Serena Williams beat second seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 on Wednesday night to advance to the third round of the US Open. She has already hinted that this will be the last tournament of her long and successful career, but that gives her at least two more days to play.
Serena Williams Turns Back The Years At The US Open
The 23-time major winner, who entered the tournament ranked No. 605 and had won only one match in the last 450 days, won the first set in a tiebreaker. But Kontaveit, the world No. 2 from Estonia, broke right at the start of the second set and forced two more to force a third set.
Although the crowd cheered loudly for Williams and the hype was high, Kontaveit refused to be rattled. She fended off the first five break points she faced and seven of nine in the first two sets. But after a change of service at the start of the third set, Williams broke again and held on until the end, providing another memorable moment in the main draw of the tournament, which she has won six times.
After Serena Williams beat her opponent with a backhand winner on match point after 2 hours and 27 minutes, she calmly raised a clenched fist toward her player’s box to the cheers of more than 23,000 fans.
Williams, who has won 23 of her last 25 matches against players ranked in the top two, including eight in a row, said, “There’s no rush here.” “I really like this crowd. I still have a little something in me. We’ll see. I’m a pretty good player, that’s what I do best. I like challenges, and I’m up to the task.”
The American advances to the third round, where she will face unseeded, No. 46-seeded Australian Ajla Tomljanovi on Friday. On the women’s side, that part of the draw is suddenly wide open. Two more players, 14th-seeded Leylah Annie Fernandez and 23rd-seeded Barbora Krejková were eliminated Friday. Their defeats mean Williams will not face another seeded opponent until at least the quarterfinals.
She has also committed to playing doubles with her older sister Venus. Her first match is set for Thursday night, which should be a first for this tournament.
Williams, who turns 41 next month and has not played since last year’s Wimbledon tournament because of a persistent thigh injury, announced her retirement in an essay that appeared in the September issue of Vogue earlier this month.
Following that announcement, she competed in two tournaments leading up to the US Open. In Toronto, she lost to Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, 2-6, 4-6, and in Cincinnati, she lost to Emma Raducanu, 4-6, 0-6, causing many to doubt her chances at Flushing Meadows.
But Williams has defied expectations time and again in her 27-year professional career and has stepped up for what will likely be her final tournament. On Monday, when she beat Danka Kovinic in the first round, she was nervous at the start of the match.
But on Wednesday night, Williams’ serve was on point from the start, reaching 119 mph and hitting her targets with ease. She kept up with Kontaveit’s powerful baseline volleys and moved around the court with ease many thoughts were long lost.
The fairytale ending of winning her 24th major tournament, which would set Margaret Court’s record, is still a long way off, but Wednesday’s match shows that the once wide gap between Williams’ form and her tremendous confidence may be closing at just the right time.
Williams said, “I haven’t played many matches, but I’ve been training very well.” “In the last two matches, everything came together. After I lost the second set, I thought, ‘This could be it.’ I have to play my best.”
“I just look at it as a bonus. I have nothing to lose. I’ve had an X on my back since 1999. I just love going outside and having fun.”