However, we will not blame the organizers for having anticipated the farewell of the queen: soon to be 41 years old, a 413th place in the standings, only one small match won in 2022 and an imminent decision to retire recently announced in Vogue magazine, Serena Williams was indeed not the favorite of this match, even against a player “only” ranked 80th in the world. That she lost him would even have been a form of logic. Only here: logic and Serena Williams, it has always been two. Especially at the US Open.
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Tense at the start, clumsy in service and forehand, the woman with 23 Grand Slam titles gradually managed to relax to find, in the last minutes of the game, a frankly very correct level of play. In any case, much more worthy of his past greatness than the tennis porridge offered during his last outing in Cincinnati against Emma Raducanu (6-4, 6-0 defeat).
Serious, applied and far from being dropped – as one might have feared – on the physical level, like these few long exchanges that she managed to hold, Serena finally returned a copy that would almost allow her to project herself now in the other direction: what if she was able, in the second round, to create the feat against world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit and gradually transform this last ball into a grandiose ballet?
“I felt overwhelmed. It was an incredible feeling and a moment I will never forget.” (Serena Williams)
We are still far from it, but Serena has at least had the merit of relaunching the dream machine, as she has always been able to do in her career. And too bad for these postponed farewells, which will make the deadline perhaps even more difficult to live with later. “Because the more I will play, the better I will play and the more I will feel like I still have my place here. So yes, it’s very difficult. But hey, I know it’s time…”, dropped the former world No. 1 at a press conference, while continuing to refuse to utter the word “retirement”.
Of course, if there’s one thing you know with Serena, it’s that you never know. Even her, with all the self-belief we know of her, perhaps didn’t feel able to handle this moment so well. Maybe, too, because she did not expect to live such a moment. Because the farewells may have been postponed, but the party was no less grandiose. A bit grandiloquent at the start, with these choirs invited to the court before the players enter. But when the queen of the place made her appearance, in her black dress in diamonds and sequins, welcomed by a huge tifo and a powerful ovation, the evening fell into intoxication.
Highlight: Arthur-Ashe’s ovation for the Queen’s entrance
“There, I felt overwhelmed, told the one who is not used to being impressed like that. I just said to myself: is this all real? Really ? It was an incredible feeling and a moment I will never forget. And at the same time, I had to stay focused on my game.”
All of New York, and even all of America was waiting for him. Among the 24,000 people in a jam-packed Arthur-Ashe stadium, included Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, Hugh Jackman, Spike Lee, Anna Wintour and Lindsay Vonn, plus of course a large part of the big tennis family. Including the entire Williams clan, with the notable exception of Richard, the dad. Serena couldn’t help but live up to this almost surreal moment, perhaps never before seen in a tennis stadium. She was, of course.
Williams: “Other chapters will open, it will be Serena 2.0”
Her career may be coming to an end, but Serena Williams will remain a tennis player until the end, until the final game, the final ball. This last tournament, she had wanted to make it a party – it’s successful -, but not a jubilee. “When I enter the tennis court, I always want to give the best of myself, she summed up. I have always done this and I wanted to do it all the more on this particular day. I’m grateful to have had this impact, to have received all this praise but I haven’t taken the time to listen to it yet. I will have plenty of time to do it soon. For the moment, I’m still there so I don’t think about it. At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me. The next game will be even harder.”
The next one will therefore be against Anett Kontaveit, world No. 2 and very solid for her entry into the running against the Romanian Jacqueline Cristian, swept away 6-3, 6-0. The organizers of the US Open will have to outdo themselves to concoct a possible farewell evening at the height of that which was planned for Monday evening. And Serena too, to postpone it again to a later date.
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