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‘I’m Serena 2.0!’: Williams pledges to ‘do everything right’ for her final tournament, and praises a ‘Crazy’ Arthur Ashe crowd… as Opera Winfrey and Billie Jean King pay tribute at the farewell ceremony
Serena Williams paid tribute to the ‘crazy’ Arthur Ashe crowd and started on her impending retirement after taking a first round US Open win over Danka Kovinic on Monday night.
Williams, 40, beat her opponent 6-3, 6-3 at Flushing Meadows — on the same field, she won six previous US Open titles in her extraordinary career.
Addressing the crowd at an emotional farewell ceremony in Queens, she said, “First of all, thank you. I didn’t expect anything from this. You know, I always have to be the best I can be. I feel so comfortable on this field in front of everyone here. When I go out on the field, I just want to do my best on that particular day.
Serena Williams was delighted to take a first-round win of her final tournament
Williams addressed the crowd after organizers paid an emotional tribute to the six-time champion
“The audience was CRAZY. They really helped me through it. I was really pumped up, like, “Yeah, I got this”.
“It has been such a difficult decision. Yes, very difficult decision. I think when you have a passion for something and you love something so much, it’s always hard to walk away. Sometimes it gets harder to walk away than now. I’ve been trying to decide what to do for a while now. I do [still love this game]. I also love it because it keeps you fit which is a bonus.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I think now’s the time.’ I have a family. There are other chapters in life, I call it an evolution.
“I have my company, Serena Ventures. As I said, we invest in a lot of people, women, women of color and men too. I really wanted to spend more time at home and work on my spiritual life. It’s like Serena 2.0. I’ll still be intense… I’ll still be there.
Fans held up cards to display ‘We love Serena’ message after the game on Arthur Ashe
Williams speaks with her daughter and husband on the track after winning the first round match
“I have six layers to represent the six wins, but I took four out because it was too heavy!
“I just want people to think how hard you try. It’s so important to give your all, no matter what you do, no matter how many obstacles you face. I’ve been let down so many times, in the public eye, and I had to come back… but never give up. It sounds cliché, but whatever you’re going through, I just want people to be inspired by my story. I’m from Compton, California, and I made it!
‘This is [it]. We’ll explain it all here… I can’t speak for my sister, but it’s going to be so much fun playing doubles. It’s getting crazy. We haven’t done it in so long and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I look forward to waking up and saying, ‘I don’t have to run to court today’. I look forward to being a good mother. She’s such a good girl.
“I’m just me, I’m just Serena. I feel like sometimes I just blend in with the crowd. I feel like I do.
“Keep coming out and supporting me while I’m here. Just know that I love you so much and I’m so excited to be here!’