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Serena Williams Takes The Court For The First Match Of Her Last US Open

Serena Williams wears a visor and holds a racket and ball in preparation for serving
Serena Williams practices before the start of the U.S. Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 25 in New York City.
(Elsa
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Serena Williams takes the court Monday night for her first match of what's anticipated to be her last U.S. Open.

Williams will face Danka Kovinic at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows in New York City — the site of Williams' first U.S. Open win in 1999, when she was 17.

Earlier this month, Williams, now 40, announced her plans to retire from tennis, after a decades-long career in which she dominated and transformed the women's game and that includes 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

"With her powerful serve and return of serve and athleticism, she really set that standard in the women's game," NPR's Tom Goldman toldMorning Edition.

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"Her story of the early years in Compton, California, with sister Venus, under the tutelage of their dad, 'King Richard,' now of movie fame, that all became part of her legend and paved the way for more young people of color to pursue what had traditionally been a white sport," Goldman said. "And she brought more people of color into the stands to watch as well."

As she prepared to take the court Monday, Williams received tributes from fellow athletes and fans, including a spot on the cover ofTimemagazine.

Williams has won six U.S. Open singles championships, the last in 2014. On paper, she is the overwhelming favorite on Monday night, with a 20-0 record in U.S. Open first-round matches — without dropping a set since 2001, according to the U.S. Open.

But Williams is currently ranked 605th for singles, returning to play only recently after battling injuries. Her opponent, 27-year-old Kovinic of Montenegro, is ranked 80th.

Williams has only played four matches this year, and only won one, sports commentator Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media toldWeekend Edition.

"She really is, probably for the first time in her life, an underdog" to win the U.S. Open, Bryant said. "But boy, what a magical fairy tale story if she can come to New York and pull off some magic."

After she retires from tennis, Williams will continue her pioneering ways and focus on developing a venture capital firm she formed eight years ago.

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