Federer Retirement: Who’s Saying What

(FILES) This file combination of photo created on July 16, 2017 shows Switzerland’s Roger Federer holding up the Wimbledon Championships trophy after winning each of his eight men’s singles titles at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, in (top L-R) 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, (bottom L-R) 2007, 2009, 2012 and July 16, 2017. (Photo by – / AFP) 

 

 

Roger Federer’s decision to retire provoked an emotional reaction from current and former tennis players as well as stars in other sports.

AFP Sport looks at some of the tributes to the 20-time Grand Slam champion:

Old rivals and friends

“Dear Roger, my friend and rival, I wish this day would never have come. It’s been a pleasure but also an honour and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.”

— Rafael Nadal on Twitter.

“I LOVE YOU, Roger. Thank you for everything you’ve done in tennis and with myself. Tennis world will never be the same without you.”

– Juan Marin del Potro, who retired earlier this year.

“Cheers Roger. Thanks for the shared memories my friend. It was an honour to share time/experiences on the most hallowed grounds in our sport. Don’t be a stranger… Also, seems like a good time to start training for Wimby.”

– Andy Roddick, who lost to Federer in three finals at Wimbledon and one at the US Open.

“Absolute living legend. Thanks for all the countless memories.”

– John Isner.

The young(er) guns

“Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration! Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you! Wish you all the luck in the world for what comes next!”

– World number one Carlos Alcaraz.

“A role model for me and so many others!!… It’s been a privilege to share the court with you!!”

– Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

“Thank you for elevating the game in so many ways on and off the court. Thank you for all the advice you’ve given me over the years. Thank you for being the best role model for so many. Thank you for everything.”

– American prodigy Coco Gauff.

The greats

“I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest – perfectly done, just like your career. I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people – including me – and we will never forget. I applaud you and look forward to all that you do in the future. Welcome to the retirement club.”

– Serena Williams

“Roger Federer is a champion’s champion. He has the most complete game of his generation & captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court & a powerful tennis mind. He has had a historic career w/memories that will live on and on.”

– Billie Jean King

“What a heartfelt message, full of love, life, hope, passion and gratitude. Which is exactly how Roger played the game we love so much. Thank you thank you thank you, for all the magic!!!”

– Martina Navratilova

“Thank you for everything Roger. See you soon. Rocket.”

– Rod Laver

The coaches

“The end of a magnificent era.”

– Judy Murray

“Rafael would not have been as strong without Roger Federer. He always had to raise his level… I feel very sad to see a sports icon, one of the most important players in tennis, announce his retirement.”

– Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and former coach, speaking on French radio.

The organisation

“Legend of the game.”

– Roland Garros, where Federer won the 2009 title.

“Where do we begin? It’s been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word. We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you, for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”

– Wimbledon, where Federer is a men’s record eight-time champion.

“You changed the game, #RForever.”

– ATP Tour

“Roger Federer is a gentleman on and off the court –- and a true Olympic champion.”

– International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“Greatness defined. The end of an era.”

– The WTA Tour, alongside a photo of Federer embracing Serena Williams on court.

Other sports

“A genius, unique in tennis history and a role model for any sportsman. I wish you the best in your new stage, we will miss seeing you on the court.”

– Lionel Messi.

“What a career. We fell in love with your brand of tennis. Slowly, your tennis became a habit. And habits never retire, they become a part of us.”

– Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar.

“It’s been one of the great pleasures in life to watch you play.”

– Former England football striker Gary Lineker.

Serena Welcomes Federer To Retirement: ‘Always Looked Up To You’

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 1, 2019 Serena Williams of the US (L) and Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) take a selfie following their mixed doubles match on day four of the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth. – Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer is to retire after next week’s Laver Cup, he said on September 15, 2022. (Photo by TONY ASHBY / AFP) 

 

 

Serena Williams welcomed Roger Federer to the tennis “retirement club” on Thursday, saying she has always admired and looked up to the Swiss legend.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, said Thursday he would retire after playing next week in London at the Laver Cup.

Among those sending congratulations to the 41-year-old icon for his tremendous career was 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams, who said she was “evolving” away from tennis, with last week’s US Open expected to be her final tournament.

“I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest — perfectly done, just like your career,” Williams said in an Instagram post.

“I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people — including me — and we will never forget.”

Williams came as close as she has come to firmly saying her own career is complete by welcoming Federer into “the retirement club.”

“I applaud you and look forward to all that you do in the future,” Williams wrote. “Welcome to the retirement club. And thank you for being you @rogerfederer.”

Williams Looking Forward To ‘Different Serena’ After Open Exit

USA’s Serena Williams gestures to the audience after losing against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 2, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams said she is looking forward to a life beyond tennis after her dreams of a fairytale 24th Grand Slam victory at the US Open ended in defeat on Friday.

