Serena Williams stuns world No. 2 Kontaveit to reach 3rd round of U.S. Open

Serena Williams eliminated No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 in the U.S. Open's second round Wednesday night to ensure that the 23-time Grand Slam champion will play at least one more singles match at what she's hinted will be the last tournament of her illustrious career.

Canada's Andreescu and Marino also advance, while Fernandez and Auger-Aliassime fall in 2nd round

American tennis star Serena Williams celebrates after an ace during her 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 victory over Estonia's Anett Kontaveit in the second round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday in Queens, New York City. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Serena Williams can call it "evolving" or "retiring" or whatever she wants. And she can be coy about whether or not this U.S. Open will actually mark the end of her playing days. Those 23 Grand Slam titles earned that right.

If she keeps playing like this, who knows how long this farewell will last?

No matter what happens once her trip to Flushing Meadows is over, here is what is important to know after Wednesday night: The 40-year-old Williams is still around, she's still capable of terrific tennis, she's still winning — and, like the adoring spectators whose roars filled Arthur Ashe Stadium again — she's ready for more.

Williams eliminated No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 in the U.S. Open's second round to ensure that she will play at least one more singles match at what she's hinted will be the last tournament of her illustrious career.

WATCH | Williams upsets Kontaveit at U.S. Open: 

Serena Williams postpones retirement with upset win over No. 2 seed Kontaveit

3 months ago
Duration 1:30
Playing in the final tournament of her legendary career, Serena Williams turned back the clock, defeating number two seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2 to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open.

"There's still a little left in me," Williams said with a smile during her on-court interview, then acknowledged during her post-match news conference: "These moments are clearly fleeting."

After beating 80th-ranked Danka Kovinic in straight sets Monday, then collecting her 23rd victory in her past 25 matches against someone ranked Nos. 1 or 2 against Kontaveit on Wednesday, the six-time champion at Flushing Meadows will play Friday for a spot in the fourth round.

Her opponent will be Ajla Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian who is ranked 46th. They've never met.

Williams hit serves at up to 119 mph, stayed with Kontaveit during lengthy exchanges of big swings from the baselines and conjured up some of her trademark brilliance when it was needed most.

After pulling out a tight first set, then faltering in the second, Williams headed to the locker room for a bathroom break before the third.

When they resumed, it was Williams who lifted her level and emerged as the better player.

"I'm just Serena. After I lost the second set, I thought, `Oh, my goodness, I better give my best effort because this could be it,"' Williams said, surely echoing the thoughts of every one of the people paying any attention.

"I'm super competitive. Honestly, I'm just looking at it as a bonus. I don't have anything to prove," she said, which certainly is true. "I never get to play like this — since '98, really. Literally, I've had an `X' on my back since '99," the year she claimed her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open at age 17.

'It had to come together today'

Whatever rust accumulated when Williams missed about a year of action before returning to the tour in late June at Wimbledon appears to have vanished. She lost in the first round at the All England Club to a player ranked outside the top 100 and was 1-3 in 2022 entering the U.S. Open.

"Now it's kind of coming together," Williams said. "I mean, it had to come together today."

Williams also has doubles to play, too. She and her sister, Venus, have won 14 major championships as a team and will begin that event Thursday night.

Kontaveit, a 26-year-old from Estonia, is a powerful hitter in her own right, the sort that spread across women's tennis over the past two decades after a pair of siblings from Compton, California, changed the game.

"I was growing up watching [Williams] play," Kontaveit said. "She was dominating women's tennis for so long."

There's a big caveat attached to Kontaveit's ranking status: She has never won so much as one quarter-final match at any Grand Slam tournament in 30 career appearances.

Williams' opponent was introduced just by her name, and Kontaveit walked out to a smattering of applause. Williams, in contrast, got the full treatment: highlight video, a listing of her many accolades and raucous roars from folks who contributed to the highest U.S. Open attendance ever at a night session, 29,959, eclipsing the record established when she played Monday.

"It was her moment," Kontaveit said. "Of course this is totally about her and I was very aware of that."

Serena Williams waves to fans after defeating Anett Kontaveit at the U.S. Open on Wednesday night in Queens, New York City. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

The match began with Kontaveit grabbing the first five points, Williams the next five. And on they went, back and forth. Kontaveit's mistakes were cheered — even faults, drawing an admonishment for the crowd from chair umpire Alison Hughes about making noise between serves.

Williams broke for a 5-4 edge when Kontaveit pushed a backhand long, spurring yelling spectators to rise to their feet — and Williams' husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, jumped right in, too, waving his arms in her direction, a few rows in front of where Venus and Tiger Woods were two seats apart.

But with a chance to serve out that set, Williams briefly lost her way. A missed forehand. A backhand long. A backhand into the net as she went down on one knee. A double-fault made it 5-all.

Eventually they went to a tiebreaker, and at 3-3, a chant of "Let's go, Serena!" broke out, accompanied by rhythmic clapping. Soon, Williams was delivering a 101 mph service winner and a 91 mph ace to seal that set. Just like old times`.

Kontaveit raced to a 3-0 edge in the second over the next 15 minutes on the strength of 10 winners and zero unforced errors.

In the third, it was Williams who gained the upper hand, and it seemed every point she won elicited an enthusiastic response. After a swinging forehand volley winner put Williams a game from victory, she raised both arms, then clenched her left fist.

One game, and five minutes later, it was over — and her stay at the U.S. Open could proceed.

