It could have been the final match in arguably the greatest career in sports — and the crowd was ready.
After her Round 1 match against Danka Kovinic at the U.S Open, with her husband, daughter and the legendary Billie Jean King standing alongside her at center court and Hugh Jackman, Anna Wintour, Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Lindsey Vonn, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Anthony Anderson, Spike Lee and Martina Navratilova in the crowd, Gayle King interviewed a beaming Serena Williams after her straight-sets Round One win.
King then announced that the crowd had a surprise for the 23-time grand-slam singles title winner.
“Before you go, we have one more surprise for you,” said King before prompting the packed crowd at center court for the big reveal. At her sign, the 24,000 fans in the stands raised colored cards in unison, most of which were blue. Those that weren’t spelled out in big, white letters across each side of Arthur Ashe stadium: “We Love Serena.”
Williams, who was decked out in a bedazzled dress with crystals in her hair, responded with a big smile and a happy twirl.
You can watch the moment below.
The whole ceremony was obviously in case Williams, who has spoken of retirement, lost and the match marked her final time at centre court. The greatest of all time entered the arena wearing a black, glittery cape to a standing ovation.
Serena Williams makes her grand entrance for the last tennis tournament of her professional career.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) August 29, 2022
But Williams will be back on Wednesday to face either Jaqueline Adina Cristian or the number 2 seeded Anett Kontaveit.