Serena Williams honored after US Open first-round win. It is all about tennis any further

The match ended, and carpet rolled out onto the court docket at Arthur Ashe Stadium and right here got here Billie Jean King, Gayle King and a tribute video narrated by Oprah. Serena Williams’ husband, Alexis Ohanian, introduced daughter Olympia down as effectively for household images. Mom and daughter wore matching black outfits encrusted with glowing diamonds.

As retirement ceremonies go, this one was about nearly as good because it will get. The one catch is that as of Monday evening, after beating Danka Kovinic, 6-3, 6-3, within the first spherical of the U.S. Open, Williams wasn’t fairly retired.

“I didn’t count on any of this,” she mentioned.

However why watch for the precise finish? Because it was, with all types of celebrities in the home and Williams beaming after her greatest efficiency of the yr, the celebration appeared completely timed.

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Although she didn’t say it fairly so explicitly in a Vogue article earlier this month, the 40-year-old Williams kind of let everybody know the U.S. Open can be the ultimate time we’d see her compete on a tennis court docket. It could shut the e book on almost a quarter-century of excellence at the exact same match the place she received her first Grand Slam title as a 17 yr outdated. It could function the perfect stage to acknowledge how a lot she’s meant to the game.

However these sorts of goodbyes will be difficult in tennis. Getting older legends nearly by no means get an opportunity to stroll off as winners, and but there’s no actual strategy to know when that last loss will occur or what it’s going to appear to be.

For nearly everything of her profession, however significantly these previous few years, Williams has held herself to an unimaginable customary. Even in a pre-tournament information convention this yr at Wimbledon, having not performed an official singles match for a full calendar yr, was requested what would represent an excellent consequence on the match.

” the reply to that,” she mentioned with amusing, insinuating that solely the title can be sufficient. “Come on now.”

Serena Williams celebrates after beating Danka Kovinic throughout Spherical 1 of the U.S. Open.

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The truth, although, hasn’t been almost as sort to Williams. In three tournaments previous to the U.S. Open, her stage of tennis and health hasn’t been almost adequate to compete with prime gamers. Even for one of many nice opponents within the historical past of the game, that is what getting outdated appears to be like like — and normally it’s not fairly.

Barring one thing nearly miraculous, that’s the way it will finish for Williams ultimately on this match. And although her eventual loss is likely to be anticipated, will probably be a downer for everybody in New York and a troublesome second to deal with even for somebody who has received 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

Even when Williams has accepted that she isn’t more likely to win this last U.S. Open, it wouldn’t be honest to ask her to course of it in public.

That’s what was so sensible concerning the timing of Monday’s ceremony. Positive, Williams may have misplaced to Kovinic, which might have modified all the tenor of the tributes that had been collected to honor her. However she didn’t.

And now, all the retirement pomp and circumstance is out of the best way. From right here on out, it is simply concerning the tennis.

“It’s been a really onerous determination as a result of whenever you’re captivated with one thing and you’re keen on one thing a lot, I believe it’s onerous to stroll away,” Williams mentioned on the court docket. “That’s been the case for me, so I have been making an attempt to determine for a short while what to do.”

Williams is just not going to supply way more introspection concerning the technique of this determination or spend loads of time ruminating on what retirement goes to imply. She has not achieved any prolonged media appearances because the Vogue article and declined a pre-tournament press convention on the U.S. Open. She has defined her determination in one of the best ways she will be able to, however you may surmise she doesn’t wish to dwell on it an excessive amount of or reply the identical questions again and again.

As Williams mentioned herself, leaving aggressive tennis isn’t one thing she’s trying ahead to. However it’s one thing that is sensible within the bigger context of her life as a mom, an entrepreneur and a participant who’s dropping the battle with Father Time simply as 100% of her predecessors have.

It’s onerous to understand how for much longer Williams will stick round on this match. Positive, she may beat No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday and get to the weekend. It’s extra probably she’s reached the tip of the road. Williams will struggle to the tip, however she now appears extra sanguine and practical about what she will be able to do and the place she suits within the sport.

“It’s time for me to evolve,” she mentioned.

Not less than she acquired to have that second Monday, when all the sports activities world may have fun a victory with Williams and present appreciation with out the unhappiness that can ultimately come. However that’s an issue for an additional day. For now, a retirement ceremony with out an official retirement is nearly as good because it’s going to get.

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Serena Williams farewell tribute comes after opening-round US Open win