On Monday night, Serena Williams was celebrated in a packed star-studded Arthur Ashe Stadium for her legendary career following her first round win at the US Open in New York. During her on-court interview and later in her press conference, Williams spoke about how difficult she has found it to step away from the sport.
But despite all of that, the 40-year-old American refused to confirm that the US Open would be her final tournament. In her essay for Vogue magazine where she announced her forthcoming retirement, Williams said she would evolve from the sport over the next few weeks.
Speaking to the press after her win, the American continued to remain vague when asked if this would definitively be her final tournament. While everyone has assumed that the US Open would be her swansong, her response in the press conference gave some sliver of hope to millions of her fans that may be she might play another tournament or two.
“Yeah, I’ve been pretty vague about it, right (smiling)? I’m going to stay vague because you never know.”
Williams looked rusty at times but much more solid than her performances in Toronto and Cincinnati on Monday as she defeated Danka Kovinic in straight sets and later said she still loves being out there and competing.
“I prefer the word ‘evolution’ because I feel like I’m at a stage of my life where I’m not necessarily retiring, I’m just evolving from tennis. And I do feel different. I think I was really emotional in Toronto and Cincinnati. It was very difficult. I’m not saying it’s not difficult now. It’s extremely difficult still because I absolutely love being out there. The more tournaments I play, I feel like the more I can belong out there. That’s a tough feeling to have, and to leave knowing the more you do it, the more you can shine. But it’s time for me, you know, to evolve to the next thing. I think it’s important because there’s so many other things that I want to do, et cetera.”
“I just feel like we’ve come too far together to just not have anything to do with it” – Serena Williams on being involved with tennis post-retirement
Williams also added that she will continue to remain involved in the sport, even as she focuses on her business through Serena Ventures, but does not know what shape or form that might come up in.
“I love the sport and I feel like the sport, it’s given me so much. It’s given me a platform that I never even thought I would have all because of tennis. I don’t see myself not a part of tennis. I don’t know how I’m going to be a part of tennis as of right now. I just don’t know how. But I just feel like we’ve come too far together to just not have anything to do with it.”
Williams was cheered wildly and loudly while she walked on to the court by the fans, who helped smash the all-time attendance record for a single day at the US Open. She described the reception as overwhelming, saying that it is something she would never forget.
“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, so I really — yeah, that meant a lot to me,” Williams said.
“I was just thinking, like, Is this for real? Really? At the same time I’m also thinking, I still have a match to play and I want to be able to play up to this reception almost. It was so loud. I just was overwhelmed in a good way. Yeah, but at the same time it’s like you have to be focused, you have to be laser focused. That’s what I needed to do and that’s what I tried to do.”
Whether this turns out to be her final tournament or not, Williams is sure to be greeted by another loud reception when she returns to the court for her second round match against second seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday.