When Willie Mays said goodbye to America across the street some 49 years ago, it was time. But that is not the case for Serena Williams.
Tomorrow will have to wait.
Under the lights at Ashe on Wednesday, it was about tennis, not hero worship, but when it comes to this 40-year-old American icon, that’s not always a big deal. And no one has ever been better at tennis than him.
On Wednesday, Serena Williams beat Anett Kontaveit, the second-ranked woman in the world and the second seed in the tournament, in a dramatic match that seemed to turn back the hands of time. She beat her 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2. She was sharp, sure, and fast. Yes, she was quick and light on her feet in the third set when she broke her Estonian opponent three times with sharp shots, quick decisions, and a light step.
After Williams had been broken three times in the second set, the match was still very close. But Serena changed history with a dominant performance in the third set that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Well, if you don’t count the 23 Grand Slam tournaments she has won in the last 23 years. “Well … Williams told Mary Jo Fernandez of ESPN on the court right after the match, “I’m a pretty good player.”
There’s no doubt that this is Serena’s home court. With its match presentation, the USTA doesn’t try to make it look like anything else. Williams’ career was shown in a montage on the scoreboard before Kontaviet was introduced and took her place on the court. Next time, maybe Timmy Trumpet will come with her.
And the people? It seemed like Jacob deGrom had two strikes on a batter at every breakpoint.
“This is all about her,” said 26-year-old Kontaveit, who kept her cool even though the crowd cheered every time she made a mistake. “I knew that completely. I knew it was coming, but it was hard to deal with when I was on the court. It wasn’t easy.
“[But] it’s fair. She has earned it.”
Even though Kontaveit’s game kept getting worse, she didn’t give up. Williams hit home runs. She seemed to be everywhere at once. She found the wave she had used to win the first set tiebreak and just rode it again. Serena’s tennis improved in the third set, though. This strange mix of competition and celebration did just that. “It was a great experience,” she said of the place and the way people have treated her. “I think this is something you can only do once in your life, that’s for sure.”
Williams said that she is trying to find a good balance between enjoying all her attention and getting ready for her matches. On Friday, the 46th-ranked Croat Alja Tomljanovic will be up next.
She said, “I’ve been doing a little bit of both.” “I think I’ve been mostly trying to ignore everything, but I’ve also been letting some of it in because I want to enjoy the moment.
“It’s clear that these moments won’t last. For me, it’s mostly about giving myself a little hug and knowing that I’m here to focus and do the best I can this time.
The second seed lost. So are the third, seventh, tenth, eleventh, fourteenth, and sixteenth seeds in this tournament through the first two rounds. Serena’s problems haven’t gone away, and who knows, maybe they will over the weekend if things keep going the way they are.
Williams said she isn’t thinking about whether or not she can win this championship. She is taking this one step and one match at a time, even though she will play doubles with her sister Venus on Thursday night. And doing her best to enjoy and value this one-of-a-kind journey.
“It’s a strange mix of letting go and staying on track. I’m just trying to figure out what percentage of each,” Williams told Fernandez on the court. She also said that she felt like she had nothing to lose. “Since I won the U.S. Open in 1999, I have had a big red “X” on my back.
“It seems to have been there all my life. But this is not the same. I feel like I’ve won already, at least in my mind. The things I’ve done are just pretty cool. Tonight I told Serena, “You already won, so just play.” Be Serena.’ “
Stay tuned for more updates, Nog Magazine.