At least one more match is left in Serena Williams’ professional tennis career. The 23-time major champion defeated Montenegrin native Danka Kovini, 27, in straight sets on Monday night, 6-3, 6-3, after previously declaring the 2022 U.S. Open would be her final match. Jon Wertheim and Chris Almeida of Sports Illustrated talk about how Williams performed in what might have been her final game and what to expect from her moving forward.
Chris Almeida: Serena Williams is not finished yet. She successfully mimicked a first-round match during her contest. Compared to the one we saw at Wimbledon, it is very different. She got off to a slightly jittery start; she appeared to be feeling the pressure a little bit when she committed a few double faults in the opening game. However, she then appeared to turn it on. She was a great servant. She was moving perfectly, and she was striking the ball as usual. Given that Danka Kovini, who has never ranked within the top 40 in the world, was the opponent. She will face Anett Kontaveit, the second seed, in the following round. As a result, things will grow much harder very rapidly. She gave the crowd what they wanted, though, tonight.
Jon Wertheim: The impression of Serena Williams was excellent. Remember that she dropped the set prior to this 0-6 to Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati, a competitor who has failed to win more over half of her games thus far this season. So, there was a feeling of “let’s hope for a competitive match” coming into this. She was great. Although I don’t believe she will prevail in the competition, she certainly resembles what you described, therefore I believe expectations should still be kept in check. This first-round Serena Williams match took place.
She was a little unsure at first. She won 12 of the following 15 games after falling down 3-2. It resembled a tiny microcosm. This film has previously been watched. Right? So yes, she will play the No. 2 seed, but this is hardly a No. 2 seed with a lot of credentials. There have been several COVID recovery concerns for Kontaveit. Against the second seed, this second-round match is one that can be won. We are so far from a happy ending, but she really did look nice tonight.
CA: In my opinion, Andre Agassi’s farewell in 2006 was the last time we had a truly significant farewell in tennis. The crucial game ultimately came in the second round. He performed as Marcos Baghdatis, and the performance lasted well into the night. Five sets were played. By the end, both boys were cramping. It had a lot of drama. I don’t want to make any assumptions here, but this does seem like the kind of No. 2 seed that might be exposed, and we might have a memorable experience for almost everyone.
I want to hesitance a little bit now. The ESPN crew, in my opinion, went a little too when they said, “Oh my my, Serena is back, she looks like she did when she was at her best.” Although I don’t believe that to be the case, I will admit that I don’t see any barriers preventing her from competing in the following round. This field is just incredibly open.
JW: In the previous U.S. Open, Raducanu, an unseeded teenager, won the championship after advancing through the qualifying rounds. Is Serena’s chance of winning any smaller than that?
The Agassi parallel, in my opinion, is appropriate. He was just north of 35, not quite 40. He had a sore back. But because his kids were present, he was able to offer us a brief night to remember. After then, he was simply exhausted in the contest. No one really believed he would win the title, in my opinion. And I agree that there is a lot of room for improvement. Seeds are falling left and right as we speak. There have been worse things than a six-time champion capturing a seventh title. But I believe it is a more reasonable expectation if she can defeat the No. 2 seed and give us one more memory.
She lost the match in Cincinnati two weeks ago, and she was devastated because there was supposed to be a ceremony for her. There was no press conference after she left. She reportedly departed the venue without even taking a shower; she simply walked to her car. That was very dissimilar from this. She had an entirely different player’s appearance. The outcome was perfect. We’ll repeat this procedure in two days.