NEW YORK — Serena Williams continued what could be her last magical run through a major championship, upsetting the No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday evening 7: 6 (7: 4), 2: 6, 6: 2 in the second round of the US Open.
Before another sell-out crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams, 40, the 23-time major champion, outlived the younger Kontaveit on a hot New York night. As on Monday as she pushed past the first round, the six-time US Open champion dug deep, relying on the power and precision that have defined her game for years.
“I’m a pretty good player,” Williams said in her on-court interview after the game. “It’s what I do best. I love challenges and I love taking on a challenge.”
Ever since Williams announced her upcoming plans to “evolve” from tennis in a first-person essay in Vogue earlier this month, she’s been given a farewell tour of sorts, earning a standing ovation at both the Canadian Open and the Western & Southern Opens. This week was no different.
“There’s no rush here, I love this crowd and it’s really amazing,” Williams said. “There’s still a little bit left in me. Let’s see.”
Williams warmed up about 90 minutes before the game, a strategy that isn’t part of their normal routine but has become commonplace this week. And like Monday, there were legions of fans in the warm-up court to catch a glimpse of the Open’s marquee attraction.
In fact, Williams went to the practice courts for a 30-minute warm-up session, and it was there that she crossed paths with her sister Venus, who was completing some duplication work on the same court.
As Serena left after her batting session, the crowd cheered and she paused to wave her right hand in her direction while checking her phone in her left. That was a change from Monday, when Serena didn’t engage in much contact with fans until after her straight-set win Thank you Kovinic.
But Kontaveit fell into the same funk as Kovinic. The 26-year-old from Estonia came in ready to play, ready to show off her seeding ability and appeared focused from her first walkout but couldn’t muster enough strength to keep up with Williams.
“After I lost the second set I was like, ‘Oh my god, this could be it,'” Williams said. “So I just wanted to keep going and do my best.”
On Monday, Williams overcame an early tremor to beat Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 in front of a sell-out crowd. The crowd of more than 23,000 in the stands and thousands of others watching on a video screen outside Ashe helped break the US Open record for largest night session attendance.
On Wednesday, the crowd was just as revelry and star-studded, with fans including Tiger Woods, Anna Wintour, Spike Lee and Dionne Warwick looking on, and Williams wore the same glittery, crystal-encrusted top and diamond-studded sneakers – stuffed with solid gold ones Shoelace tags and the word ‘Queen’ on the right, ‘Mama’ on the left – which she wore on Monday. Williams has long been someone whose on-court fashion stands out from the crowd, and helped design the Nike suit inspired by the attire worn by figure skaters to compete.
And while Kontaveit, the clear favorite to win, should have seen a difference in ability, that lead never really materialized.
“Honestly, I just see that as a bonus,” Williams said. “It’s kind of and I really enjoy just getting out there and enjoying it.”
Williams’ daughter Olympia, who turns 5 on Thursday, was in New York this week for the spectacle. And now it’s certain that she’ll get at least one more chance to see “Mama” play.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.