Serena Williams Wins First Round Match at US Open After Shaky Start: 'I Want to Do My Best'

The 23-time Grand Slam champion has said that she plans to leave her pro tennis career behind after the US Open

She's not done yet.

Serena Williams, who last month announced she was "evolving away from tennis" dazzled a cheering sold out US Open crowd behind her every stroke as she defeated Montenegro's Danka Kovinic, 6-3, 6-3.

She will next face Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, the No. 2 seed, in the second round.

As Williams, in a shimmering black top with gold sparkles, stood at the net after her win, she twirled around and raised her left arm up to the sky with a big smile.

"When I step on the court I have to do the best I can," Williams, 40, said. "I feel so comfortable on this court in front of everyone here and I want to do my best."

US player Serena Williams reacts after winning 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. - Serena Williams was set to take center stage as the US Open got under way on August 29, 2022 with the 23-time Grand Slam winner preparing to bid an emotional farewell to tennis. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP) (Photo by COREY SIPKIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Serena Williams. COREY SIPKIN/AFP/Getty

The crowd, which included former president Bill Clinton, Queen Latifah, Spike Lee, Bella Hadid and other A-listers, was on its feet and cheering wildly as Gayle King came on the court after the match for a tribute to Williams.

US player Serena Williams hits a return 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) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Her daughter, Olympia, in a matching outfit and in the arms of Willams' husband, Alexis Ohanian, stood nearby.

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"I think Serena said, 'not today, not today,' " said King.

And after a shaky start, it was indeed not today that Williams, who turns 41 in a few weeks, would play the final singles match of a pro career that began almost 27 years ago.

Throughout the match, the crowd buoyed Williams along, through a shaky start and unforced errors.

"I love you Serena," shouted a man as Kovinic was about to serve. The crowd's pro-Serena energy seemed to shake the confidence of the unseeded Kovnic, who didn't win a single point in the final game.

After her win, Williams was asked to look towards her next match, but she wanted to soak in this victory.

"I'm just not even thinking about that. I'm just thinking about just this moment," she said. "I think it's good for me just to live in the moment now."

"At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 29: Serena Williams of the United States serves 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. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Serena Williams. Al Bello/Getty

On Wednesday, Williams is teaming up with sister Venus for their first-round doubles match.

King asked Williams how she decided to step away from the game — where she spent 319 weeks at number 1 in the world and won 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

"It's been a very hard decision," says Williams. "When you are passionate about something it is hard to walk away and I've been trying to decide what to do….but now's the time, I have a family, I call it an evolution."

Still, in her post-match press conference, the tennis star left room for a change of heart when she was asked if the US Open will definitely be her last tournament.

"I've been pretty vague about it, right?" she said with a smile. "I'm going to stay vague because you never know."

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Williams went on to say that this evolution will include time working on her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which invests in a variety of businesses. "And I wanted to spend more time at home and work on my spiritual life," she says. "That was really important to me."

NEW YORK, USA, August 29: Serena Williams's daughter Olympia and husband Alexis Ohanian take pictures and cheer as Serena Williams of the United States enters the arena for her match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro on Arthur Ash Stadium in the Women's Singles round one match during the US Open Tennis Championship 2022 at the USTA National Tennis Centre on August 29th 2022 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Alexis Ohanian and Olympia Ohanian. Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty

When King asked Williams, "What do you want people to think about when they hear your name?" the tennis champion said, "I want people to think how hard one tries."

"I've been down and out so many times in the public eye but you never give up, no matter what," she said. "I want people to be inspired by my story."

After she finishes her time at the US Open, Williams is most looking forward "to waking up, I don't have to run to the court and I want to be a mom to her [Olympia], she is such a good girl."

And feet away, Olympia was blowing big kisses to Serena.

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