Serena Williams staved off retirement for one more day, pulling out a win in the first round while clad in a starry, glittery tennis dress and custom kicks that she created with Nike as a tribute to playing under the lights of Flushing Meadows with the stars twinkling above her. A bunch of years ago, during one of the last seasons we covered Fashion Week, Jess and I had the semi-final night off, so we gambled that Serena Williams would make it — she did! — and treated ourselves to US Open tickets. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we shouldn’t pass up, and damn, having come through Covid, I don’t regret a single one of those impulses. While Serena played poorly and lost, the electricity she created in the building and on the court was incredible. I will never forget how much fun we had (nor the fact that Eliot Spitzer randomly was sitting behind us and absolutely understood that our selfie was an attempt to document this weird turn of events). I’m really going to miss seeing Serena play, and the impact that her mere presence has on everyone around her.
ESPN treated her first-round match like a goodbye, probably presuming she’d win and therefore not sob her way through the fanfare, and thereby leaving room for her to exit quietly amid her feelings whenever she does finally lose. That probably is the right call. Obviously, I do not understand the mindset of the elite athlete, so take this with every grain of salt you can get out of your shaker, but: As I sat through all the hoo-ha, it reminded me an awful lot of the ways NBC anoints Olympic heroes before the games even begin and how that seems to compound the competitors’ anxiety. Hopefully Serena enjoyed all of it for what it was, and now everyone can sit down and relax and let HER relax. There are probably a hundred little things she’d like to absorb at her last tennis Major, and having to sit through ten more montages cannot be on her list.
Note: We will be doing other US Open outfits, too, most likely tomorrow! (I’m still waiting on some pictures from Day 2.) But this one just felt like it deserved its own moment.