Asked whether she considers herself a title contender, Williams answered: "I can not think that far. I'm having fun and I'm enjoying it."

Andreescu takes down Haddad Maia

Canada's Bianca Andreescu earned an impressive 6-2, 6-4 second-round win over 15th-seed Beatriz Haddad Maia later on Wednesday night at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., fired one ace and committed just one double fault to Haddad Maia's six, as well as 14 unforced errors to the Brazilian's 30 in the win.

WATCH | Andreescu advances to 3rd round: 

Bianca Andreescu advances to 3rd round at U.S. Open

3 months ago
Duration 2:11
Bianca Andreescu defeated Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open.

The 22-year-old Canadian also won three of her five break points, while defending all five of Haddad Maia's chances.

After cruising through the opening set, Andreescu found herself in a 3-2 hole in the second. After tying it up at 3-3 with a backhand winner, Andreescu won two of the next three games to take the lead.

Back-to-back backhand forced errors from Haddad Maia gave Andreescu a 40-30 lead in the final game, then match point to advance to the third round.

Andreescu will next face France's Caroline Garcia in a rematch of the Bad Homburg Open final on Friday.

Fernandez, Auger-Aliassime suffer upsets

Laval, Que., native Leylah Fernandez could not re-create her magic from a year ago as she fell 3-6, 6-7 (3) to Liudmila Samsonova in the second round.

Fernandez, who was a runner-up in the 2021 U.S. Open, had just three aces to Samsonova's 11 and had six double faults in the match.

After going down 3-1 in the first set, Fernandez won two of the next three games to build some momentum. However, Samsonova won the next two, closing the set behind multiple errors from the 14th seed.

The second set turned into a back and forth affair as Fernandez battled her way to a tiebreaker at 6-6, looking to force a third set.

After two Samsonova errors gave Fernandez a 2-0 lead, the Russian won seven of the next eight points to win the match.

WATCH | Canada's Fernandez falls to unranked Samsonova: 

2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez bounced in U.S. Open 2nd round

3 months ago
Duration 1:14
2021 runner-up Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., was defeated by Russian Ludmilla Samsonova 6-3, 7-6(3) in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

In men's action, Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime fell 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Britain's Jack Draper in the second round.

Auger-Aliassime, the sixth seed in the tournament, earned 13 aces to Draper's nine, but was unable to win on any of his three break point opportunities. Draper broke the Canadian on three of 10 chances.

The 22-year-old also had five double faults and 41 unforced errors in the match.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime upset by Draper: 

Felix Auger-Aliassime eliminated in straight sets at the U.S. Open

3 months ago
Duration 1:01
Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime lost in the second round 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Great Britain's Jack Draper at the U.S. Open.

Marino tops Snigur

Earlier Wednesday, Vancouver's Rebecca Marino advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over Ukraine's Daria Snigur.

Marino fired 13 aces in the match to Snigur's one, and won 74 per cent of first-serve points.

Marino took advantage of some spotty play from Snigur, who had 48 unforced errors, including one while facing match point.

The Canadian broke Snigur three times on eight chances, and saved five of the seven break points she faced.

WATCH | Canada's Marino topples Ukraine's Snigur in straight sets:

Rebecca Marino reaches the 3rd round of a Grand Slam for 1st time in over a decade

3 months ago
Duration 3:09
Vancouver's Rebecca Marino beat Daria Snigur of the Ukraine 6-3, 7-6(5) to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career. Marino's only other trip to the third round of a Grand Slam event was in 2011 at the French Open.

Marino advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam for the second time in her career, and the first time in over a decade. She advanced to the third round of the 2011 French Open.

Marino will next face China's Zhang Shuai.

In women's doubles action, the fifth-seeded pair of Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico made quick work of Peyton Stearns and Ashlyn Krueger with a 6-2, 6-1 first-round win.

Dabrowski and Olmos won 80 per cent of their first-serve points and broke the American duo on five of 11 opportunities.

No. 3 Sakkari ousted

Third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece was ousted 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 by Wang Xiyu of China in the second round.

Sakkari reached two Grand Slam semifinals last year but has had a difficult time backing up her success in 2022, acknowledging this week that she struggled to handle a higher profile that came with her rise to No. 3 in the rankings. She said some days she didn't enjoy tennis and didn't even want to get out of bed.

No. 12 Coco Gauff and 20th-seeded Madison Keys avoided the trouble, setting up a third-round matchup between the Americans. Gauff beat Elena Gabriela Ruse 6-2, 7-6 (4), while 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Keys outlasted Camili Giorgi 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (6).

No. 5 Ons Jabeur matched her best U.S. Open result with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Elizabeth Mandlik, the daughter of 1985 champion Hana Mandlikova. Jabeur lost in the third round in each of her last three trips to New York.

Defending men's champion Daniil Medvedev followed Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium and produced a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 win over Arthur Rinderknech of France. That sends the top-ranked Medvedev into a third-round matchup against Wu Yibing, the first Chinese man to win a U.S. Open match in the professional era, which began in 1968.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray rebounded quickly after dropping the first set to power past American Emilio Nava 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 and set up a third-round meeting with No. 13 seed Matteo Berrettini.

No. 23 Nick Kyrgios overcame France's Benjamin Bonzi and the smell of marijuana that bothered him inside Louis Armstrong Stadium. The Wimbledon runner-up already knows the challenge presented by the New York noise, but this time it was by its scent.

With files from The Canadian Press

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