The US Open isn’t like other Grand Slam tennis tournaments. The New York crowd brings an atmosphere and energy you can’t get anywhere else. The 2022 competition has taken on an even deeper meaning with legendary star Serena Williams announcing it will be her last competition. As previously reported at The Root, in a cover story for the September issue of Vogue, Serena wrote, “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
The six-time US Open champion began her final Grand Slam against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. They had never played one another before, so there were questions about how the No. 80 player in the world would react to all the emotion and fanfare of the evening. While they both started off a little nervous, it was clearly Serena’s night and ultimately she cruised to a 6-3,6-3 victory.
Throughout the match Kovinic kept things interesting, but it was clear right from the start that Serena was not ready to say goodbye tonight. Honestly, it felt like old times as the 23-time Grand Slam champion dropped nine aces and a first serve at 68 percent.
Opening night always features extra festivities like tributes, musical performances and speeches, but with this being Serena’s farewell, they saved the big celebration for after the match.
Gayle King hosted a short ceremony with a great tribute from tennis legend Billie Jean King, a video by Oprah and a quick interview with the woman of the hour where she thanked the crowd for their support and once again discussed how hard the decision to leave tennis has been.
Since Serena is known as much for her fashion sense as her on-court play, she’s going out in style. Per sports journalist Nick DePaula, the four-time Olympic gold medalist wore a “figure skating-inspired Nike dress” of her own design, which featured six layers to represent her six US Open championships. After the match, she revealed she took two of the layers out because it was too heavy. Her “NikeCourt Flare 2 shoes include a diamond-encrusted Swoosh and solid gold lace deubrés with 400 hand-set diamonds.”
Throughout the day, ESPN discussed Serena’s impact on tennis—something that can be seen in all the Black women competing in the tournament. But Serena’s influence is so much bigger than sports. To highlight the full scope of the seven-time Wimbledon champion’s impact, Gatorade turned to another legend, Beyonce, to narrate an ad celebrating the tennis superstar.
“To be so in love with your identity, that your very essence can not be contained. To love that sound of your own voice and the way you move,” the Renaissance artist says. “To cherish every muscle and every curve your body exhibits. To feel like a queen, unapologetically, with the crown indefinitely. To always love being a proud Black woman, a parent, a dreamer. To always love being you – a whole you, the real you. To always love you.”
When she and Venus came on the scene as teenage girls who weren’t afraid to celebrate their Blackness, they showed all of us that it was OK to be ourselves. With their beads and colorful clothes, they told us that if there wasn’t a space for us, we could just make one.
Up next, on Wednesday, the Williams sisters team up for doubles against Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká, then Serena takes on No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in what is likely to be another nighttime match.