Serena WINS! The Queen of Queens lives to fight another day as she lights up Arthur Ashe with a commanding straight sets victory against Danka Kovinic in the US Open first round
- Serena Williams defeated Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 at the US Open on Monday
- The American star sealed a second-round match against Anett Kontaveit
- The 40-year-old tennis great is expected to retire following the tournament
- Williams delighted a packed Arthur Ashe crowd which featured a host of stars
The Big Apple came to bid farewell to Serena Williams – only to find that she is going to stay a while longer at the US Open.
The 40-year-old American, gradually upping her level after a scratchy start, defeated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro to survive into the second round.
Ratcheting up the quality and underpinned as ever by her serve, Williams delighted a huge crowd with a 6-3 6-3 victory in exactly 100 minutes.
That earned her a match against second seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who may be less forgiving and bring the curtain down on an epic career (although Williams will play doubles alongside sister Venus).
With a post-match ceremony planned, the immediate build-up was somewhat low key, amounting to a performance from a Ukrainian choir and a rendition of the national anthem.
The crowd packed into the Arthur Ashe Stadium were eager to see the star of the show, with plenty of celebrities in the house. Bill Clinton, Spike Lee and Mike Tyson were among those in the house to witness what could be a watershed moment in the sport’s history.
Williams came out to roaring acclaim wearing a spangled black tennis dress, and the question was how she would react to an occasion unlike anything she had ever known.
Serena Williams beat Danka Kovinic in straight sets in the first round of the US Open Monday
The tennis great delighted a packed crowd at the Arthur Ashe crowd at Flushing Meadow
Ratcheting up the quality and underpinned as ever by her serve, Williams cruised to the win
For all the freighting of this evening it was, after the formalities, a tennis match. Although she has clearly been rehearsing seriously and playing practice sets, there was still not much competitive court time to fall back on.
Her family were out in force (although not father Richard). With her husband out of his seat to encourage her early on, there was no doubt she had not come to lose.
Last time out in Cincinnati she was comfortably beaten by Emma Raducanu and the first few points were edgy as she faced two early break points.
The victory in 100 minutes earned her a match against second seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia
The American star came out to roaring acclaim wearing a spangled black Nike tennis dress
Gradually she settled in against a highly mobile opponent who has also played little tennis of late due to back problems around Wimbledon.
Williams eased to a 2-0 lead but then the 27-year-old from Montenegro began to find her feet, and began to profit from the American’s misfiring forehand.
Having recovered into a 3-2 lead Kovinic gave the game back through double faults. There were six from Kovinic in the first set to Williams’s five, but the American’s serve was overall strong enough to hold on, and she saved eight break points in the opener.
The second set heralded a distinct uplift in the caliber of the contest, with both players shedding some of the early inhibitions.
Having recovered into a 3-2 lead Kovinic (above) gave the game back through double faults
Williams breezed into a 2-0 lead but 27-year-old Kovinic began to find her feet and fight back
Williams warmed to her task and secured a break, reminding everyone of the awesome ball striking ability she possesses. A searing backhand pass took her to 5-3 and by now she was in overdrive, to the delight of the crowd.
A final netted backhand from Kovinic brought a victory twirl from the great champion, who looked extremely formidable by the end. We will go through it again on Wednesday evening.
Later there was a video tribute from Oprah Winfrey, with Williams addressing the crowd.
‘When you love something it’s hard to walk away but I think now is the time,’ she said. ‘I have a family, other chapters in life, I call it evolution. I really want to spend more time at home, it’s like Serena 2.0’.
A final netted backhand from Kovinic allowed Williams to book her spot in the second round
Billie Jean King led the tributes to the great in a ceremony celebrating Williams’ career
Relive all the action from the US Open clash between Serena Williams and Danka Kovinic with Sportsmail’s live blog from ISABEL BALDWIN.