During Serena Williams’ first round match on Monday, the energy inside Arthur Ashe Stadium was electric. She played her best tennis in years and won a decisive 6-3, 6-3 victory.
As good as she looked, the expectations weren’t as high for her second round matchup against world No. 2, Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Turns out everyone was wrong because Serena is not ready for you to bury her career just yet. The 23-time Grand Slam champion won a fantastic, gutsy match 7-6, 2-6, 6-2.
Kontaveit did not make it easy on Williams. She drew her into long rallies and made her work for almost every service game. The Estonian kept her cool amid a crowd that was 100 percent behind Serena. They live and die on every point she wins.
Both players seemed to start the match a little tight with Serena committing unforced errors and Kontaveit’s costly double faults. Once they settled down, things stayed even until an amazing 12 minute game turned up the tension. They exchanged service breaks and headed toward a tiebreak. Kontaveit made it interesting, but Serena was able to close things out with back-to-back aces and win the first set 7-6.
Kontaveit didn’t let the first set loss mess with her plan, as she came out aggressive and immediately broke Serena twice. The four-time Olympic gold medalist was able to get one service break back, but the No. 2 seed was too good and ultimately won the second set 6-2.
After leaving the court for a quick break between sets, Serena came out in the third with a renewed energy, taking us back to the days when she dominated the WTA tour. Her serve, power and movement once again carried her to the next round of a Grand Slam.
“I’m a pretty good player. This is what I do best,” Serena said during her post-match interview. “I love a challenge, love rising to the challenge. I haven’t played many matches, but I’ve been practicing really well. My last few matches it just wasn’t coming together and I’m like, ‘but this isn’t me.’ The last couple of matches here in New York has really come together.”
Now that we’ve gotten through the first two rounds of the tournament, I’m gonna need commentators to stop being surprised at her greatness. She’s Serena Williams, she’s not here for a farewell tour—she came to win.
With this victory, the six-time US Open champion finds herself headed into the third round against No. 46 ranked Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia. Going forward, Williams needs to get better with break points. She left far too many chances on the table in this match.
Compared to Monday night, there was far less spectacle in this contest--something that probably helped both players. However, Serena knows she has to balance heavy emotions every time she steps on court.
“Honestly, I’m just looking at it as a bonus. I don’t have anything to prove, I don’t have anything to win,” she said. “I have absolutely nothing to lose, and honestly I never get to play like this since 98. I’ve had an X on my back since 99. I really enjoy just coming out and enjoying it and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that.”
The GOAT now switches gears to doubles, because she and Venus will play Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká on Thursday in a night match on Ashe, something that’s never been done for a first round doubles match.