TOPSHOT - US player Serena Williams (R) greets former US tennis player Billie Jean King during a tribute after Williams' 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. - 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)

Serena Williams was a little surprised herself by the farewell ceremony in her honor – because she hadn’t lost at all. “Thanks, I didn’t expect that,” said the tennis star. The organizers of the US Open had planned a big show after the supposedly last single game in the glorious career of the 23-time Grand Slam winner – and went through with it despite the protagonist’s victory.

“Just come back and support me as long as I’m here,” said the longtime world number one into the stadium microphone, addressing the fans. In their farewell tournament on Wednesday, Williams will meet number two seeded Anett Kontaveit from Estonia in the second round – a very difficult task.

Williams initially looked at the lack of match practice against Kovinic. At first, the first serve hardly came, the feeling for the right timing and the hardness of the shot was rarely right. But the longer the game lasted, the safer Williams became. The reward: the 21st victory in their 21st opening game of the US Open – and at least one more appearance on the big tennis stage. This should also be celebrated again. Williams wore a black glitter outfit against Kovinic. According to media reports, the dress, headband and shoes were set with 400 small diamonds. The guest list for the highlight game was full of A-listers: Hugh Jackman, Mike Tyson, Lindsey Vonn, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, Bill Clinton and many more. There were also almost 24,000 fans who had paid horrendous prices for a ticket on the black market.

At the hard court tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where she won her first Grand Slam title in 1999 at the age of 17, Williams still competes in doubles with her sister Venus. Williams announced her retirement as a competitive athlete three weeks ago – for them in style in the fashion magazine “Vogue”. At the thought of it she feels “great pain. It’s the hardest thing I could ever imagine,” the American, who will soon be 41, explained.

Williams is considered by many to be the greatest tennis player in history, although she may be just short of Margaret Court’s all-time record. The Australian has 24 individual triumphs in the four most important tournaments.