Serena Williams Advances to Third Round in U.S. Open, Betting Odds Shorten
To watch Serena Williams in 2022 was going to require a different sort of context. She’s less than a month away from turning 41, she fell to No. 605 in the world rankings and she just won one of the four matches in her latest comeback.
This U.S. Open was set up to be more of a celebratory swan song than any sort of legitimate run at grand slam title No. 24.
And yet, there was Williams on Thursday night, firing in aces and dominating baseline rallies with her signature power and doing it against the No. 2-ranked player in the world.
Her mobility might not be where it once was and the speed of her serves and forehands is not what it used to be. Still, it was a vintage Williams performance because she did what she always does: win.
Michael Jordan scored 51 points for the Washington Wizards at 38 years old; Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters; Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game.
The great ones, even in the twilight of their careers, always manage to give us one final signature performance. A reminder of their greatness, their unique abilities and the competitive drive that ignites them to compete even when their skills are diminished.
Thursday’s second-round win over Annett Kontaveit (7-6, 2-6,6-2) was Williams’ reminder to the world why she is referred to as the G.O.A.T.
“I feel like everything is a bonus,” Williams said after the match. “It’s that weird mixture of embracing and staying focused. I’m just trying to figure out what percentage I want to be. I feel like I’ve had a big red X on me since I won the U.S. Open in 1999. I won my first grand slam early in my career, but here it’s different. I feel like I already won, figuratively and mentally. It’s just pretty awesome the things I’ve done, and I never accept that and never think about it, so tonight I was just thinking I already won, just play, be Serena, you’re better than this and that’s what I was able to do.”
Williams fired in 11 aces, including one in the first set tiebreak to secure the set. Kontaveit bounced back in the second to break Williams’ twice for a 3-0 lead before winning the second 6-2.
Then, Williams took a bathroom break to regroup. When asked during the press conference what she did to refocus between sets, she replied, “she got lighter,” but then reiterated it wasn’t “No. 2.”
Williams managed to break Kontaveit’s first two serves in the third to take control of the set. She recorded 12 winners in the set, including a backhand return that secured her place in the third round and cashed those +205 moneyline tickets for those who decided to back her against Kontaveit.
With not playing as often, longer matches should test Williams’ endurance. But her form managed to increase the longer the match went. The third set was the only one where Williams didn’t have more unforced errors than winners.
"She was hitting it a little bit harder, missing a little bit less,” Kontaveit said of Williams. “She played a very good third set, I thought.
"She really switched it on from there, yeah. I mean, I guess 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."
Serena Williams Future Odds at the U.S. Open
Williams entered the U.S. Open at +5000 to win the tournament. The long odds can be attributed to her poor form entering the event.
At Wimbledon, she had the chance to serve for the match against Harmony Tan but was broken and lost the 10-point tiebreak. She beat Nuria Parrizas-Diaz in Toronto but failed to take a set from either Belinda Bencic or Emma Radacanu.
“I’m just pleased I showed up because the last few tournaments I didn’t show up,” Williams said. “I’ve been practicing really well, but it hasn’t been coming together in matches. Now, it’s coming together.”
Williams has now moved to +1600 to win the U.S. Open at FanDuel Sportsbook. She now faces Aja Tomljanovic in the third round. Williams is a -146 favorite at FanDuel and isn’t giving much thought right now to winning the tournament.
“I can’t think that far,” she said. “I’m having fun and enjoying it. Honestly, I’ve had so many tough matches that just being prepared for every one that I play will be very difficult.”
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