Williams, who turns 41 later this month, plans to “evolve” away from tennis following a US Open campaign that ended in the third round on Friday with a 7-5, 6-7 (4/7) 6-1 loss to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion said afterwards that while she was satisfied with her performances in New York, she was already eyeing her post-tennis life.

“It takes a lot of work to get here. Clearly I’m still capable,” Williams said. “It takes a lot more than that.

“I’m ready to, like, be a mom, explore a different version of Serena.

“Technically in the world I’m still super young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking.”

While Williams said she hopes to remain involved in tennis in some capacity, in the near-term she plans to spend more time with daughter Olympia, 5.

“It’s been really hard on her, my career,” she said. “So it will be nice just to do that and spend some time with her, do things that I never really have done or had an opportunity to do.”

Williams admitted however she was uncertain about what role tennis would play in her life.

“I’ve had so many amazing moments, that I don’t see a future without it,” she said. “What’s my involvement? I have no idea.”

Williams has stopped just short of definitively announcing her retirement, and once again deflected a question about whether there was any “wiggle room” in her apparent desire to hang up her racquet.

“I’m not thinking about that. I always did love Australia, though,” she quipped in a reference to next January’s Australian Open, a tournament she has won seven times.

Earlier, Williams had poured everything into one last stand in front of a ferociously partisan crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium during her three-hour battle with Tomljanovic.

After levelling the match in a marathon 1hr 23min second set, the veteran’s resistance was finally broken in the third set as Tomljanovic raced into a 5-1 lead.

Even then, Williams summoned every last drop of her fighting spirit in an attempt to stave off defeat, saving five match points in the seventh game before finally succumbing.

Afterwards, Williams saluted the crowd, welling up as Tina Turner’s anthem “Simply the Best” belted out around the stands.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Williams said. “It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on, I mean, in my life.

“I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s ever said, ‘Go, Serena,’ in their life. You got me here.”

Williams reserved special praise for her parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price who put her and elder sister Venus on the path to tennis superstardom.

“It all started with my parents,” Williams said. “They deserve everything.”

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 05, 2003 Serena Williams of the US holds the trophy after defeating Venus Williams of the US in their Ladies Final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, south London. – Serena Williams’ dreams of a fairytale finish to her glittering career were left in ruins on September 2, 2022, as the tennis icon was sent crashing out of the US Open by Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic. The 40-year-old Williams — who last month signalled she planned to retire after the Open — was beaten 7-5, 6-7 (4/7) 6-1 by Tomljanovic in a gruelling 3-hour 5-minute battle. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN / AFP)

 

– ‘Greatest of all time’ –
Of big sister Venus, she added: “I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus, so thank you, Venus. She’s the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed.”

Tomljanovic, 29, meanwhile expressed disappointment that Williams’ career had drawn to a close.

“I’m feeling really sorry just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do,” she told the crowd. “What she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible.

“I never thought I’d have a chance to play her in her last match when I remember watching her in all those finals, so this is a surreal moment for me.”

Tomljanovic said she had also never felt certain of victory.

“Even to the last point, I knew that she’s in a position to win even when she’s down 5-1,” she said. “That’s just who she is. She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”

US Open Dream Over As Serena Bows Out, Medvedev Through

USA’s Serena Williams gets emotional in a post match interview after losing against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 2, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams bowed out of the US Open and headed into retirement on Friday after a battling loss to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic while world number one Daniil Medvedev crushed the giant-killing dreams of Chinese youngster Wu Yibing with an emphatic victory.

On another night of searing emotion in the Billie Jean King Tennis Center’s main Arthur Ashe Stadium, 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams finally met her match in Tomljanovic, losing 7-5, 6-7 (4/7) 6-1 in an attritional slug-fest lasting more than three hours.

The defeat was almost certainly Williams’ last ever appearance in Grand Slam singles event, the final act of a 27-year professional career that saw the 40-year-old American become a sporting and cultural icon who many believe is the greatest women’s tennis player in history.

“It’s been a fun ride,” a clearly emotional Williams said in an on-court interview following her loss.

“It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on, I mean, in my life.

“I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s ever said, ‘Go, Serena,’ in their life. You got me here.”

Although Williams has not definitively announced her retirement, she said in a Vogue magazine essay last month that she would “evolve” away from tennis after the US Open.

Williams said Friday that she was excited by the prospect of her life after tennis.

“I’m ready to, like, be a mom, explore a different version of Serena,” she said.

“Technically in the world I’m still super young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking.”

Golf superstar Tiger Woods and former US first lady Michelle Obama were among a legion of admirers who paid tribute to Williams following her US Open exit.

“@serenawilliams you’re literally the greatest on and off the court,” tweeted Woods.

“Thank you for inspiring all of us to pursue our dreams.”

