“After I lost the second set, I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, I got to give my best effort because this could be it,'” Williams instructed ESPN in an on-court, post-match interview.
Williams regarded higher than in earlier matches this 12 months, the place she was nonetheless making an attempt to shake the rust of an extended layoff.
In Kontaveit, nevertheless, Williams confronted a a lot sterner check and was undoubtedly the underdog on paper however definitely not with the total home at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
A boisterous however behaved crowd cheered her each level.
She referred to the lengthy layoff in her interview Wednesday however mentioned, “I love a challenge.”
Williams will subsequent face Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the third spherical. Tomljanovic, who was taking part in concurrently Williams on Wednesday, defeated Russian Evgeniya Rodina 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
And Williams shouldn’t be taking part in simply singles; she is going to open doubles play along with her sister Venus Williams on Thursday evening.
“I need more matches,” she instructed ESPN. “I love rising to the challenge. Yeah, I haven’t played many matches, but I’ve been practicing really well. In my last few matches, it just wasn’t coming together. I’m like, This isn’t me.”
Things have modified since she began taking part in on the Open, she mentioned.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. 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,” Williams mentioned in the Vogue article printed earlier this month.
“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,” she mentioned.
At her post-match information convention Monday, Williams was requested if that is positively her final event.
“Yeah, I’ve been pretty vague about it, right?” she mentioned with a smile. “I’m going to stay vague because you never know.”
The opening-round win over Kovinić was the very best Williams had regarded since making her comeback from harm. She has managed to win only one match since returning to the circuit in June and was unable to get near the shape that helped her win her final grand slam title in 2017.
But Kontaveit, who had mentioned she was excited to play in opposition to Williams, encountered a participant who confirmed no indicators of eager to hasten her retirement.
“I think she played really well,” mentioned the Estonian in the course of the post-match information convention. “I mean, I thought I didn’t play a bad match at all.”
After the gamers cut up the primary two units, Williams stepped up her play for the decider, Kontaveit mentioned.
“She really switched it on from there,” she mentioned. “There’s a few points here and there where I feel like I could have done better on my serve maybe. I mean, she was returning better. She was playing the rallies better. I felt like she did everything a little bit better in the third set.”
The passionate pro-Williams crowd was additionally a problem, Kontveit added.
“I mean, I think they were not rooting like against me. They just wanted Serena to win so bad,” the Estonian mentioned. “So, I mean, I don’t think it’s a personal attack against me or anything. I mean, it’s fair. I mean, she deserves this, yeah.”
Williams burst on the scene by successful her first US Open in 1999
One of the best tennis gamers ever, Williams has gained 23 grand slam singles titles and has gained the US Open six instances, most not too long ago in 2014. Now 40 years previous, Williams’ profession will come full circle as her ultimate match — in whichever spherical that seems to be — is to be performed on the website of the primary of her grand slam singles wins, the 1999 US Open.
Then simply a youngster, Williams burst onto the scene to stun world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the ultimate and lay the primary stepping stone on her path to twenty years of dominance.
After Kontaveit gained her first Tour-level title in 2017 her true breakout 12 months got here in 2021 as she gained 4 WTA tournaments to rise by means of the rankings.
An aggressive participant with a diverse recreation and highly effective forehand, Kontaveit broke into the world’s high 10 for the primary time in November 2021 and has been a mainstay since.
She sits at a career-high rating of No. 2 — the very best rating in historical past for an Estonian — and at age 26 was seeking to enhance on her finest exhibiting at a grand slam, a quarterfinal look on the 2020 Australian Open.
Kontaveit regarded spectacular in her opening-round US Open win over Jaqueline Cristian of Romania, dropping simply three video games, and mentioned after her win that she was “rooting” for Williams in her first-round match.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.