NEW YORK - It was vintage Serena Williams in an electrified Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion dominated world No. 2 Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open.
“I think you can only have this experience once in a lifetime, for sure,” Williams said in her post-match press conference. “I'm playing pretty good… now it's kind of coming together, I guess. I mean, I had to bring it together today. It worked out.”
In the tight three-set battle, Williams and Kontaveit traded momentum swings, each winning a couple of marathon games. More than anything, the crowd brought the match’s intensity to a whole new level with chanting echoing across the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
As a matter of fact, people at the Mets game across the street were able to hear the Serena love at Citi Field.
Let’s break it down. Here are my five takeaways from the Serena Williams-Anett Kontaveit U.S. Open second round:
Serena Williams played to win
There is no doubt that Serena Williams is more locked in than ever.
Winning 108 U.S. Open singles matches in her career, the most of any player in the Open Era, Williams said she has had a target on her back since winning her first Slam in New York in 1999.
“I just feel like I have had a big red X on my back since I won the US Open in '99. It's been there my entire career, because I won my first Grand Slam early in my career,” Williams said.
Finally, the tennis legend looks cool, calm and collected as she makes a nice run for herself in her last U.S. Open.
Looking at the stats, Williams served remarkably. She was able to get out of tight situations, blasting 11 aces and winning 73% of her first serve points.
Williams’ movement was top-notch for her 40-year-old self. Her transitioning to the net in big moments was exactly the gutsiness the New York crowd wanted to see.
A moment that stands out tonight is when Williams was up 4-2 in the third set and hit a swinging volley to seal the hold.
The courage she showed out there made her the “Queen of Queens.”
Serena Williams’ opponent isn’t currently a true No. 2
All the credit in the world to Serena Williams for such an iconic performance but one thing that must be pointed out is the year her opponent has had.
To say Anett Kontaveit’s ranking is inflated is an understatement. The same way the U.S. Open is blaming inflation for $22 Honey Deuce cocktails (lol).
The truth is, Kontaveit got her ranking points from the last quarter of 2021, winning four of eight tournaments she competed in.
This year, she hasn’t had any of the same success, especially in the Grand Slams, losing in the first or second round of each one.
Why may this be the case? Well, for starters, Kontaveit opened up about struggling with long COVID-19 after contracting the virus in April.
Secondly, she parted ways with her Russian coach Dmitry Tursunov because he was having trouble getting visas for travel.
All in all, it was a positive outcome for Williams that should give her nice confidence, but she better stay level-headed moving forward.
Serena Williams montages are coming off distasteful
I wholeheartedly think the GOAT should be celebrated every time she steps foot on court, but the U.S. Open is poorly timing their Serena Williams montages.
In the past two matches, Williams’ opponents have been introduced first, followed by a lengthy montage of her illustrious career, forcing the others to wait and watch.
I think it would be way more tasteful if the U.S. Open introduced Williams onto the court first, giving her the proper attention, then introducing the opponent. Just out of courtesy.
Serena Williams attracted some iconic celebrities (again)
Again, Serena Williams attracted a myriad of iconic celebrities at Wednesday night’s match, but one stood out more than the rest: Tiger Woods.
Woods was sitting in Williams’ box, and what made this such a full-circle moment was that the golfer is the main reason she competed at this year’s U.S. Open.
In Williams’ “evolving away” letter in Vogue, she said this spring that Woods gave her a push to get back into competitive tennis after taking many months off.
“Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens,” he said.
She said a month later she gave it a whirl again and “it felt magical to pick up a racket again.”
Other notable celebrities in the stands included Zendaya, Gigi and Maya Hadid, Steve Nash, Spike Lee, La La Anthony, Billie Jean King and many more.
What’s next for Serena Williams?
Serena Williams has a lot of tennis left at the 2022 U.S. Open, but as she said, she’s happy to have more matches to keep shaking off the rust.
The sisterly duo of Venus and Serena Williams are set to take on the doubles court on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET where they will face Czech Republic’s Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Williams will return to singles action on Friday, most likely at 7 p.m. under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium where she will take on Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović.
Fun fact, in my freshman year at UVA, I played doubles pretty consistently with her sister, Hana. Ajla would come out and watch us from time to time.
Tomljanović’s best result in a Grand Slam was reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2021 and 2022.
If Williams plays the way she played Wednesday night, she is going to take home this next W. To take it a step further, Williams’ draw has really opened up and I can really see her making a big dent in her half of the draw.
Does Williams think she can win the whole tournament?
“I cannot think that far,” she said. “I'm having fun and I'm enjoying it. Honestly, I've had so many tough matches the last, I don't know how long, that I just feel like just being prepared for everyone that I play is just going to be really, really difficult, get through those moments.”