WTA: Serena Williams triumphs in first match of U.S. Open goodbye

Serena Williams, in what is expected to be her final tournament before retiring, got off to a good start on Monday, beating Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-3, 6-3 in a first-round match at the U.S. Open in New York.

Williams was greeted with a roaring ovation from the crowd of roughly 23,000 packed into Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch the 23-time Grand Slam winner’s final run. She walked in with the PA announcer introducing her as, “The greatest of all time, Serena Williams.”

The 40-year-old veteran went ahead 2-0 before losing three consecutive games in the first set. She rallied to win the final four games of the set, locking up a lengthy ninth game on her second set point after saving four break points.

Kovinic won her first two service games of the second set, but with the crowd so wholeheartedly behind Williams, the tide turned in the American’s favor the rest of the way. She did not lose a point in the final two games.

Williams finished with a 23-18 edge in winners (including 9-6 on aces), while both players committed 25 errors.

After shaking hands with Kovinic, Williams saluted the crowd, which included her husband Alexis Ohanian and daughter Olympia. Former President Bill Clinton, boxing legend Mike Tyson and tennis legend Martina Navratilova were also in attendance.

Following the match, CBS anchor Gayle King and tennis great Billie Jean King took to the court to pay their respects to Williams for her career on and off the court. They introduced a tribute video narrated by Oprah Winfrey.

“I think when you’re passionate about something and you love something so much, it’s always hard to walk away,” Williams told King. “Sometimes I think it’s harder to walk away than to not, and that’s been the case for me. So I’ve been trying to decide for a little while what to do.”

When Williams puts her playing days behind her, she plans to focus on her business, Serena Ventures, along with adding to her family and investing in her spiritual life.

“It’s like Serena 2.0. I’m still going to be crazy, I’m still going to be intense. I’ll still be around,” Williams said to raucous cheers.

Williams will play No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round. Kontaveit routed Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-3, 6-0 on Monday.

–Field Level Media

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