NEW YORK – An unforgettable night, one of those only US Openwith the glorious Arthur Ashe drunk, decked out in all its lights for the -hypothetical- last dance of one of its superstars, the one who celebrated most often on this stage: Serena Williams. It was one of those days where everyone wanted to be there, and cook what is considered one of the best tennis players in history, and at least the best of this century.
The former number 1 in the world, as she had already announced a few weeks ago, decided to say goodbye to the world of rackets, the planet she ruled with power and looks and where she entertained millions of fans for almost a quarter of a century. Serena, almost 41 years old, practices her farewell. But retirement can still wait: at least on Monday night he had the pleasure of beating Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 on his debut, in one hour and 40 minutes of play.
Kovinic, 80th in the world, unknown to many, had the thankless role of being the “villain” on duty, perhaps the one in charge of running a sporting legend; a situation that Juan Martín del Potro went through ten years ago, also here, when he knocked out another former number 1 like Andy Roddick in his last match. Kovinic, 27, was selected in the previous draft as a first-round competitor in this emotionally difficult challenge. How to face a character who marked tennis in his last tournament? How to deal with the crowd that roared at every point in favor of the Americans and faded in the damaging parts of Serena?
Ever since Serena hinted that New York would be the setting for her final tournament, ticket sales have skyrocketed. Not to mention when the meeting date and time was confirmed. More than 23,000 spectators in the stands of the largest tennis stadium in the world, including former President of the United States, Bill Clinton; Mike Tyson and actor Hugh Jackman. Another crowd outside, watching the game on the giant screen. Serena came in with a party look, according to a gala night, focused as she could; In one box, she was accompanied by her entire family, including her husband, businessman Alexis Ohanian, and her little daughter, Olympia, who wore braids with white appliqués like when her mother won at Flushing Meadows in 1999, when she was just 17. old .
The expectation was so high that the last US Open Championship major season, set the all-time late-night opening day attendance record with 29,402. The total attendance of the day was 71,332 people. A powerful movement of people.
The game was, as expected, fraught with nerves and anxiety. Inaccuracies occurred, unforced errors, double faults. With a little more composure, more used to the big points, Serena leads the first set 6-3 in 55 minutes.
The game point
So, despite the doubts, despite the fear, Williams saw a place to go further, and more focused, she took the match in straight sets. To extend the greeting. No, the goodbye wasn’t supposed to be on Monday night. Will be another day. The tennis queen’s retirement can wait. It comes when the tennis goblins have it. Not earlier. Author Gayle King, rehearsing for a farewell speech, switched roles mid-air in the arena.
Billie Jean King also came, no less: the woman who gives her name to the huge performance complex of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the headquarters of the New York Grand Slam, which saluted her contributions to racial equality and diversity -Billie Jean has been an activist for social causes since she was a player, to be replaced later by a thank you video. A party that was perhaps more prepared for defeat. But, it is known, from those early years on the public courts in Compton, California, Serena Williams was used to always fighting, until the last point, until the tank ran out of fuel. That didn’t happen on Monday.
The numbers tonight in New York
“Thank you. I didn’t expect any of this. You know, I think I should do my best when I can. I think I play very well on this court and leave it all in front of you [el público]. It’s hard to explain [lo del retiro]. When you’re used to so many things, it’s hard to stop doing them. And I still love this sport. But there is time, family, there is Olympia… I have my company, my projects, I need to spend more time at home, my spiritual part. But I’m going to be who I am,” Williams said in an impromptu interview. “No matter what you do, no matter what obstacles you see, I would like people to be inspired by my story, by the girl from California,” he said of what he considers his legacy.