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Serena Williams beats Danka Kovinic in US Open



Serena Williams


Serena Williams extended her US Open farewell with a gritty opening win on an entertaining night packed with hope and celebration in New York.

Williams, who is retiring after the tournament, won 6-3 6-3 against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.

A near-capacity 25,000 crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium willed on their idol and she responded in typical fashion.

Williams, 40, will play Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round on Wednesday.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who is one short of Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record, is also playing in the doubles alongside older sister Venus, adding another exciting element to what she hopes will be a long goodbye this fortnight.

Her first assignment was beating Kovinic, ranked 80th in the world, and there was a thunderous noise when she took the first of three match points to ensure her singles career was not over yet.

Williams jumped on the spot when Kovinic’s return hit the net, then twirled in the centre of court before blowing kisses to her adoring fans.

It was a night of celebrity and glamour.

Williams unsurprisingly arrived on court to a rapturous reception, moments after the stadium watched a video montage in celebration of what she has achieved as a player and a person.

Kovinic had already come out to court, leaving her with a long – and what must have been a nervous – wait next to her chair.

Film director Spike Lee, who called Williams his “little sister” in a video released earlier on Monday, took part in the coin toss, while Vogue editor Anna Wintour, another close personal friend, was sat in her support box behind the player’s family.

Other famous faces picked out by the stadium cameras included former US President Bill Clinton, soul singer Gladys Knight, boxer Mike Tyson and model Bella Hadid.

Williams’ daughter Olympia, wearing white beads in her hair in a tribute to her mum’s style when she won the 1999 US Open, sat on the front row, alongside her dad Alexis and in front of grandmother Oracene.

The entire family jumped to their feet when Williams clinched a victory which will long live in the memory for those who saw it.

But it was not over quite yet. Television host Gayle King came out on to the court to lead another celebration, firstly joined at the microphone by Billie Jean King – another pioneering American tennis legend who paid a warm tribute – and then Williams herself.

“I didn’t expect any of this,” Williams said. “I always have to do the best that I can. I have always felt so comfortable here.

“The crowd was crazy! It really helped pull me through. I was really pumped. I thought ‘I got this’.”



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