Once again, tonight is not the night for Serena Williams' farewell.
After eliminating World No. 80 Danka Kovinic in Monday's opening round, Williams faced a much sterner test on Wednesday against No. 2 Anett Kontaveit in what's expected to be her final US Open and professional tournament. The 23-time Grand Slam champion aced it.
Williams ground out a first-set tiebreak win, was thoroughly beaten in the second, then held on in the third for a 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-2 victory over the world's second-ranked player. If Monday was a celebration of Serena, Wednesday marked the moment a US Open swan-song run felt possible.
The first set was a taut contest, with neither player relinquishing a break through the first eight games. Williams struck first in the ninth to take a 5-4 lead with a chance to serve for the set. But Kontaveit struck back to force a tiebreak. Williams then did what she does best, scoring consecutive aces with a 5-4 lead to secure the 7-4 tiebreak and the set.
Kontaveit would not be fazed. She broke Williams to open the second set, held her first serve, then broke Williams again to take a 3-0 lead en route to a runaway win in the second set.
But Williams struck first with a break and a hold to take a 2-0 lead in the decisive set. The players then traded breaks as Williams took a 3-1 lead. She never relinquished her advantage from there as she secured the 6-2 win in the final set.
Up next, she faces a third-round match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic, the world's 46th-ranked player. First, she'll play a doubles match with her sister Venus on Thursday against the against the Czech Republic's Linda Noskova and Lucie Hradecka.
That's it. She didn't have to do it on her serve. Serena Williams took a 40-0 lead on Anett Kontaveit's serve to face triple match point with a berth in the US Open's third round at stake. She needed just one as Kontaveit couldn't catch up to her return.
With the game, Serena secured a 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-2 victory over the world's No. 2 player to advance to the third round and keep her final US Open alive.
Arthur Ashe Stadium is rocking. Kontaveit forced a break point in the third set's seventh game, but Williams held strong and won a dramatic rally to secure the game and a 5-2 lead. She's a game away from beating the world's second-ranked player and advancing to the US Open third round.
Kontaveit stays afloat with a quick game. Serena is serving in the third set with a 4-2 lead.
There was no blown 40-0 lead this time. Williams blanked Kontaveit in the fifth game en route to a 4-1 lead in the third set. She's in control of the match with her US Open career on the line.
Another break. Williams is back in control with a 3-1 lead after breaking Kontaveit for a second time in the third set. The players have now traded three-straight breaks.
Kontaveit broke Serena's second serve of the set as Williams relinquished a 40-0 lead for the second time in the match. She rallied from the deficit to force two break points and converted on the second to cut her deficit to 2-1. She'll serve to tie match's decisive third set.
What a grind of a game from both players. Williams forced three break points and converted on her third to take a 2-0 lead up a break in the decisive set.
The crowd's really into it, a little too much. The chair umpire is scolding them as they cheer between Kontaveit's serves. Meanwhile, Serena had to call them off from booing a close call when a Kontaveit return landed in by a milimeter on break point.
Serena's off to a good start. She allowed a single point to Kontaveit en route to a first-game win in the third set.
Serena's back from a break to serve first in the third set. Will she grind out a win, or is this the last singles set of her illustrious career?
Kontaveit cruises, secures the decisive game of the second set with an ace to win, 6-2. We're headed to a third set with a trip to the third round and Serena Williams' final US Open at stake.