Serena Williams beats Anett Kontaveit in U.S. Open second round

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NEW YORK – The black skirt that Serena Williams chose to wear for the end of her career was designed to have six layers, one for each of her US Open titles. But even the thinnest fabric can feel heavy in the heat of battle, so before the tournament Williams unwrapped four layers and continued on her way.

Wednesday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium looked a bit like Williams’ modified skirt.

All the gear was still there, from Queen Latifah thanking Williams in a prerecorded introductory video to celebrities scattered in the crowd (Tiger Woods, actress Zendaya), but her second-round match against Anett Kontaveit felt more like the rules. art. Williams’ daughter Olympia wasn’t in the stands for this match to watch and kiss the crowd. This time, Williams avoided the cloak.

Highlights of Serena Williams’ victory in the US in the second round over Anett Kontaveit

The result was a 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-2 win after a 2 hour 27 minute grind match that proved Williams’ physical abilities remain intact at the age of 40. years. She has also shown that she remembers how to access a deep fight tank.

Kontaveit, an Estonian number 2 in the world, challenged Williams to win with a bold comeback and lightning-fast pace. His precise shots tested Williams’ patience, including one in the third set who just dusted the finish line so lightly that the record-breaking crowd of nearly 30,000 started booing.

Williams moved a finger to silence his supporters – no one was getting nervous about the close calls here.

After entering the tournament with only four games in the past 14 months and insecurity in her game, the question is no longer whether Williams’ body can live up to the Grand Slam tennis tournament. She blew 11 aces against six pesky double fouls, appearing nimble and strong in her move on Wednesday.

“Are you surprising yourself with your level right now?” he was asked on the pitch after the game.

“What?” Williams replied, incredulous.

The question now is how far Williams can go.

He faces number 46 Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round on Friday, and before that he will practice more behind him through a doubles match with his sister Venus on Thursday night. It is the first doubles match of the opening round ever scheduled to open a night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In the singles tournament, Williams said she is in no rush to leave now that she is comfortable.

“There is no rush here,” he said. “There is still a little bit of me. We will see.”

Crowds of fans shouting their support will follow Williams for as long as she continues to play. A record crowd was recorded for both Williams matches this week, with 29,959 spectators pouring into the tournament’s main show court Wednesday.

The chair referee’s first plea to the audience to calm down came just two minutes after the match began.

They continued to scream for the 23-time Grand Slam champion during points all night, but the players settled into the atmosphere, relegating it mostly to the background and kept going.

The nerves that stumbled Williams into unusual double mistakes on Monday seemed to have dissipated. Williams moved well early on, prompting Kontaveit to hit an extra ball in rallies – even if Williams didn’t win them – and orchestrating points from start to finish.

Even then, the rust was still noticeable in the beginning. After securing her first break point in six attempts to take a 5-4 lead, she handed Kontaveit the second half with a double fault.

But his serve came when he needed it most: he won the first set tiebreaker with an ace.

Williams’ level dropped immediately in the second set when Kontaveit took the lead 3-0.

Williams has finally won a game. But serving at 1-3, 40-0, Kontaveit pushed her to two, eventually sealing the match and stifling the hope of his opponent’s comeback with a strong return that just crossed the sideline. Williams then sent a backhand into the net at the next point and, in the blink of an eye, Kontaveit held a 5-1 lead.

The Estonian closes the second set with an ace to equalize the match. Williams left the field to regroup and emerged refreshed, earning a 2-0 lead that blossomed into a 4-1 lead without Williams increasing her level much – such was the advantage provided by her experience and a supporting audience.

But Williams needed her best to close. The highlight of the evening came at set point with Williams taking the 5-2 lead. Kontaveit made her run away but dropped a lob, her second of the rally, on the baseline, then closed for a winner. AC / DC’s “Thunderstruck” is played at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams won the final game without giving up a point, feeling lighter, it seemed, with each passing moment.

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