US Open 2022 Highlights — Serena Williams

Mengyao (Lisa) Li, Staff Writer

Inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, with incessant cheers from the crowd, American tennis player Serena Williams, who had once been ranked No.1 by the Women’s Tennis Association, defeated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the U.S. Open match on Aug. 29 with a score of 6-3. Despite her triumph, many had speculated that this tournament is likely to be the last of her 27-year-old tennis career due to her seniority.

Williams started her professional tennis career when she was 14-years-old, one year after her sister, Venus Williams. Both of them were known for their extremely powerful and aggressive strikes. When the Williams sisters had first caught the eyes of the tennis fans, most people predicted that her sister, Venus, would be the first to win a Grand Slam, a glorious feat in which a tennis player wins all four major championships in the same calendar season. However, it was Serena who later, in 1999, won her first Grand Slam title when she was only 17-years-old. During the duration of her career, Williams has won a total of 23 Grand Slam titles, the most recent one being in 2017. With her unique style, Williams revolutionized tennis by making it a sport synonymous with extreme strength and athleticism. 

In addition to this, she had also been a firm advocate for women’s rights. After suffering racist insults in Indian Wells, California, in 2001, Williams began a 14-year boycott of a marquee tennis tournament. Moreover, she observed for years that “male players can misbehave while women are denied the right to express frustration.” Thus, she has been praised by many for exposing the “double standard” in the tennis industry which has systematically disadvantaged female players. Overall, her impact on the field of tennis is immense.

Earlier this year, due to her one-year-long hiatus from injuries, Williams had been unseeded and unranked. The 2022 U.S. Open tournament was her first competition after her career gap, during which she had initially struggled with her movement and timing. Williams was defeated during her last match with 19-year-old Emma Raducanu, last year’s champion of the U.S. Open women’s singles. Thus, it wouldn’t be shocking if she had lost the match with Kovinic, who was ranked 80th at that time. However, when she walked onto the court, the spectators welcomed her with the heartiest ovation, which greatly encouraged her for the subsequent match.

“I think when I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming. It was loud, and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling; it’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” said Williams in her press conference following the match.

During the game, Williams was at a disadvantage as she faced 10 breaking points from her opponent, Kovinic. Despite this, she carried on firmly as she won the game with a score of 1-0. She then increased the margin by winning another round as the score went up to 2-0. The audience erupted in applause, which motivated her with hope and joy.

However, victory did not come so easily. After the initial 2-0, Williams had lost three straight games, during which she double-faulted. At one point, she and Kovinic were tied with three games each, but as she got more used to the rhythm of the competition, Kovinic proved to be no match for her. 

During the last game, Williams sent a backhand so close to the baseline that Kovinic requested a challenge. The result favored Williams, and thus the match ended in triumph, with her being the victor and a final score of 6-3.

This match was both a great delight and a source of nostalgia for many of Williams’ old fans. Matthew Futterman, a veteran sports journalist for The New York Times, expressed many others’ feelings in his article titled, “Serena Williams Reaches Second Round of U.S. Open on Night of Tributes.” 

Futterman commented that throughout the game, there were “glimpses of the power and athleticism that had made Williams a boundary-breaking force.”

Williams’ daughter, Olympia, welcomed the victory wearing an identical black dress and white beads interwoven in her hair, which many believed is intended to pay homage to her mother’s style in 1999 when she first won the Grand Slam title.

As for the reporters who asked Williams whether or not she’s retiring after the U.S. Open tournament, she responded in her post-match conference with an enigmatic smile. 

“Yeah, I’ve been pretty vague about [retirement], right? I’m going to stay vague because you never know,” said Williams. 

Her determination exhibits her passion and devotion for tennis, and her return to the tournament has symbolized the continuation of her tennis career.


Graphics Courtesy of Amanda Chang