– ‘Amazing career’ –
Obama meanwhile saluted Williams’ rise from the gritty Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton to the pinnacle of her sport.

“Congrats on amazing career, @SerenaWilliams! How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time,” tweeted Obama.

In other matches, Tunisia’s fifth-seeded Ons Jabeur made it to the fourth round at the 10th attempt with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 31st seed Shelby Rogers.

“I know that I don’t play the best on hard courts, but it’s always amazing to see how I’m improving, how I’m pushing my limits,” Jabeur said.

Jabeur will face 18th seed Veronika Kudermetova in the last 16. The Russian blew past Hungary’s Dalma Galfi 6-2, 6-0.

US teenager Coco Gauff meanwhile reached the last 16 with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of compatriot Madison Keys.

In the men’s draw, defending champion Medvedev ended the run of China’s Wu to set-up a blockbuster last-16 clash against Nick Kyrgios.

Medvedev eased past world number 174 Wu, who came through qualifying, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Medvedev, who won his maiden Grand Slam title in New York last year, is delighted with his form as he approaches the business end of the tournament.

“If you ask me what I could improve, I don’t see many things,” he said. “Maybe a little bit less double-faults, but that’s if we’re trying to dig somewhere.

“If I continue this way, I have good opportunities to do something big.”

Wimbledon runner-up Kyrgios made the fourth round for the first time by seeing off America’s J.J. Wolf 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Kyrgios says he is relishing the opportunity of playing on the big stage against Medvedev.

“Win or lose, I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to be in the fourth round. I want to be there. I think that’s where every tennis player wants to be, playing the best players in the world in the best stadiums in the world, getting paid well. I’m looking forward to it.”

Serena Williams: From Mean Streets To Grand Slam Tennis Queen

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 05, 2003 Serena Williams of the US holds the trophy after defeating Venus Williams of the US in their Ladies Final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, south London. – Serena Williams’ dreams of a fairytale finish to her glittering career were left in ruins on September 2, 2022, as the tennis icon was sent crashing out of the US Open by Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.  (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams went from learning tennis on public courts in a notorious American gangland neighborhood to becoming a superstar for a generation and perhaps the greatest player in history.

Now, the 40-year-old legend is heading for retirement after almost certainly playing her last match, a three-set defeat to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open on Friday.

“I’m ready to be a mom and explore a different version of myself,” she said as she looked ahead to family time with daughter Olympia.

Serena became an African-American icon in a white-dominated sport, winning 23 Grand Slam titles and smashing aside milestones with a determination as powerful as the raw energy that defines her shotmaking magic.

Serena and sister Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, were executive producers on the movie “King Richard” that told the Hollywood fairytale of them being taught tennis by father Richard Williams while growing up on the tough streets of Compton, California.

“I am still just that girl with the racquet and a dream and I’m just playing for that,” Williams said after a 2013 US Open title.

She wound up living the dream as she won seven Australian Open titles, three French Opens, seven Wimbledon crowns and six US Opens to stand agonisngly just one shy of matching the all-time record for Slam singles titles set by Margaret Court.

Serena won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open at age 17 and in 2017 captured her 23rd and most recent major title at the Australian Open while pregnant with Olympia.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 28, 2021 Serena Williams (L) of the US and her husband Alexis Ohanian talk to their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr during the ‘A Day at the Drive’ exhibition tournament in Adelaide.  (Photo by Brenton Edwards / AFP)-

 

She gave birth to her daughter in September 2017 and spent six weeks bedridden after a pulmonary embolism, but battled back to make her return to competition five months later in Fed Cup doubles alongside Venus.

Williams, whose husband is Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, twice completed a “Serena Slam” by winning all four major titles in a row. She did it in 2002-2003 starting with the 2002 French Open and again in 2014-15 starting with the 2014 US Open.

 

Serena Williams of the US, playing with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, returns the ball to Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching during their women’s doubles quarter final tennis match on day four of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 22, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

She had a chance to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 but was upset by Italy’s Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals.

“I never really want to focus on the numbers,” Williams said. “I started playing tennis not to be the greatest but just because I had a racquet and a dream. Now people are saying I could be (the greatest), but for me, I’m just not there yet.

“People like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, they are just, to me, the ultimate icons in the history of women’s tennis.”

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Serena Williams of the United States serves the ball during her Women’s Singles first round match against Kristie Ahn of the United States on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

Williams brought a style and power to her game, at times her fashion designs distracting from her dazzling on-court efforts.

She won the most recent of her 73 career WTA titles in January 2020 at the Auckland Open, her only crown as a mother.

Four times Williams had a chance to equal Court’s all-time record but lost in the 2018 and 2019 finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

 

Serena Williams of the United States serves gets ready by her chair before her match against Johanna Konta of Great Britain during Day 2 of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at Spartan Tennis Complex on July 31, 2018 in San Jose, California. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP
EZRA SHAW / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

– Struggles and setbacks –
She battled through struggles as well. Serena’s half-sister, Yetunde Price, was fatally shot in 2003 at age 31 by a gang member in their hometown of Compton. She had been Serena’s personal assistant.

