The Serena Williams story remains far from finished. Facing the second best woman in the world (by ranking), Serena proved to good for Anett Kontaveit in an incredible 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2 win Wednesday night at the US Open.
“It’s no rush here,” Williams said on the court. “I’m loving this crowd.
“I’m a pretty good player. This is what I do. I love a challenge, and I’m rising to the challenge.”
Early on, Kontaveit was cool blistering groundstrokes around the court. But Serena got her serve going and with it the crowd. Serena would get a break but Kontaveit would raise her level. Serena wouldn’t be denied taking the tiebreaker.
Kontaveit would turn things around immediately in the second. Focused, the Estonian rolled out to a 3-0 lead, looking the part of one of the best in the world.
After dropping the second, Serena left the court and returned re-energized. Feeling the weight of the moment, Kontaveit would crack. Serena, who could barely move months ago at Wimbledon, was now flying about the court, winning the longer rallies.
Serving 4-2 and closing in on the win, Serena saved a huge breakpoint and would win the next six. Now, she’s just five wins for a 24th Major.
“I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t have anything to win. I have absolutely nothing to lose,” Serena added.
“Honestly, I never get to play like this since ’98 really. Literally, I’ve had an X on my back since ’99. It’s kind of fun. I really enjoy just coming out and enjoying it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that.”
Said Kontaveit, “I thought I didn’t play a bad match at all. She definitely raised her level in the 3rd set. She played amazing.
“In the 1st set she was serving so well in these important moments. I fought really hard, thought I played a decent match. She was better today.”
Up next on Friday night for Serena will be Ajla Tomljanovic. Tomorrow night, she join with Venus for first round doubles at 7pm on Ashe.
“There’s still a little left in me,” said Williams. “This is what I do best. I love rising to a challenge. After I lost the second set, I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, this could be it.’ I just wanted to keep trying and just do my best.”
The second-seeded Kontaveit wasn’t the only big upset. World No. 3 Maria Sakkari, a semifinalist from a year ago, was sent home by Xiyu Wang 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Later, 2021 finalist Leylah Fernandez was bounced by the streaking Liudmila Samsonova who won her 12th match dispatching the Canadian 6-3, 7-6(3). Former French winner Barbora Krejcikova also lost.
American Slam finalists Coco Gauff and Madison Keys set a Friday date. Gauff stopped Elena Gabriela Ruse from serving out the second to win it 6-2, 7-6(4).
Keys, a finalist at the US Open in 2017, had to battle to the bitter end to beat Camila Giorgi 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6).
Ons Jabeur and Shelby Rogers also advanced to a Friday showdown.
Tomorrow, the second round wraps up with Iga Swiatek and former winner Sloane Stephens meeting on Ashe. Garbine Muguruza, Paula Badosa, Aryna Sabalenka and former finalist Victoria Azarenka who meets Marta Kostyuk in what should be an interesting affair.
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