Tiger Woods: Serena Williams salutes golfer’s influence as she continues her run at the US Open

Serena Williams reached the third round of the US Open in what may be the last singles tournament of her career, beating second-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit 7-6 2-6 6-2 on Wednesday night.

Williams was spurred on and cheered on at every point by the crammed home fans. This included Woods watching the drama with partner Erica Herman from the Williams player box.

“It was a privilege to see greatness. Congratulations @serenawilliams,” the 15-time Major Champion tweeted After the game.

Williams later paid tribute to Woods and his influence on the later stages of her tennis career.

“He’s one of the reasons I’m here, one of the main reasons I’m still playing,” she told reporters. “We’ve talked a lot. He really tried to motivate me. There’s a few people, but we were like, ‘OK, we can do this together, you know?'”

Woods wasn’t the only great athlete to speak words of encouragement. “Not done yet @serenawilliams,” tweeted Stephen Currywhile other NBA star ChrisPaul said he’s “never seen anything quite like Serena Williams … I’m a fan and I’m enjoying every minute.”
After announcing last month that she would be “evolving away from tennis” after this year’s US Open, Williams’ departure from tennis has clearly captured the imagination of the entire sporting world and beyond.
“Thank you @SerenaWilliams for inspiring people around the world with your talent, grace and determination on and off the pitch.” tweeted Vice President Kamala Harris. “We celebrate all you were, all you are and all that is to come.”

Williams, who is fighting for her 24th Grand Slam singles title, meets Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in her first third-round match at a Grand Slam since last year’s French Open on Friday.

And despite being away from the game for the last 12 months, the 40-year-old showed on Wednesday that she still has what it takes to beat the world’s top players. According to ESPN, Williams has now won 23 of their last 25 games against players ranked in the top two – a streak dating back to 2007.

Look of the week: Serena Williams' dazzling US Open outfit

“I’m playing pretty well,” she said. “I trained really well, but the games didn’t work out.

“But you know, now it’s kind of coming together, I guess. I mean, I had to get it together today. It’s worked out.”

Asked after the match if she could win the tournament, Williams said she “can’t think that far.” It would be her first Grand Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open and would tie her to Margaret Court’s all-time singles record.

The boisterous crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium have shown they’re ready to push Williams in that direction over the course of their first two games – an added challenge for whoever faces her.

29,402 fans attended Monday’s opening game of Williams against Danka Kovinić – a record for an evening session at the main US Open venue.

Williams had vocal support from the crowds at this year's US Open.

“You can expect something, I saw it from the previous game,” Kontaveit told reporters about the partisan atmosphere. “But when you’re on the court, I mean, it was hard … It was something I’ve never experienced before.”

It is still unclear whether this will be the last tournament in Williams’ career.

She also competes in doubles with her sister Venus, and on Thursday they play their opening game against Czech pairing Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká.

With another full audience expected, Williams is partly enjoying the opportunity to play in New York again and partly contemplating the task at hand.

“I think those moments are clearly fleeting,” she said. “For me, it’s really about having a little embrace (of the occasion), but also understanding that I’m here to focus and do my best this time.”