US Open: Serena Williams says 'crazy' Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd willed her to extend farewell campaign

·2-min read

Serena Williams says the "crazy" crowd support she received in Monday's US Open first-round clash with Danka Kovinic helped will her over the line for a hard-fought victory.

The 40-year-old, who will end her decorated playing career after this year's US Open, triumphed in one hour and 39 minutes with a 6-3 6-3 win amid raucous scenes at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was a star-studded turnout at the stadium to watch what could have been Williams' last singles' match, but the six-time US Open winner proved too good, extending her farewell campaign.

Despite staying alive in the tournament, Williams was honoured with a lengthy post-match ceremony including addresses from Oprah Winfrey and Billie Jean King and an extended interview with Gayle King, followed by a pre-organised crowd display where letters on cards showed the words "We Love Serena".

The 23-time Grand Slam champion appeared nervy early on, including two double faults in the first game, and letting a 2-0 lead slip to trail by a break at 2-3 in the first set.

Williams won the next four games to clinch the opening frame and was decisive in the second set.

"The crowd was crazy," Williams said. "It really helped pull me through… I was really calm. Yes, I got this."

The triumph marked the first step on Williams' farewell tour at the US Open, although she has a sterner test next in the second round against second seed Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday, which will likely attract another wild crowd.

"Just keep coming out and supporting me as long as I'm here, and know that I love you so much and I'm so excited to be here," Williams said.

Williams was asked about her decision to move on from playing tennis, which she described as her "evolution" rather than retirement in an essay in Vogue.

"It's been a very hard decision," she said.

"I think when you're passionate about something and you love something so much, it's always hard to walk away.

"Sometimes I think it's harder to walk away than to not. That's been the case for me. I've been trying to decide for a little while what to do.

"I think now's the time. I just have a family. There's other chapters in life. I call it evolution."