Won’t go down without a fight: Serena Williams extends farewell tour with US Open victory

She may be playing the last matches of her career, but Serena Williams won’t stop fighting, and won’t stop giving herself another chance.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion was far from her best on Monday, but the support of an extremely partisan crowd who turned out in record numbers to see what could have been the last match of her glittering career propelled her past nervous errors and failing serves to defeat Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3.

Kovinic’s strategy seemed to hinge on targeting Williams’ early serve, and she put the American under pressure by creating five break point chances in her first three service games. As the crowd pushed her, Williams grew in the game and her serve count improved, as did her aggressiveness on the return.

The 40-year-old broke her opponent’s serve five times throughout the match herself, and while the power may have died down and the dominance she asserted with her targeted groundstrokes may have diminished, there were glimpses of his former ability. The pressure started to weigh heavily on Kovinic, and the Montenegrin, ranked 80th, finally gave in.

Williams’ status as an icon – not just of the sport, but of popular culture in general – was on full display during a glamor-filled night at Flushing Meadows. Film actor Hugh Jackman and former US President Bill Clinton were present. Director Spike Lee performed the toss, Vogue editor Anna Wintour sat in her player’s box, and former boxer Mike Tyson accompanied Martina Navratilova into the stands.

The American received a small ceremony at the end of the match, despite his victory, during which former legendary player Billie Jean King paid tribute. More is likely to come as the rest of the tournament unfolds.

Williams’ next assignment is against world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit. The Estonian isn’t in particularly good shape, and if anything turns out on Monday night, the American – and her tens of thousands of supporters at Arthur Ashe Stadium – could put her under pressure.

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