(August 29, 2022) FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York – No goodbyes for Serena Williams on Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 23-time major champion beat Montenegro’s 27-year-old Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the second round of the US Open.
Don’t use the “R” word, as in retirement, said Williams.
“I prefer the word ‘evolution’ because I feel like I’m at a stage of my life where I’m not necessarily retiring, I’m just evolving from tennis,” she said in her news conference.
“And I do feel different. I think I was really emotional in Toronto and Cincinnati. It was very difficult. I’m not saying it’s not difficult now. It’s extremely difficult still because I absolutely love being out there.
“The more tournaments I play, I feel like the more I can belong out there. That’s a tough feeling to have, and to leave knowing the more you do it, the more you can shine.
“But it’s time for me, you know, to evolve to the next thing. I think it’s important because there’s so many other things that I want to do, et cetera.”
“I love the sport and I feel like the sport, it’s given me so much. It’s given me a platform that I never even thought I would have all because of tennis.
“I don’t see myself not a part of tennis. I don’t know how I’m going to be a part of tennis as of right now. I just don’t know how. But I just feel like we’ve come too far together to just not have anything to do with it.”
This was expected to be the last US Open and last tournament of Williams’ career.
It was an electric atmosphere with a record sold out crowd for a night session. “I think 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.
“It’s a feeling I’ll never forget, so I really — yeah, that meant a lot to me.”
Williams talked about what was going through her head during the walkout:”Yeah, I was just thinking, like, Is this for real? Really? At the same time I’m also thinking, I still have a match to play and I want to be able to play up to this reception almost.
“It was so loud. I just was overwhelmed in a good way. Yeah, but at the same time it’s like you have to be focused, you have to be laser focused. That’s what I needed to do and that’s what I tried to do.”
“Between Coco, Naomi, Taylor, everyone, it’s just been…
“You know, I don’t think about it. Like what was said on the court, I don’t think I’ve even taken a moment to realize any impact. I understand it, but I don’t really meditate or think about it.
“I’ll have plenty of time soon to do all that. I just am so grateful that they see that. I can see it, too, but I don’t overthink about it. I’m still here for the time being, just enjoying it.
“I feel grateful that I can have that impact. I never thought I would have that impact, ever. I was just a girl trying to play tennis in a time where I could develop this impact and be a voice. It was just so authentic ’cause I do what I do, and I just do it authentically me. I think people could really relate to that.”
Williams will be facing a tough task in her next round – No. 2 seed Anett Kontveit of Estonia on Wednesday.
As for her next opponent? “At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me I feel,” Williams said to media. “I mean, I think every opponent is very difficult. I’ve seen that over the summer. The next one is even more difficult.
“It’s good that I was able to get this under my belt. I don’t know, I’m just not even thinking about that. I’m just thinking about just this moment. I think it’s good for me just to live in the moment now.”
Asked point blank if this was her final tournament, she said with a smile: “Yeah, I’ve been pretty vague about it, right? I’m going to stay vague because you never know.”
More to follow….