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The former Serena Williams is overjoyed on the second night of the US Open | Serena Williams

T.Through what may have been the final singles match of her career, Serena Williams peered at world No. 2 player Annette Kontavate, perfecting her challenge through a breathtaking first set. I responded with performance. In the second set, however, she barely held on. She saved a break point at 1-3 with her luscious curling ace, and she threw her hands up in the air, furious that she couldn’t find that shot on every serve.

If this were any other 40-year-old in tennis history with the rust of a year of layoffs and the strain of her final event, I would expect such downsides.But this is Serena Williams . Not only did she set herself up for stratospheric standards, but somehow she did so perfectly during the insane second night of her residency at Arthur Ashe Stadium. When she defeated Kontavate, she postponed her singles retirement to the next round, creating at least her one legendary moment in her singles-filled career.

After the pomp of her opening round win with on-court ceremonies and speeches by Billie Jean King, round two felt different. She was quickly locked up in the high intensity first set, filled with quality shotmaking from both sides, but was overwhelmed by Williams’ serve. At 40, she’s still the best server in the world.

To her credit, Kontaveit played a perfect second set, flushing winners on both wings and kissing lines, but Williams simply took her level further and managed the match very well in the closing stages. I dealt with it. By the final game, she was in complete control of the baseline, wiping out Contavate’s serve until the end.

Given her limitations, it’s an all the more amazing achievement. Her first serve was tempting, but she averaged only 99mph in her first set. During this past year of hers, she hadn’t served much under pressure and was initially very cautious, prioritizing precision and percentage over power. Historically one of her greatest assets, her movement has decreased noticeably, but she still shows how she digs up a 19-stroke rally when she needs it most deep in the third set. I found. Despite her lack of fitness in the match, she was a rock in the crucial moments.

In her 2 hours and 27 minutes on the court, she made every hit at least one more time. Her heart was broken by both the ace and the vicious return winner, roaring and anguished, saving for crucial points. Her diamond encrusted sleeves. Midway through the third set, Williams became frustrated with her electronic line calls and informed her referee Allison Hughes, after which she returned to the baseline and channeled her anger into winning the tennis match. I was.

Serena Williams stands on the court and raises her racket and arms to the crowd after winning
Serena Williams celebrating her victory. Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA

It was especially surprising given how far she had come from such form since her return. It was demolished 6-4 6-0 by Emma Raducanu at the . She describes the last few weeks of her career as very difficult to handle.

Williams arrived in New York feeling confident, but with one last chance to impress on the final stretch of her career, she has no chance of redemption. , she rose to the occasion, as she has done many times in her career. “Ever since I won the U.S. Open in 1999, I’ve had a big red X on my back,” she said. I did, but it’s different here. I feel like I’ve already won.”

She ripped through Kontaveit’s serve in the final game and finished brilliantly with a backhand return winner for the win. As former player Mary Joe Fernandez dictated an on-court interview, her mere presence was a reminder of Williams’ absurd longevity: Fernandez said she was 51 years old, and that she was retired. It’s been 22 years, but she and Williams were rivals in her 1999. She asked Williams if she was surprised by her level on the court. “I’m just Serena,” she said.

On Thursday night, Williams will return to the same venue with her sister Venus to compete together in doubles for the final time. Then she will face Australia’s Ajra Tomljanovic on Friday. It could be the night she finally said goodbye, or it could be the next step in her final legendary run. You have given the world one final demonstration.

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