Serena Williams retired after beating world number two on hold

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NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (Reuters) – Playing more like a world No. 1 than a player outside the top 600, Serena Williams turned back the clock on Wednesday to defeat world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4) 2 -6 6 to stun -2 and advances to the third round of the US Open, putting her retirement plans on hold.

Defeat was always hard to swallow for the hard-fought Williams, and the 40-year-old American’s relentless will to win was demonstrated throughout a gripping two-hour, 27-minute contest of unexpectedly high quality, breathless intensity and drama.

Williams had signaled her intention to retire earlier this month and said she was “moving away from tennis” but has never confirmed the US Open as her final event.

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Any goodbyes have now been put on hold as Williams is back on center court for a doubles match with older sister Venus on Thursday, followed by a third-round clash with Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic who went 1-6, 6-2 , 7: 5 against Russia won Yevgenia Rodina.

“I’m a pretty good player,” Williams said with a mischievous grin when asked how she put down the world number two. “It’s what I do best – I love a challenge, I love taking on a challenge.”

“It’s really come together the last few games here in New York.

“I’m super competitive – to be honest I just see that as a bonus.

“I have absolutely nothing to prove.”

With 23 Grand Slam titles and widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, Williams really has done it all on the tennis court.

But after two wins and now safely in the third round, the once unthinkable dream of a Hollywood end to Williams’ career could be on the horizon, retiring with an elusive 24th Major that would put her level with Margaret Court at the top the eternal list.

After being world number one for 319 weeks, Williams arrived in New York ranked under 600, unseeded and with just a single match win from three events that led to the final Grand Slam of the season.

It had been over a year – at the 2021 French Open – since Williams had last had back-to-back victories. She faced a formidable challenge with 26-year-old Kontaveit, a player whose game was engineered for the hard court and who won five of her six career titles on the surface.

With none of the pre-game celebrations that preceded their first-round game to distract them, Williams entered the pitch game-faced and delivered a performance that had a packed Arthur Ash Stadium on its feet.

Williams claimed the first break to take a 5-4 lead but failed to serve for the set and Kontaveit broke back to ensure a tiebreak.

The tie-break was of no less quality, Williams won it 7-4 in classic fashion with a thundering ace.

But the Estonian was undeterred by either Williams or a seething crowd, claiming two early breaks in the second set to take a 3-0 lead and easily win the set.

The third got off to a rocky start with three breaks in the first four games, but two of those went to Williams. She went 4:1 in front and didn’t give up.

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Reporting by Steve Keating in New York, additional reporting by Amy Tennery and Rory Carroll, editing by Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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