After Williams cut her foot at a German restaurant days following her 2010 Wimbledon triumph, she needed two surgeries and spent 20 weeks in a walking cast, a situation she blamed for causing blood clots in her lungs in 2011 that threatened her life. She missed three major events and was out for almost a year.

 

USA’s Serena Williams gestures to the audience after losing against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 2, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

“(Doctors) said I had clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that because you don’t recognize it,” Williams said in 2011.

“I couldn’t breathe, I honestly just thought I was out of shape. A couple more days and it would not have been good. It could have possibly been career-ending.

“Being at the top of your game, having to have something like that happen randomly was tough, and it really makes me appreciate things.”

Williams credited her success to the work by her father and stuck by him even after her parents split up.

“I wouldn’t have won a single title without him and without his backing,” said Williams. “He’s a great coach. He’s just so innovative.

“He built my game and my sister’s game. He gave us a good foundation. It was solid and it wasn’t weak, so we were always able to grow our game.”

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 08, 2002 US Serena Williams (L) and her sister and opponent Venus Williams hold Roland Garros trophies, in Paris, at the end of the Roland Garros French Open women’s final match.  (Photo by ANDRE DURAND / AFP)

 

Richard Williams would let other children taunt his daughters as they practiced.

“In order to be successful you must prepare for the unexpected — and I wanted to prepare for that,” he told CNN in 2015. “Criticism can bring the best out of you.”

Serena Williams Powers Into US Open Third Round

USA’s Serena Williams reacts after a point during her 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles second round match against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 31, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

Serena Williams roared into the third round of the US Open on Wednesday, overpowering second seed Anett Kontaveit with a battling performance to extend her Grand Slam singles career in dramatic fashion.

The 40-year-old tennis icon — who has signalled she plans to retire after the tournament — drew on all her reserves of resilience and sheer fighting spirit to take down Kontaveit with a 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-2 at an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Kontaveit appeared to have gained the upper hand over the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion after levelling the match at 1-1 with a dominant second set display.

But Williams showed her champion’s mentality to yank back momentum in the decider, breaking Kontaveit twice before closing out victory to leave a sell-out crowd featuring the likes of golf superstar Tiger Woods on its feet.

“You know this is what I do best,” a delighted Williams said after her win.

“I love a challenge and love rising to the challenge. I haven’t played many matches but I’ve been practicing really well and my last few matches it just wasn’t coming together…But the last couple of matches here in New York it’s really come together.”

READ ALSO: [Retirement] How Serena Williams Legacy Spans Present, Future

‘This could be It’ 

Williams admitted she had feared the worst after she was unable to respond as Kontaveit upped her game to take the second set.

“I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve got to give my best effort because this could be it,” Williams said. “I just wanted to keep trying and see what I could do and do my best.”

Williams, who won the first of her Grand Slam singles titles as a 17-year-old at the US Open in 1999, said she was now playing with no pressure with the finish line of her remarkable career in sight.

“I don’t have anything to prove, I don’t have anything to win. I have absolutely nothing to lose,” she said.

Williams will return to Arthur Ashe on Thursday to take part in the women’s doubles, where she will reunite with elder sister Venus for the first time since 2018.

Kontaveit meanwhile admitted she had been rattled by a ferociously partisan New York crowd.

“I expected it but it was really hard,” Kontaveit said. “I knew it was coming. It was something I’d never experienced before.”

Serena’s victory once again stole the show on day three of the tournament.

In other women’s draw action on Wednesday, China’s Wang Xiyu upset third seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, winning 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.

The 21-year-old had never been past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament before, but uncorked 35 winners while saving 12 of 17 break points to secure her win.

Wang, ranked 75th in the world, has happy memories of New York, having won the junior US Open title at the venue in 2018.

Elsewhere, Tunisia’s beaten Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur sailed into the last 32 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Elizabeth Mandlik of the United States.

The USA’s 12th-seeded Coco Gauff, meanwhile, advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) win over unseeded Romanian Elena Gabriela Ruse.

That win sets up an all-American showdown between Gauff and 20th seed Madison Keys, who needed three sets to edge past Italy’s Camila Giorgi, winning 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (10/6).

Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 runner-up, exited at the hands of Liudmila Samsonova 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

 Murray Advances 

In the men’s draw, defending champion and top seed Daniil Medvedev defeated France’s Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 to set up a David v Goliath third round meeting with Chinese qualifier Wu Yibing.

Wu became the first Chinese man in 63 years to win a singles match at a Grand Slam when he knocked 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili out of the tournament on Monday, and followed it up on Wednesday with an epic five-set win over fellow qualifier Nuno Borges of Portugal.

