They came from far and wide for Serena—no last name required, befitting someone as much an icon as superstar athlete—to see her practice and play and, it turned out, win a match at the US Open on Monday night, turning out in record numbers to fill Arthur Ashe Stadium and shout and applaud and pump their fists right along with her. Serena Williams is not ready to say goodbye just yet. Nor, clearly, are her fans. And she heard them, loud and clear. In her first match at what is expected to be the last US Open—and last tournament—of her remarkable playing career, even if she insists that she won't quite say so, Williams overcame a shaky start to overpower Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 amid an atmosphere more akin to a festival than a farewell, the AP reports.
What memory will stick with her the most from the evening? “When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming. It was loud and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling,” said the owner of six US Open championships and 23 Grand Slam titles overall, numbers unsurpassed by any other player in the sport's professional era. “It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” she added. “Yeah, that meant a lot to me.” This opening outing against Kovinic, a 27-year-old from Montenegro ranked 80th, became an event with a capital “E.” Spike Lee participated in the pre-match coin toss. Former President Bill Clinton was in the stands.
So were Mike Tyson and Martina Navratilova, sitting next to each other. And sitting with Dad and Grandma was Williams' daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Thursday, wearing white beads in her hair just like Mom did while winning the US Open for the first time at age 17 back in 1999. Williams is now 40, and told the world three weeks ago via an essay for Vogue that she was ready to concentrate on having a second child and her venture capital firm. The night session drew 29,000 folks, a high for the tournament—more than 23,000 were in Ashe; thousands more watched on a video screen outside the arena. Marketwatch reports ticket prices were also at record highs, soaring to nearly $1,000 on the secondary market.
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