Serena Williams (USA) (not pictured) hits a backhand against Danka Kovinic (MNE) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.Jeff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK: Serena Williams showed she’s not ready to retire to advance to the second round of Monday’s US Open with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Danka Kovinić.

A win over 80th-ranked Kovinic was a confidence boost for Williams, but the road to a record-matching 24th Grand Slam will be bumpy.

Waiting in the wings was Estonia’s second seed Annette Kontaveit, who overtook Jacqueline Christian 6-3, 6-0.

Williams announced her intentions to retire in a Vogue article in early August, saying she was “evolving away from tennis,” but never confirmed the US Open would be her last event. .

But for tennis fans, the message was clear that the US Open would be where she would take her final bow.

Can I have an encore?

The former world number one has played coy by refusing to even rule out next year’s Australian Open.

But in a bizarre post-match ceremony celebrating her career that’s not over yet, Williams gave the clearest sign yet that the US Open would indeed be her last tournament, and in a subsequent press conference said it was. was expanded.

“It’s still very difficult because I love being out there,” Williams said.

“But it’s time for me to evolve into what’s next.”

Asked if the US Open was definitely her last event, Williams backed off again.

“I’ve been pretty vague about it,” Williams smiled. “You never know, so I stay vague.”

A montage of Williams’ career played before she appeared on the court, leaving the door open for one day to return, with the video saying, “If you decide to return the queen, your throne awaits.” closed.

However, a rebellious Williams revealed that she had not yet abdicated the throne.

special energy

Opening night at Flushing Meadows is always exciting, but from the moment Williams showed up on court Monday in a sparkling black robe and specially designed diamond-encrusted shoes, the overflowing stadium had something special. It crackled with energy.

The outfit may have been brighter than the 40-year-old American played, but it didn’t matter for a packed Arthur Ashe stadium. Serve and Ground Because even if his strokes weren’t, Williams’ fighting edge remained sharp.

“It’s very important to give it your all,” Williams told the enthusiastic crowd. “I have been demoralized many times in the public eye.

“I just want people to be inspired by my story.

“I’m from Compton, California…and I made it.”

Indeed, the perfect place to end one of tennis’ most incredible careers is the city that has been in her corner since the beginning, winning six U.S. Open titles.

23,000 fans, including former US President Bill Clinton, designer Vera Wang, and director Spike Lee, have never forgotten this moment.

After spending 319 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings, Williams arrived in New York unseeded, ranking 600 or below.

Even if Williams were far from the best, the 27-year-old from Montenegro was out of the question.

Playing in her 21st US Open, Williams has never lost in the first round and her win over Kovinic was her 106th at Flushing Meadows.

Kovinic is enjoying a career-best Grand Slam season, reaching the third round at both the Australian and French Opens, but he hasn’t won a match since the French Open.

As play began, Williams showed signs of nervousness, piling up double faults as Kovinić led 3-2.

But Williams, as he has done so many times, lifted the game when needed and swept the next four games to take the first set.

Williams, now in charge, didn’t miss it in the second set, breaking to take a 3-2 lead, putting match point and the crowd at her feet, and when Kovinic’s return hit the net, she pulled away. danced with joy.

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