The 22-year-old Wu, ranked 174th in the world, prevailed 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

In other men’s matches, 2012 champion Andy Murray advanced to the third round for the first time in six years with a four-set win over American wildcard Emilio Nava.

The 35-year-old Scot prevailed 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 and is delighted at how his injury-prone body is holding up thus far.

“Physically this is the best I’ve felt in the last few years,” said Murray.

Murray will face world number 14 Matteo Berrettini in the next round. The Italian defeated France’s Hugo Grenier 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (9/7).

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios meanwhile delivered a typically volatile display in a four-set win over France’s Benjamin Bonzi on Louis Armstrong court.

Kyrgios appeared to aim a mouthful of spit in the general direction of his box and then dropped several F-bombs at his team during a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

He also complained to the umpire that he could smell marijuana smoke in the crowd.

AFP

Serena Williams ‘Staying Vague’ Over Retirement Plans

US player Serena Williams celebrates after defeating Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 29, 2022.  (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams said she is “staying vague” over her expected retirement from tennis after reaching the US Open second round on Monday.

“I have been pretty vague about it, right? I’m going to stay vague because you never know,” said the 40-year-old after beating Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam title winner, said earlier this month that she was “evolving away” from tennis and that “the countdown” was on for her retirement after 27 years as a professional.

Before Monday, the former world number one had won just one match on tour all year and seen her ranking slip to 605.

That kind of form prompted her to reveal that she was on the brink of retirement and hinting that this US Open would be her farewell.

However, the guessing game over her concrete plans for the future continued Monday with mixed messages delivered on court and then in her post-match news conference.

 

US player Serena Williams reacts after a point against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

“It was such a hard decision,” Williams told her on-court interviewer when asked about her original announcement revealed in a essay for Vogue magazine.

“I think when you are passionate about something it is always hard to walk away,” she said.

“I have been trying to decide what to do. I love this game.

She added: “I think now’s the time. I have a family and there’s other chapters in life. I call it evolution.”

“It’s like Serena 2.0. I will still be crazy, I’ll still be intense. I’ll still be around. But I look forward to waking up and not having to run onto a tennis court.”

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 29: A detail shot of Serena Williams of the United States shoe in her match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro during the Women’s Singles First Round on Day One of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Julian Finney/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JULIAN FINNEY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

On Monday, Williams, who arrived on court in a diamond-encrusted black dress and jacket that sparkled under the lights, overcame a nervy first game for a hold of serve.

The American star brought the crowd to their feet with a break for 2-0, chasing down a net cord to hit a winner.

Kovinic, the world number 80, has enjoyed a solid year at the Slams, reaching the third round of the Australian and French Opens.

The 27-year-old hit back with a break of her own and edged ahead for 3-2.

 

US player Serena Williams warms up ahead of her match against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

 

However, Williams buried the error count — she served up six double faults in the opener — levelled and then raced away with the next three games to take the first set.

Another break for 3-2 arrived in the second set on the back of crunching drives from the back of the court.

A love service game gave the American a 5-3 lead and a final break of the night gave her victory.

She celebrated with a little jig on the baseline and a broad smile, much to the delight of a crowd which included the likes of tennis legend Martina Navratilova, ex-world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and former US president Bill Clinton.

 

US player Serena Williams walks on the court before playing against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

The crowd held up cards to spell out “Serena, we love you”.

Next up for Williams is second round clash against No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia on Wednesday.

 

US player Serena Williams reacts during a tribute in her honor after defeating Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

 

Serena Williams Readies Farewell As US Open Begins

Serena Williams of the US practices on August 25, 2022 as she prepares for the 2022 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. AFP

 

Serena Williams will take center stage as the US Open gets underway on Monday with the 23-time Grand Slam winner preparing to bid an emotional farewell to tennis.

After announcing earlier this month that the countdown to her retirement had begun, Williams will step on the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows for what could be her final appearance in a Grand Slam singles event.

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The 40-year-old sporting and cultural icon won the first of her Grand Slam titles at the same venue in 1999, lifting the trophy as a fresh-faced 17-year-old.

In Monday’s sold-out night session, which starts at 7:00 pm (2300 GMT), Williams will face Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, the world number 80.

Whether Williams is able to extend her US Open campaign beyond that match remains to be seen.

In her last outing at the Cincinnati Masters earlier this month, Williams was thumped 6-4, 6-0 by Britain’s Emma Raducanu — who herself was knocked out of the Australian Open by Kovinic in January.

Win or lose on Monday, Williams won’t be departing the US Open stage immediately.

On Saturday, organisers confirmed that she and elder sister Venus Williams had been given a wild card into the women’s doubles tournament, which starts on Wednesday.

It is the first time the Williams sisters have played doubles since 2018, reuniting a partnership that has yielded 14 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals.

