Serena defeated second seed Kontaveit at the US Open to reach third place

New York (AFP) – Serena Williams We can call it “evolution” or “retired” or whatever you like. And she can be shy about whether or not this is the US Open She will in fact announce the end of her playing days. Those 23 Grand Slam titles have earned that right.

If she continues to play this way, who knows how long this goodbye will last?

Regardless of what happens once her trip to Flushing Meadows is over, here’s what to know after Wednesday night: The 40-year-old Williams is still there, she can still do great tennis, she’s still winning — and just as adoring as the spectators whose roars filled Arthur Ashe Stadium Once again – it’s ready for more.

Williams No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 was eliminated in the second round of the US Open to ensure she would play at least one more singles match as she hinted it would be her last tournament. of her illustrious career.

“There is still a little inside of me,” Williams said with a smile during her court interview, then admitted during her post-match press conference: “Those moments are clearly fleeting.”

After defeating the 80th seed Danka Kovinic in straight sets on Monday, then clinching her 23rd win in her past 25 matches against a No.1 or 2 ranked person against Kontaveit on Wednesday, she will play the six-time champion at Flushing Meadows on Friday for a spot in the fourth round. .

Her opponent will be 29-year-old Australian Agla Tomljanovic, 46. They’ve never met, but Tomljanovic, who said she considers herself a Williams fan, knows she knows what to expect from Americans – and from those in the seats.

“I was playing Court 7 both games so far at the same time you are playing, and I could hear the fans. I’m like, ‘Court 7 isn’t that close.’ against it.” “I don’t know how I’m going to do that.”

Which makes Williams’ potential path easier if she can get past Tomljanovic: 2021 US Open runner-up Leila Fernandez and 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krijkova lost.

On Wednesday, Williams hit 119mph, staying with Kontaveit during lengthy exchanges for big swings from the baselines and conjuring up some of her brand’s brilliance when she needed it most.

After pulling the first set tight, then stumbling on the second, Williams headed to the locker room for a bathroom break before the third set.

Something had to be offered, someone had to blink.

When they resumed, it was Williams who raised her level and emerged as a better player.

Just like I’ve done so many times, over so many stages, with so much at stake.

“I’m just Serena. After I lost the second set, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I better do my best because this could be it,'” Williams said, definitely echoing the thoughts of everyone who cares.

“I could never play that way – since 1998, really,” she said. “Literally, I’ve had an ‘X’ on my back since 99, the year she won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open at the age of 17.

It seems that all the rust that built up when Williams was out of action for about a year before returning to the Tour in late June is gone. She was 1-3 in 2022 entering the US Open.

“Now it’s kind of a convergence,” Williams said. “I mean, they should have met today.”

Williams has my husband to play as well. She and her sister Venus have won 14 major championships as a team and will start the event Thursday night.

Kontaveit, the 26-year-old from Estonia, is a hard hitter in her own right, the kind that has spread across women’s tennis over the past two decades after a pair of siblings from Compton, California, changed the game.

But there’s a caveat attached to Kontaveit’s standings: you’ve never won as many as a quarter-finalist in a Grand Slam tournament in 30 matches.

Perhaps that’s why, as with Kovinic 48 hours ago, Williams’ opponent was introduced only in her name, and Kontaveit emerged to a little applause. By contrast, Williams got the full treatment: a video highlight, her many awards roster and loud salutations from people part of the largest-ever US Open attendance at an overnight session, 29,959, beating the record set on Monday.

“It was her moment,” said Kontaveit, who started to cry during the Estonian part of her press conference. “Of course, this is totally about her.”

Being a tough competitor like tennis, or any sport she saw as being as truly self-confident in her abilities as any athlete, Williams wasn’t about to think of this entire workout as just a celebration of her career.

She came to New York wanting to win, of course.

Wearing the same sparkly crystal-encrusted sneakers and diamond-encrusted sneakers — filled with solid gold lace-up tabs and the word “Queen” on the right, “Mama” on the left — that she wore on Monday, Williams was ready for prime time.

The match started with Kontaveit scoring the first five points, and Williams the next five. And they went, back and forth. Kontaveit’s blunders – even blunders – were welcomed, prompting a warning to the public from chair referee Allison Hughes about making noise between transmissions.

Early in the third set, Kontaveit fired a forehand into the court that captured the outer edge of a sideline. A video clip on the stadium screens showed how close he was, confirming that the ball had indeed landed. This led to boos from the stands. Williams raised her arm and shook a finger, telling her supporters not to make a fuss.

If anything, Kontaveit has received more recognition from the player trying to defeat her than anyone else, with Williams responding to great shots with a bat nod or clap.

“They weren’t rooting for me. They just wanted Serena to win that bad,” Kontaveit said, describing the treatment she received as “fair,” even if it was “something I’ve never experienced before.”

Williams broke 5-4 when Kontaveit pushed a long backhand, sending screaming spectators to their feet – and Williams’ husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, also jumped, waving his arms in her direction, in front of where Venus and Tiger Woods are. It was two seats.

In the end they went to the tiebreak, and at 3-3, they chanted “Let’s go, Serena!” It erupted accompanied by rhythmic applause. Soon, Williams delivered a service winner 101 mph and 91 mph to close out this group.

Kontaveit is credited with having raced in second place 3-0 with 10 winners and no unforced errors.

In the third inning, after a forehand swing winner placed Williams a match of the win, she raised her arms, then clenched her left fist.

One match, five minutes later, it’s over – and her stay at the US Open can continue.

When asked if she was a contender for the title, Williams replied, “I can’t think that much. I’m having fun and I’m enjoying it.”

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More AP coverage of US Open tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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