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



CNN

It was a performance Tiger Woods held up and raised his fist, a spectacle usually seen on the 18th hole of a golf course, rather than in the stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Serena Williams advanced to round three of the US Open in what could be the last singles tournament of her career, beating second-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit 7-6 2-6 6-2 Wednesday night.

Williams was cheered and cheered on every point by the packed home crowd. This included Woods, who watched the drama unfold with his partner Erica Herman from Williams’ player’s box.

“It was a privilege to watch the greatness. Congratulations @serenawilliams, ”the 15-time senior champion tweeted after the match.

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

“It’s one of the reasons I’m here, one of the main reasons I’m still playing,” he told reporters. “We talked a lot. She was really trying to motivate me. There are some people, but we were like, ‘OK, we can do this together, you know?’ ”

Woods wasn’t the only great sportsman to offer words of encouragement. “Not done yet @serenawilliams”, he tweeted Stephen Currywhile he’s an NBA star Chris Paolo he said that “he has never seen anything like what Serena Williams is doing … I’m a fan and I enjoy every minute”.

Eye of the Tiger ... Woods offered Williams advice later in her career.

Having announced last month that he will “evolve away from tennis” following this year’s US Open, Williams’ departure from tennis has clearly captured the imagination of the sports world at large and beyond.

“Thank you @SerenaWilliams for inspiring people around the world with your talent, grace and determination both on and off the pitch”, tweeted Vice President Kamala Harris. “We celebrate all that you have been, all that you are and all that is to come.”

Williams, who are looking to win her 24th Grand Slam singles title, will face Australian Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday in what will be her first third-round match in a Grand Slam since last year’s French Open.

And despite the time spent away from the game for the past 12 months, the 40-year-old proved on Wednesday that she still has what it takes to beat the best players in the world. According to ESPN, Williams have won 23 of their last 25 games against players ranked in the top two, a streak that dates back to 2007.

“I’m playing pretty well,” he said. “I trained very well, but he didn’t combine in matches.

“But, you know, it’s kind of like getting together now, I guess. I mean, I had to put it together today. It worked”.

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

The rowdy crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium has shown that they are ready to lead Williams in that direction during their first two games, an extra challenge for anyone who faces them.

In Williams’ opening match against Danka Kovinić on Monday, 29,402 fans were in attendance, a record for an evening session on the pitch of the main show of the US Open.

Williams had raucous support from the crowd at this year's US Open.

“You can expect something, I saw it from the previous match,” Kontaveit told reporters about the partisan atmosphere. “But when you are on the pitch, I mean, it was difficult … It was something I had never experienced before.”

It is unclear if this will be the final tournament of Williams’ career.

He is also competing in the doubles competition alongside his sister Venus and will play the opening match against Czech duo Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká on Thursday.

With another packed crowd expected, Williams is partly relishing the opportunity to play New York once again and partly thinking about the task ahead.

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