“After I lost the second set, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to do my best because this could be it,'” Williams told ESPN in an on-court interview after the game.
And Williams looked better than the previous games this year, as she was still trying to shake off the rust of her long absence.
However, world number two Kontaveit Williams faced a tougher test and was undoubtedly the underdog on paper but certainly not with a full house at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
A boisterous but well mannered crowd cheered her at every point.
She referred to the long layoff in her interview on Wednesday but said, “I love the challenge.”
Williams will meet Australian Aja Tomljanovic in the third round. Tomljanovic, who was playing at the same time with Williams on Wednesday, beat Russian Evgenia Rodina 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Williams doesn’t just play singles; She will open doubles with her sister Venus Williams on Thursday evening.
“I need more matches,” she told ESPN. “I love rising to the challenge. Yes, I haven’t played many matches, but I’ve been training really well. In my last few matches, it’s not been together. Me.”
She said things have changed since she started playing at the World Open.
“I never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific,” Williams said in a Vogue article published earlier in This month is “important to a community of people”.
“Probably the best word to describe what I’m up to is development,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that I’m developing away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
At her post-match press conference on Monday, Williams was asked if this would definitely be her last tournament.
“Yeah, you were pretty vague about that, right?” She said with a smile. “I’ll keep it a mystery because you never know.”
The opening round win over Kovinich was the best Serena Williams has looked at since returning from injury. She has only managed to win one match since her return to the ring in June and hasn’t come close to the level that helped her win her last Grand Slam title in 2017.
While Williams was still far from that level in Monday’s victory over Kovinich, it will surely give her hope that her last dance can be extended at the US Open.
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Williams has won 23 singles titles at the Grand Slam and won the US Open six times, most recently in 2014. Now aged 40, Williams’ career will begin as a finalist – whichever round it takes Turns out – it would take place on the site of her first Grand Slam win, the 1999 US Open.
Then just as a teen, Williams stormed the scene to stun world number one Martina Hingis in the final and set the first springboard on her path toward two decades of dominance.
Kontavit is a rising star
After Kontaveit won her first Tour title in 2017, her real year came in 2021 as she won four WTA Championships to move up the world rankings.
A fierce player with a varied game and powerful forehand, Kontaveit broke into the world’s top ten for the first time in November 2021 and has been a mainstay ever since.
She ranks second in her career – the highest in history for an Estonian – and at the age of 26 she will surely be looking to perfect her best performance at a Grand Slam, her quarter-final appearance at the 2020 Australian Open.
Kontaveit looked impressive in her US Open opening round win over Romania’s Jacqueline Christian, losing just three matches, and said after winning that she was “rooting” with Williams in her first round match and she is “really excited” to play against. to her.
“I’ve never played against her,” she told reporters. “I mean, this is the last chance.” “Better late than never.
“I’m really excited. I think the atmosphere is going to be great. I’m really looking forward to it.”
CNN’s Steve Almassy contributed to this report.
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