Whenever Serena Williams does leave the stage, she will do so after a career that has left a lasting legacy on her sport.

“I just think she’s the biggest thing that will ever be in the sport,” said Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Saturday.

“It’s just really an honour just to watch her play. She’s giving us a chance to watch her more.”

Nadal fitness concern 

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Poland’s world number one Iga Swiatek will look to claim her second Grand Slam title of 2022.

The French Open champion won six straight tournaments earlier this season but has struggled to recapture that dominance during the North American hardcourt swing, making early exits at both the Cincinnati Masters and Canadian Open.

Swiatek launches her US Open campaign on Tuesday against Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

In the men’s draw, Spanish great Rafael Nadal is chasing a fifth US Open crown and 23rd Grand Slam title in a draw that is missing Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic was barred from entry to the United States over his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19, putting him at odds with US government travel restrictions for overseas visitors.

With Djokovic out of the picture, Nadal’s biggest opponent over the next fortnight may well be his own injury-prone body.

The Spaniard has had to sit out the US Open four times in his career and there are once again fresh doubts over his physical ability to survive a gruelling two weeks at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal has played just once since an abdominal injury forced him to withdraw from his Wimbledon semi-final with Nick Kyrgios — a first-up loss to Borna Coric in Cincinnati.

Nadal admitted on Friday that he had been protecting his injury in Cincinnati but had been able to practice with intensity in the build-up to the US Open.

“I take it very easy in the Cincinnati, too, in the practices. The match, I try my best without putting all the effort there on the serve,” Nadal said.

“I hope to be ready for the action. That’s the only thing that I can say.”

Nadal begins his US Open campaign against Australia’s Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday.

AFP

Retirement: How Serena Williams Legacy Spans Present, Future

File photo of US player Serena Williams during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London.  GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Whether it’s in the powerful groundstrokes of players like Coco Gauff or the growing numbers of African-American youngsters surging into tennis camps across the United States each year, Serena Williams’ influence will be felt long after she hangs up her racquet.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion is expected to confirm her retirement at some point during the next US Open fortnight, ending a career that has straddled four decades and yielded a slew of records that may never be beaten.

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A sporting and cultural icon, Williams, 40, along with elder sister Venus, has played a transformative role in changing the face of tennis around the world.

“I think (Serena) as an athlete, not just as a tennis player, has been one of the most important athletes in the history of the sport,” was the verdict of Rafael Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam singles king.

Daniil Medvedev, the reigning US Open men’s singles champion, added: “In 100 years we’re still going to talk about Serena Williams.”

Martin Blackman, the United States Tennis Association’s general manager of player development, has witnessed first-hand the effect that the rise of the Williams sisters has had on the sport.

Blackman, a former tennis professional who is African-American, says Serena and Venus Williams will leave lasting legacies inside and outside of tennis, noting the sisters’ rise from the mean streets of south Los Angeles to the pinnacle of their sport.

“The first level of (Serena’s) legacy will be a woman along with her sister and their family who were able to come out of a tough situation growing up in Compton, not a lot of resources and play a sport that was still traditionally white and quite expensive, and that story of being able to make that journey to be a champion is the first one,” Blackman told AFP.

 Transcending tennis

Together, Blackman said, the Williams sisters have transcended tennis.

“I happen to be an African-American man. When I saw Serena and Venus come up and I saw them being confident and comfortable in their skin, that was something that showed me they were really grounded, really secure, really confident. That was a shock to the established tennis society,” Blackman said.

“African-American girls out there wearing braids, being themselves, unapologetically. I think at first there was some resistance. I think the commentating was a little bit different. For them to do that it sent a message to all diverse people -– regardless of whether black, Hispanic, gay, or lesbian –- that you can be successful being yourself.

“That you can be authentic and pave your way without compromising who you are. Over time, that’s probably the biggest cultural transformation that they have driven within the sport of tennis.”

Blackman said the Williams effect is reflected in the increasing numbers of African-American girls entering USTA tennis camps along with the increasing numbers of black players on the WTA Tour.

“Our numbers in terms of diverse youth have gone up consistently in the last two or three years,” Blackman said.

“We have a network of camps throughout the country and I have seen more and more African-American girls coming into the game through those camps, which means they are the best in the country.”

At the elite level, a record 12 African-American women played in the main draw of the US Open in 2020.

African-American tennis players have also increasingly graced Grand Slam finals.

Prior to the Williams sisters’ emergence, Zina Garrison was the only African-American woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era.

In the past five years, African-American players such as Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys have all played in Slam finals, while Japan’s Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian-American, has won four Grand Slams.

‘We followed her’

“If you look at everyone that’s our skin color, clearly we followed her,” Osaka said on Saturday. “I think I’m a product of what she’s done. I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, and her whole family.”

