The sporting world was all eyes on Arthur Ashe stadium at the US Open Monday night at the US Open for the start of Serena Williams’s final event. And Serena, like the great champion she is, didn’t disappoint defeating Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-3, 6-3.
Serena was sluggish early but pulled ahead 2-0 in front a jam-packed celebrity crowd. Kovinic, who plays her best on the clay, fought hard to pull back ahead breaking twice to pull ahead 3-2. But Serena got rolling on her and never looked back, dominating on serve in the second set.
“When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming,” said Serena. “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. That meant a lot to me.
“I was just thinking, ‘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.’ It was so loud. I just was overwhelmed in a good way. 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.”
Serena will have a full day off (perhaps watch Venus) before returning Wednesday night to face the second-seeded Anett Kontaveit who scored a rare win over Jacqueline Cristian.
“At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me, I feel,” added Serena. “I think every opponent is very difficult. I’ve seen that over the summer. The next one is even more difficult.”
Simona Halep was among the favorites but the former No. 1 fell badly to qualifier Daria Snigur. The 20-year-old Snigur made quite the Grand Slam debut. Snigur, won the 2019 Wimbledon juniors, dropped the second 6-0 then held avoided a 5-1 choke in the third to win it 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.
“I’m very happy,” said Snigur. “I’m very, very, very nervous,” she said. “But I tried to do my best.”
Granby champion and No. 10 seed Daria Kasatskina was bounced by Harriet Dart.
Coco Gauff earned her first career win on Ashe with a comfortable win over Leolia Jeanjean. Former finalist Madison Keys overcame a slow start to turn away Dayana Yastremska.
“I was really nervous, I was feeling the pressure,” Gauff said. “It’s my first back in the home slam after a final. To be frank, I didn’t think I was going to be on Ashe today. Opening the women’s draw on Ashe, too, at that.
“But it is nice to break the barrier. I really didn’t think about it until after the match was over and then I walked out [to salute] the crowd and said, Wait, I haven’t done this before. That’s why I told them it was my first win on Ashe.”
Former champion Bianca Andreescu pulled away from Wimbledon upset queen Harmony 6-4, 3-6, 6-0. Maria Sakkari advanced over Wimbledon semifinalist Tatjana Maria winning the last eight games 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
Ons Jabeur, Laylah Fernandez, Caroline Garcia and Beatriz Haddad Maia, who won via a double bagel, were also winners.
Tomorrow, Venus Williams begins her 23rd US Open. Emma Raducanu opens her title defense and tournament favorite Iga Swiatek makes her debut as a top seed at a hard court Grand Slam. Raducanu meets the dangerous Alize Cornet.
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