I feel I can belong out there.”

“That atmosphere was a lot,” she added, calling the noise from the crowd “overwhelming”.

“I could feel it in my chest. And it was a really good feeling.”

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