Gauff, the 18-year-old from Florida who reached the final of the French Open this year, said Serena Williams had been her role model on and off the court.

“Before Serena came along, there was not really an icon of the sport that looked like me,” Gauff said.

“So growing up I never thought that I was different because the number one player in the world was somebody who looked like me.

“Sometimes being a woman, a black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less. I feel like Serena taught me that, from watching her. She never settled for less.”

For Gauff, Williams’ dominance across different decades is enough to settle any debate about whether she ought to be regarded as the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time).

“For me, she’s always going to be considered the G.O.A.T,” Gauff said.

“She didn’t dominate one generation. She didn’t dominate for two generations. She dominated for three-plus generations.”

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, said Williams would be remembered as a champion for both female and male players.

“She’s set out a good path for all of the WTA players, even the ATP players, to reach their own goals, voice their thoughts, keep fighting for what they believe in,” Fernandez said.

“It’s a great way to leave the sport.”

AFP

Serena Williams Says ‘Countdown’ To Retirement Has Started

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 8, 2019 US player Serena Williams serves against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro during their women’s singles fourth round match on the seventh day of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London. (Photo by GLYN KIRK / AFP)

 

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion and iconic tennis superstar for a generation, said Tuesday that “the countdown has begun” to her retirement from the sport.

The 40-year-old American wrote a cover essay for Vogue magazine and an Instagram post in which she set the stage for “evolving away from tennis.”

“There comes a time in life when we have to decide to move in a different direction,” she said on Instagram. “That time is always hard when you love something so much. My goodness do I enjoy tennis.

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“But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just (as) exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”

After suffering a torn right hamstring at Wimbledon last year, Williams was sidelined until playing doubles at Eastbourne in June and made a return at Wimbledon as a wild card, losing in the first round.

On Monday, Williams competed in her first hardcourt match in 18 months, defeating Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz to reach the second round of the WTA hardcourt event in Toronto, a tuneup for the US Open.

It was her first singles victory since the 2021 French Open, 14 months ago.

Williams is set to play next week at Cincinnati and compete at the US Open, where she won her first Grand Slam title in 1999 at age 17.

“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” Williams wrote in Vogue. “I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.

“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try.”

Williams won the most recent of her 23 Slams at the 2017 Australian Open when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

‘Terrible at goodbyes’

She remains one shy of the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court, having dropped her past four Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019.

“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” Williams wrote in Vogue. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst.”

Williams has won seven Wimbledon and Australian Open titles, six US Opens and three French Open crowns.

She completed two “Serena Slam” sweeps of four consecutive majors, runs that began at the 2002 French Open and 2014 US Open and ended when she was upset in the 2015 US Open semi-finals by Italy’s Roberta Vinci while going for a calendar-year Slam.

She has evolved into business interests but also wants to have another child.

“A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family,” she said.

“But I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis.”

Williams gave birth to Olympia in 2017 but was bedridden for six weeks after suffering a pulmonary embolism and said she doesn’t want to be playing and pregnant again.

“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out,” Williams said.

That’s a line call only Williams can make.

“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give,” Williams said.

Williams said she feels like part of her legacy is that women athletes can feel freer to be themselves while competing with gestures and clothes and aggression.

“Over the years, I hope that people come to think of me as symbolizing something bigger than tennis,” she said.

AFP

‘Motivated’ Serena Brushes Off Retirement Talk Despite Wimbledon Defeat

US player Serena Williams reacts as she plays against France’s Harmony Tan during their women’s singles tennis match on the second day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 28, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

 

 

Serena Williams brushed off any talk of retirement on Tuesday by insisting she is “motivated” to play at the US Open later this year despite a shattering Wimbledon defeat.

“The US Open was the place where I won my first Slam, it’s super-special. There’s definitely a lot of motivation to get better and play at home,” the 40-year-old American said.

Williams was speaking after losing in her first singles match for a year when she went down 7-5, 1-6, 7/6 (10/7) to unseeded Harmony Tan, the world number 115, in the opening round of Wimbledon.

The 23-time major winner, who debuted at the All England Club in 1998, refused to speculate on whether or not she will be back at Wimbledon in 2023.

“I am just playing for right now. I see how I feel and go from there.

“Who knows where I will pop up.”

Williams walked onto Centre Court for the evening match and quickly looked rusty. She was broken in her first service game.

Williams, far below her imperious best and apparently lacking fitness, bounced back, breaking in the fourth game to level at 2-2, buoyed by a supportive crowd.

The pair swapped further breaks but Tan, ranked 115th, broke again in the 11th game and held her nerve to close out the set 7-5.

Williams broke after a mammoth second game of the second set and went on to level the match 6-1.

The American was first to break in the decider but Tan levelled at 3-3.

Williams broke again in the ninth game, throwing her arms into the air in jubilation but faltered as she served for the match.

