Sunday, May 26, 2024

US Open | Serena Williams’ “evolution” will have to wait

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Virginia Whitehead
Virginia Whitehead
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(New York) What if Serena Williams evolves to 24e Grand Slam title instead of retirement, a word she didn’t want to use when announcing her upcoming exit from the competition in the magazine Vogue magazinethree weeks ago?

Posted at 5:00 a.m

Richard Hito

Richard Hito
special cooperation

The question may seem premature, even preposterous, but the spectators at Arthur Ashe Court and Williams’ most ardent fan must have asked him on Wednesday night when they saw the American tennis legend beat Estonian Annette Kontaveit in three sets, 7-6 (4), 2-6 and 6-2.

It wasn’t just that Williams qualified for the third round of the tournament for the first time since returning to action after a 14-month absence.

Not only did she display poise, but even intelligence, as she lacked in the five games she played earlier this summer.

She also achieved this feat against the second player in the world.

PHOTO COREY SIPKIN, Agence France-Presse

Tiger Woods attended the Serena Williams game on Wednesday.

So how not to start dreaming a little? How can we not imagine a scenario in which Williams ends his career in New York with a seventh title?

“I still have some fuel,” Williams said in an on-court interview with Mary Jo Fernandez after the two-hour, 27-minute game.

When the former player asked Williams if she was surprised by her level of play, the winner looked at her and laughed, pretending to be surprised that one might be surprised by such a thing.

“I’m just Serena,” she replied, to the onlookers’ laughter. “Honestly, after losing the second set, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to do my best, because this could be the end. »

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But the ending will wait at least another turn.

“I’m enjoying and I’m enjoying it”

The game was played in front of a boisterous but less enthusiastic, less forceful crowd than Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where celebrities including golfer and Serena Woods’ confidant Serena Williams attended once again.

When the two players appeared on the field, the stadium was still half empty, as is often the case with the start of the first evening matches there.

But the standard of the match was much higher than on Monday night. The two players took part in long sprints, and delivered a powerful blow throughout the first set, which ended in a tiebreaker.

Williams, who missed a set opportunity by sending 5-4, finished the tiebreak with an exclamation mark header.

The stadium exploded.

PHOTO COREY SIPKIN, Agence France-Presse

Annette Kontaveit congratulates Serena Williams after the match.

However, the Queens failed to maintain the same power in the second set, losing her first two serves. She made her way into the locker room at the end of this round which the Estonian dominated from start to finish.

She rejuvenated, turned the tables in the crucial third set, quickly regained the serve she lost and won the set over her opponent.

Williams just released the 2e Ranked in the tournament. Does she herself believe in her chances of winning her seventh title in New York at the age of 40?

“I can’t think of that very far,” she said at a press conference. I’m here as I said. I enjoy and enjoy it. Honestly, I’ve had a lot of tough matches because I don’t know for how long I feel it will be very, very difficult to prepare for all the matches I’m going to play. Go through these moments. »

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No doubt tennis experts will want to put Williams’ victory into perspective by reminding that Kontaveit, despite his world rankings, does not play tennis well these days. The Estonian did not cross 2e A round of this year’s Grand Slam and only made it to the quarter-finals in one of the four hard court tournaments I’ve competed in this summer.

But we can’t say she played badly against Williams.

“I think she played well,” Kontaveit said of the winner at a press conference. “I think I never played a bad game. Yes, I really raised her level in the third set.”

It played amazingly.

Annette Kontavepet

Williams seemed to agree.

“The experience was really good,” she said. I think you can only have this experience once in your life, that’s for sure. Like I said on the field [à Mary Joe Fernández]I train well, but I can’t translate all that into matches. But, you know, now it’s being put into place, I think. I had to prepare everything today. It worked. »

Serena Williams’ “evolution” will have to wait. And on Friday, on a date with Australian Agla Tomljanovic, 46 years olde racket in the world.

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