Serena Williams could be the one to make it happen: a triumph at the U.S. Open that is a story for all time, will crown her unique career.
Her 23 Grand Slam wins already constitute the record for the Open Era—the modern period of tennis that begins in 1968. But, after what we saw in the second round of the U.S. Open, it isn’t too fanciful to think that she could tie Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam record of 24.
Williams knocked off the world’s No. Anett Kontaveit is No. 2. Williams beat her 7-6(4), 2-6 and 6-2 to move on to the third round in what will be her last tournament. She’ll face Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, who is ranked No. On Friday, 46 countries will be represented.
“I’m rising to the challenge,” Williams said in her post-match, on-court interview. “I have absolutely nothing to lose.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone who could beat Williams. Women’s tennis currently has no player as crushingly dominant as Williams was in her prime. Nine different players have been awarded the Grand Slam title since 2019. Kontaveit claims she was happy with her performance. Williams, however, was better in the crucial third set.
The world number. Williams was broken in the first set by No. 2 and they went on winning the next two. Williams responded with a powerful rebuttal, opening the third. Williams struck two winners for hold serve. It was a moment that the crowd started to get excited. They realized Williams wasn’t going to just relax and enjoy the goodwill. In the end, Williams won the set by a score of 2-0.
It was clear who New York City’s crowd wanted to root for. “It was really hard,” said Kontaveit, in playing front of spectators that were less hostile to her than devoted to Williams. “It was something I’ve never experienced before.”
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Williams lost her 40-0 lead in the next service game due to two unforced mistakes and was then defeated on a third. She was able to overcome that error and break Konaveit once more, giving her a 3-1 advantage.
Williams was up by four points after her fourth service game. After hitting a service winner at 108 miles per hour, Williams served another powerful serve that forced Kontaveit to commit an error. Kontaveit looked defenseless. The coup de grâce came three games later, when Williams crushed a soft Kontaveit second serve right past her opponent, with a backhand.
Williams said that her work was good before the tournament started. The quality of Williams’ work now is evident.
She was almost as good Wednesday night as she was Monday’s opening round, even though she made some mistakes and had nerves.
Wednesday saw her hit the ball better and move with greater verve. In classic Williams style, she played with Kontaveit early in the match. She struck balls from the baseline and sent Kontaveit back-and-forth, dragging her down. Williams took the point. Kontaveit was forced to wipe her sweat from her forehead.
“I just feel like I have had a big red X on my back since I won the U.S. Open in ’99,” said Williams. “But here it’s different. I feel like I’ve already won, figuratively, mentally.”
This victory may also become a reality if her game continues on its current path. Pay attention.
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