In moments of tension, a voice from the depths of Arthur Ashe Stadium broke the silence. “Let’s go mom,” it called. ‘You can do it.’
And so it is for the grown-ups. Everyone sees themselves reflected. So if you are a mom, then you are Serena striving to conquer life’s challenges. And if you’re a woman, even a privileged white woman, who’s been drinking cocktails and talking throughout her match, only occasionally interrupted for attention, then Serena will do the same for you. And she represents the colored, the underprivileged, and the celebrities who regain fame by seeing them play, whose faces are projected onto the giant screens in screams and cheers. Mike Tyson, after the fifth game of the second set. Now there’s one that can conflict with women’s empowerment. Bill Clinton too.
And we can go over it all again on Wednesday because she won. Of course she won. What did you think? That it was the Serena of Cincinnati and Toronto? That she would leave with a whimper, tennis would withdraw from her as much as she did from him?
Serena Williams defeated Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 at the US Open on Monday
The 23-time Grand Slam winner will not leave this tournament with a whimper
The tennis icon thanked Arthur Ashe’s “crazy” crowd after her first-round win
The organizers may have feared that, which is why they organized Williams’ public departure at the end of their first round game. There were speeches and a video tribute by Oprah Winfrey and a choreographed “card stunt” in which the entire arena held up notes that read “We love you Serena” while the object of their affection pretended to be surprised by the ambush . That she had just won, straight sets, 6-3, 6-3 rather spoiled the drama.
When she exits this tournament and her professional career, it will be with one final whirl and wave, not this big show. It was like they couldn’t book CBS host Gayle King round after round, so they decided to leave early.
Williams was a good player anyway. How could she not be? Flushing was full of praise for the GOAT. Twitter had created an emoji especially for this occasion. Beyonce had narrated another film in her honor, courtesy of Gatorade. The hashtag #Twirl for Serena was trending among everyone who was invited to emulate her iconic salute to court. It was a huge thing. She was serenaded by singers from Ukraine and a Disney princess.
If Williams exits the tournament, it will be with one final whirl and wave
CBS host Gayle King hosted a ceremony to celebrate William’s career following her win
Billie Jean King led the tributes for the 23-time Grand Slam winner on Monday night
A Ukrainian choir performed at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the game
And yet the GOAT didn’t play like it was ready to vacate the stage. Yes, there were too many double faults and Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic is a fairly cheap draw, putting up enough resistance to make a match but not so much that the evening ended in awkwardness. Still, there were moments, and many of them, that rekindled memories of those 23 singles Grand Slams, where every future opponent – even Anett Kontaviet, who she meets in the next round – viewed her performance with some degree becomes afraid. With the crowd behind her, Williams will certainly be a force here.
When asked what would live with her over the night, Williams was in no doubt. The noise as she entered the square was unlike anything she had heard. “The response was overwhelming,” she said. “It was so loud I could feel it in my chest. And I still had a match to play. I thought to myself, “Is that real?” And I wanted to live up to that reception.’
But could it have been such a big surprise? Williams knew this was her night and her performance was not that of an athlete expecting the same old routine. It was a heavyweight champion’s ringwalk, or as good as. Your opponent Kovinic was already on the pitch like the challenger when the champion was introduced. First there was the video montage, the name called out for dramatic effect, and then the jump cut to the tunnel where Williams waited, draped in diamonds and theatrical black. Her cape-like robe was black, her outfit was black, 400 diamonds and jewels sparkled under the lights, rap music played, and she marched out.
Danka Kovinic of Montenegro was a pretty favorable draw for Williams in the first round
The 40-year-old made a grand entrance at the glittering Arthur Ashe Stadium
Think of Tyson. Think Deontay Wilder. No, think of Tyson. Wilder gets beaten too often. It was Tyson that came to mind here. Tyson when he was the man in black. Black shorts, black boots, black gloves; 220 pounds brooding menace. Williams doesn’t exude it, but neither does she look like your average racetrack pro, even when her strength is failing. That impressive physique remains. And she’s a star. Glamorous, captivating, a wall of camera phones captured her every move.
Kovinic hopped around enthusiastically, Williams shed several of her six shifts, one for each of her US Open triumphs. That’s another reason why her fans adore her. She dresses for drama, she dresses to impress. Many would like to believe that they are doing the same. Few wear it like her.
There were also many Williams superfans at the site. They hung out in their homemade tribute t-shirts and outfits, hoping to get their 15 minutes with a passing TV crew. With so much airtime waiting for the 7pm start they weren’t disappointed. A group of four mamas dressed in bright yellow were regularly called in to make noise for the nightly news. “Unapologetically,” read the front of their tops, with a picture of Serena clenched beneath it. “The Goddess – the GOAT” was written underneath. A quote on the back. “She played the game like her life depended on it — and she changed the game forever.” And that’s true.
Williams super fans gathered in Flushing Meadows with homemade banners and t-shirts
The crowd joined in the tribute to the tennis legend with a choreographed “card stunt.”
“Serena is clearly the best athlete of all time,” said Naomi Osaka. “Forget the athlete. I mean athletes. No one else has changed their sport as much as they have, and against all odds.” You can’t argue with that. Time and gender comparisons can never be definitively resolved. It will always come down to opinion. Osaka’s shines as good as anyone. Whatever we might think of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, they didn’t reinvent men’s tennis the way Williams changed women’s game.
There’s an interview with her in Time Magazine this week, and teased snippets slip out. “We changed how people play, period,” she says, including her sister Venus. “People never attacked. People never took balls early. People have never served like this. People have never had to play so hard to beat two black girls from Compton.
She later contemplates an achievement that truly surpasses her male contemporaries. “I don’t know of any other person who has won a Grand Slam or a championship in the NBA or anything at 9 weeks pregnant,” she says. “A two-week event. In this tournament I relied on my brain. Being an athlete isn’t just about what kind of animal you are physically, like a specimen. It uses everything. your mind, your body. And that for 20 years. And against people who are playing against you and playing the best game of their lives. Every time.’
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka declared Williams the “greatest athlete of all time”.
Of course, that’s not literally true. But that’s what it must feel like to spend three decades with a target on your back. When Williams won her first Grand Slam, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard weren’t yet playing for England Football, Tom Brady hadn’t drafted the NFL yet, James Anderson wasn’t a Test cricketer, LeBron James was in high school, Tigers Woods was yet to win the Open Championship or the US Open. This is an incredible dynasty of excellence. And it’s not over yet. Not yet. Maybe Wednesday, maybe later. What is certain, however, is that this will not end without a fight. It can be a diamond-studded fight, it can be a fight fit for the cover of Vogue, Women’s Health or Today’s Parent, but it will be a fight. You can rely on it.
As Serena walked to her goal to finish the match, the sound of Missy Elliott echoed through the arena. “Is it worth it, let me edit it, I’ll put my thing down, flip it, and flip it…” And she will. And she does.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/tennis/article-11158897/MARTIN-SAMUEL-Serena-Williams-not-ready-concede-stage-just-yet.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 MARTIN SAMUEL: Serena Williams isn’t ready to give up the stage just yet