23 Time Grand slam winner, Serena Jameka Williams extended her US Open farewell with a dominant opening day win in front of a record 29,402 attendance- a sold-out, celebrity-filled Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York filled with entertainment, celebrations, and eulogies for the legendary tennis player.
The sports icon who is retiring after the tournament, became only the fourth woman in the Open Era to win matches in her teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, as she won in straight sets (6-3 6-3) against 8oth ranked, Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.
Serena started positively as she moved into a 2-0 lead before Kovinic fought back for a 3-2 advantage.
However, the American star won the final four games to clinch the opening set and spark more jubilant scenes.
The second set started with Kovinic hitting another double fault and although she recovered to hold, Williams continued to put her serve under pressure.
Once Williams broke for a 3-2 lead, she kept on with the momentum as she showed plenty quality to win in dominant fashion, (6-3 6-3) straight set win to “set the records straight” and race into the second round.
40-year-old, Williams will play Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round on Wednesday. Kontaveit was a 6-3, 6-0 winner over Jaqueline Adina Cristian of Romania in the first round.
The American joins her sister, Venus Williams, Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova and Japan’s Kimiko Date as the only women to have won a match in 4 different decades and she also kept her perfect first-round record intact at the US Open, improving to a spotless 21-0.
The 23-time Grand slam singles champion(one short of Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record) is also playing in the doubles alongside older sister Venus in what would be another exciting and exhilarating element as Serena hopes for a long farewell.
Serena’s Illustrious Career in Numbers
(23 SIngles Grand Slams and 4 Olympic Medals in 27 years of dominance).
27-year stellar career.
73 Career titles.
4 Olympic Gold Medals(2000, 2008, 2012- Women Doubles Record with Venus & 2012- Singles).
23 SIngles Grand Slams- the most by any player in the Open Era, 2nd-all time most (behind Margaret Court’s 24).
16 Doubles Grand slams- 14- major doubles(all with her sister Venus) and Two major mixed doubles titles, both in 1998.
33 WTA 1000 Titles
Longest Winning Streak-33 Matches.
5-time Year ending World No.1 Ranking.
Ranked No.1 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) for 319 weeks, including a joint-record 186 consecutive weeks.
~A plethora of achievements, medals, honours, recognition, iconic and legendary feats
Legend, Serena Williams thrills crowd on a historic and iconic night to celebrate her stellar career
The American icon is considered by many as one of the world’s iconic sports stars and the greatest tennis player of her generation, or simply put- “The Greatest of All Time”.
Serena Williams announced her retirement in an essay for glossy fashion magazine Vogue. The former number one preferred using the word “evolving away” from the sport as she hopes to end her stellar career after the 2022 US Open.
Suitably, for what could have been her final match, it was a glamorous night.
The champion was received on the court to a blistering reception as thousands of fans seemingly innumerable turned out to celebrate the icon.
As she walked in style and finesse, the stadium watched a video montage in celebration of what she has achieved as a player and a person.
The whole stadium erupted as the exquisite and fashionable damsel stepped out in a solid gold shoelace tag, 400 hand-set diamonds, and a diamond-laden “Swoosh” logo- shoes designed by fashion brand, Nike.
She pulled out every stop in a head-turning all-black look packed with style, symbolism of greatness, and plenty of sparkles in a design that had a semblance of Serena herself.
Serena said, “When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming,” said Williams. “It was loud, and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget. That meant a lot to me.”
A record 29,402 crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium willed on their idol and she responded in typical fashion. Eulogies with signs reading “Greatest of all time” “Welcome to the Williams Show,” “Queen of the Court” and “Thank you, Serena!” were spotted throughout the stadium.
The American tennis star continued, “I was just thinking, ‘Is this for real? Really?’ At the same time, I’m also thinking, ‘I still have a match to play, and I want to be able to play up to this reception.’ It was so loud. I just was overwhelmed in a good way. At the same time, it’s like you have to be focused, you have to be laser-focused. That’s what I needed to do, and that’s what I tried to do.
Williams’ daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jnr, watched the proceedings from courtside, sporting beads in her hair just as her mom did when she first won the title here as a teenager in 1999.
She held a small camera to capture her mother’s grand entrance as she sat on the front row, alongside her dad Alexis Ohanian and in front of grandmother Oracene.
The entire family jumped to their feet when Williams clinched a victory which will long live in our memories as Serena showed some dance moves, legwork, and step-up to celebrate her iconic win at Flushing Meadows.
Most of the record 29,402 in attendance included celebrities and important personalities such as Former US President, Bill Clinton, Hugh Jackman, Gladys Knight, Spike Lee, boxer Mike Tyson, Lindsey Vonn, Billie-Jean King, Bella Hadid, Queen Latifah, and a plethora of stars turned out for Serena on the night.
They were there to catch one last glimpse of the most dominant women’s tennis player of the Open Era, whose 23 Grand Slam singles titles include a co-record six at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center(US Open).
The fans watched as Serena defeated an opponent from the 49th different country in her career.
She had defeated players from 48 different countries, but until Monday had never faced an opponent from Montenegro.
Post- Match Celebratory Ceremony
After the match, TV host, Gayle King came out on to the court to lead another celebration, firstly joined at the microphone by American Tennis legend, Billie Jean King who eulogised Serena with a warm tribute, and then Serena Williams herself.
American former world number one / 6-time Wimbledon champion, Billie Jean King paid tribute to Serena and recalled her first meeting in April 1988 with 6-year old Serena in a tennis clinic where she advised her saying “Don’t change a thing”.
She continued her eulogies saying, “You are fearless and you hate to lose, and it is great, you touched our hearts and minds to be our authentic self, to use our voices and to dream big.”
“Thank you for your leadership for diversity and inclusion, especially for women, and women of colour.
“Thank you for sharing your journey with every single one of us, Guess what, You’re just beginning”
Serena also spoke on the night, She said, “I didn’t expect any of this, I always have to do the best that I can. I have always felt so comfortable here.”
“The crowd was crazy! It really helped pull me through. I was really pumped. I thought ‘I got this’.”
As Serena Williams continues her “last dance”, fans would hope their idol can get to the final and somehow win that 24th major Grand slam title. Serena feels anything more is a bonus, truly because she would still be considered a legend anyway.
We all hope she finally equals Magret Court’s all-time record as the phenomenal legend bows out in style.
“At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me, I feel, “I think every opponent is very difficult. I’ve seen that over the summer. The next one is even more difficult.”
~Legend, Serena Jameka Williams