Since revealing her upcoming plans to “evolve” from tennis in a first-person essay in Vogue earlier this month, 40-year-old Williams has been given what may be a farewell tour, earning a standing ovation at both the Canadian Open and the Westerns & Southern Open.
On Monday night, the sold-out crowd of nearly 24,000 – including a laundry list of celebrities and A-list figures including former President Bill Clinton, Spike Lee, Lindsey Vonn, Bella Hadid, Rebel Wilson, Vera Wang, Queen Latifah, Mike Tyson, dr Ruth Westheimer, Gladys Knight, Martina Navratilova and even Coco Gauff — was already on his feet before Williams even entered the court. After a video, narrated by Queen Latifah, summing up her legendary career was shown, Williams was introduced to the crowd as the “Greatest Of All Time” amid loud cheers that continued during every break throughout the game.
It was Williams’ 102nd win at Arthur Ashe Stadium – the most by any player since it opened in 1997 – and extended her record for a woman’s Grand Slam wins to 366.
Williams gave a glimpse of her future without a tennis competition during a post-game ceremony, telling the crowd, “There are other chapters in life.”
Tickets for Monday’s night session became a coveted commodity following Williams’ announcement. According to TickPick, a secondary ticketing site, the cost of attending Monday’s nighttime session was higher than any known US Open women’s final. The average ticket price on the secondary market as of Monday morning was $987, according to ticket analytics firm TicketIQ.
Even their pre-match training session attracted thousands of fans who crowded together to catch a glimpse of the legend, with rows lined up for a glimpse through a chain link fence.
But despite the fanfare, Williams wasn’t ready to make it a career just yet. On Monday, Williams glided across the court – spinning at the end – in a figure skating-inspired dress with six layers representing all six of her US Open titles, representing all six of her US Open titles, and showing flashes of what she made one of the whole Huge. She had nine aces and scored 22 winners in the 99-minute match.
After seeing the win, spectators held up blue, white, or red placards scattered in their seats to spell out “We (Heart) Serena.”
“Just keep supporting me,” Williams said, “as long as I’m here.”
Rennae Stubbs, the former player-turned-coach-analyst worked with Williams in New York this week. In a pre-match interview with ABC, Stubbs said Williams was nervous but still preparing for the match and tournament with the same intensity.
“The training was really hard,” said Stubbs on Monday. “She’s been training really, really hard this week. She has trained with other players, something she has never done in the past. And she’s trying to do everything she can to do her best tonight.”
Williams will play at No. 2 next Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday in the second round, in addition to doubles matches alongside sister Venus. The two have won 14 major titles together as a team, most recently at Wimbledon in 2016. This is the first time they have played together again since the 2018 French Open.
Venus, 42, has not announced any plans to retire but has played sparingly over the past year.