Serena Williams wins her first match of her last U.S. Open
Updated August 29, 2022 at 11:17 PM ET
Serena Williams won her first match Monday night in what's anticipated to be her last U.S. Open.
Williams defeated Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows in New York City — the site of Williams' first U.S. Open win in 1999, when she was 17.
Earlier this month, Williams, now 40, announced her plans to retire from tennis, after a decades-long career in which she dominated and transformed the women's game and that includes 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
"Just keep supporting me," Williams said after the match, "as long as I'm here."
"With her powerful serve and return of serve and athleticism, she really set that standard in the women's game," NPR's Tom Goldman told Morning Edition.
"Her story of the early years in Compton, California, with sister Venus, under the tutelage of their dad, 'King Richard,' now of movie fame, that all became part of her legend and paved the way for more young people of color to pursue what had traditionally been a white sport," Goldman said. "And she brought more people of color into the stands to watch as well."
As she prepared to take the court Monday, Williams received tributes from fellow athletes and fans, including a spot on the cover of Time magazine.
Williams has won six U.S. Open singles championships, the last in 2014. On paper, she is the overwhelming favorite on Monday night, with a 20-0 record in U.S. Open first-round matches — without dropping a set since 2001, according to the U.S. Open.
But Williams is currently ranked 605th for singles, returning to play only recently after battling injuries. Her opponent, 27-year-old Kovinic of Montenegro, is ranked 80th.
Williams has only played four matches this year, and only won one, sports commentator Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media told Weekend Edition .
"She really is, probably for the first time in her life, an underdog" to win the U.S. Open, Bryant said. "But boy, what a magical fairy tale story if she can come to New York and pull off some magic."
After she retires from tennis, Williams will continue her pioneering ways and focus on developing a venture capital firm she formed eight years ago.
Staff writer Ayana Archie contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.