The hottest ticket in sports gave way to a star-studded crowd at New York’s Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Vera Wang, Mike Tyson, Hugh Jackman, Anna Wintour, and even Bill Clinton were all on hand to see Serena Williams begin her final US Open with an easy victory over Danka Kovinic.
Anthony Anderson, Huma Abedin, Spike Lee, Rebel Wilson, Lindsey Vonn, and New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor were also in attendance, as was Mayor Eric Adams.
Having previously announced her intention to ‘evolve’ away from tennis after this year’s US Open Williams breezed by her first-round opponent, Kovinic, 6-3, 6-3, in Queens on Monday night.
Williams could not have picked a better venue to begin her farewell than Flushing, where she’s won six singles titles and a pair of doubles crowns in front of New York celebrities, many of whom were seen sitting together on Monday night.
In her first match at what is expected to be the last US Open – and the last tournament – of her remarkable playing career, Williams overcame a shaky start to overwhelm Kovinic in straight sets.
Early in the match, Williams was not at her best. There were double faults, missed strokes, and missed opportunities. She went up 2-0, but then quickly trailed 3-2. Then, suddenly, Williams, less than a month from turning 41, looked a lot more like someone with six championships at Flushing Meadows and 23 Grand Slam titles in all – numbers never exceeded by anyone in the professional era of tennis, which began in 1968.
She rolled through the end of that opening set, capping it with a service winner she reacted to with clenched fists and her trademark cry of ‘Come on!’
The more than 23,000 in attendance rose for a raucous standing ovation – and did so again when the 1-hour, 40-minute contest was over, celebrating as if another trophy had been earned.