She faced a match point on her own serve in the 12th game but saved it with a forehand volley, taking the contest into a third-set tie-break.

Williams stepped up a gear, winning the first four points as the match, under the Wimbledon roof, ticked past three hours.

But still her French opponent was not down and out, winning the next five points to edge ahead.

Williams, looking out of breath, could not find inspiration, netting when facing a second match point.

 

US player Serena Williams reacts as she speaks during a press conference after being defeated by France’s Harmony Tan during their women’s singles tennis match on the second day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 28, 2022. (Photo by Joe TOTH / various sources / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

 

– ‘I’m so emotional’ –
She finished with 61 winners but 54 unforced errors in the 3-hour, 11-minute evening match.

“I’m so emotional now,” said Tan. “She’s a superstar. When I was young, I was watching her so many times on the TV.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared. She’s such a legend. I thought if I can win one game, two games, that would be really good for me.”

Twelve months ago, Williams quit her Wimbledon first-round match in tears after suffering an injury and she had not played singles tennis since until Tuesday.

Doubts had been growing about whether the former world number one — who has slumped to 1,204th in the rankings after her period of inaction — would return to the sport.

But she warmed up by teaming up with Ons Jabeur in the doubles at Eastbourne last week.

Williams won the last of her seven Wimbledon singles titles six years ago but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.

The American, who was given a wildcard for this year’s tournament, remains stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles — agonisingly one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Serena Loses In Wimbledon Comeback As Nadal Digs Deep

US player Serena Williams returns the ball to France’s Harmony Tan during their women’s singles tennis match on the second day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 28, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

 

 

 

Serena Williams tasted bitter defeat on her return to singles tennis at Wimbledon on Tuesday as Rafael Nadal overcame a huge scare to progress to the second round.

Elsewhere on day two of the Championships, title contender Matteo Berrettini was forced to pull out with coronavirus while women’s top seed Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 36 matches.

Seven-time champion Williams went down to unseeded Harmony Tan of France 7-5, 1-6, 7/6 (10/7 in her first singles encounter since an injury forced her out of her first-round match at Wimbledon last year.

Williams, 40, won the last of her Wimbledon singles titles six years ago but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.

“I’m so emotional now,” said Tan. “She’s a superstar. When I was young, I was watching her so many times on the TV.

“For my first Wimbledon it’s wow — just wow.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared. She’s such a legend. I thought if I can win one game, two games, that would be really good for me.”

Williams was far below her imperious best on Tuesday, struggling from the start with her form and fitness.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, cheered by the crowd as she made her entrance, lost the first set but broke early in the second set and went on to level the match.

But she faltered while serving for the match and faded badly in the third-set tie-break after taking a 4-0 lead.

She finished with 61 winners but 54 unforced errors the 3-hour, 11-minute evening match.

Earlier, an off-key Nadal, already halfway to a calendar Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open, dug deep to beat Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

The two-time Wimbledon champion, who has not played at the tournament since 2019, thanked the crowd for their wholehearted support.

“It’s not a surface that we play very often, and especially in my case, for different reasons, the past three years I didn’t put any foot on a grass court, so it always takes a while,” said Nadal, 36.

“It was my first match and as I know, every day is a test and today was one of these important tests.”

The Spaniard appeared to be coasting to victory when he took a two-set lead but his Argentine opponent found a new level, winning the third set and going a break up early in the fourth.

But from 4-2 down the second seed found an extra gear, winning the next four games to seal the match in a little over three and a half hours, roared on by the Centre Court crowd.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anaesthetised but he has received treatment since then and was moving well on Tuesday.

Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took Nadal to five sets at the French Open, crashed out of the tournament at the hands of American Maxime Cressy.

The sixth seed lost 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (7/5), removing another potential obstacle in the path of Nadal, who next faces Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.

Men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard in four sets.

– Covid strikes –
The early action at the All England Club was overshadowed by the announcement from Berrettini — last year’s runner-up — that coronavirus had forced him out of the tournament.

“I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from @wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result,” the 26-year-old Italian wrote on Instagram.

Berrettini was widely regarded as one of the biggest threats to defending champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, having captured back-to-back grass-court titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s.

He is the second man to withdraw from Wimbledon with Covid in two days after 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic of Croatia also tested positive.

The Italian was a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal.

It is business as usual at the Grand Slam this year after the tournament was cancelled due to Covid in 2020 and last year was played in front of reduced crowds.

The All England Club said in a statement that protocols remained in place to minimise the risk of infection.

Poland’s world number one Swiatek, who has won her past six tournaments — coasted into the second round with a routine 6-0, 6-3 victory against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett.

There were also straightforward wins in the women’s draw for 2019 champion Simona Halep and fourth seed Paula Badosa.

Beaten French Open finalist Coco Gauff, the 11th seed, recovered from losing the first set against Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse to win 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.