“After I lost the second set, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to do my best, because that’s probably what it is,'” Williams told ESPN in a postgame interview.
Williams looks better this year than her previous games, and she’s still trying to shake off the rust of a long shutdown.
However, at world No. 2 Contavert, Williams faces a tougher test and is undoubtedly the underdog on paper, but certainly not when the Arthur Ashe Stadium is full.
A raucous but well-mannered crowd cheered her every cent.
She alluded to the lengthy layoffs in Wednesday’s interview, but said: “I like a challenge.”
Williams will next face Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round. Tomljanovic, who played alongside Williams on Wednesday, defeated Russian Evgeniya Rodina 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Williams isn’t just playing singles; she will open doubles with her sister Venus Williams on Thursday night.
“I need more games,” she told ESPN. “I love being challenged. Yeah, I haven’t played a lot, but I’ve been practicing really well. In my last few games, it just hasn’t come together. I think, it’s not me.”
Things have changed since she started competing in the Open, she said.
“I’ve never liked the word retirement. To me, it’s not like a modern word. I’ve always seen it as a transition, but I want to be sensitive to how I use the word, which means something very specific and It’s important to the crowd,” Williams said in a Vogue article earlier this month.
“Perhaps the best word to describe what I do is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving from tennis to other things that are important to me,” she said.
At Monday’s post-match press conference, Williams was asked if it was definitely her last game.
“Yeah, I’ve always been blurry, right?” she said with a smile. “I’ll keep it vague because you never know.”
The first-round win over Covinic was Williams’ best game since returning from injury. She has only won one match since returning in June and can’t come close to the form that helped her win her last major in 2017.
While Williams was still some way from that level in Monday’s win over Covinic, it certainly gave her hope that her final dance at the U.S. Open could be extended.
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and won the U.S. Open six times, most recently in 2014. Williams, now 40, will have her career wrapped up in her final match — whichever one turns out to be on the grounds of her first Grand Slam singles victory. The 1999 U.S. Open.
As a teenager, Williams stunned world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the final and laid the first stepping stone to her 20-year dominance .
Kontaveit is a rising star
After Kontaveit won her first Tour title in 2017, her real breakthrough year came in 2021, as she won four WTA Championships to move up the rankings.
Contaveit is an aggressive player with a versatile playing style and a powerful forehand who has been a mainstay since his debut in the world top 10 in November 2021.
With her career high of No. 2 – the highest in Estonian history – at 26, she will certainly be looking to improve her best performance at a Grand Slam, the 2020 Australian Tennis Championships. The quarter-finals are open.
Kontaveit looked impressive in her first-round win over Romania’s Jacqueline Christian at the US Open, lost just three matches, and said after winning that she was “backed” in the opening round Williams, and was “really excited” to play her against her opponent.
“I never played against her. I mean, it was the last chance,” she told reporters. “Better late than never.
“I’m really excited. I think the atmosphere will be great. I’m really looking forward to it.”
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.