The stars were out last night, and they weren’t only in the sky.
Serena Williams was clearly on cloud nine after she won her opening round match at the U.S. Open, the major tennis tournament where she’s won a whopping six times in her illustrious and trailblazing career. And a number of notable Black folks were on hand to witness Serena win straight sets (6-3, 6-3) over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro Monday night at the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City.
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After Williams announced earlier this month her intentions to retire from professional tennis, it became painfully apparent that the 2022 U.S. Open would not only be her last major tournament but it would also likely be the final time fans get to see her competing at the highest levels in a sport that she dominated for nearly three decades.
While Williams’ matches have always attracted A-listers no matter when and where she plays, Monday night took on a very different feeling as there was a bit of uncertainty whether she would win after having not competed in nearly a year’s time and not winning a major tournament since 2016. Williams will also celebrate her 41st birthday next month, bringing her to an age that is more than 10 years older than the average professional tennis player.
It was in that context that Serena was playing, amplifying the anticipation of possibly seeing the final match played by someone widely regarded as the GOAT (greatest of all time) in tennis regardless of gender.
And so it followed that everyone from the obligatory presence of Serena’s adorable little 4-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., to legendary boxing champion Mike Tyson, provided the necessary presence of Black people cheering on the very person responsible for helping to propel the browning of a sport that has for far too long — and wrongfully — been exclusively associated with whiteness.
MORE: What’s Next For Serena Williams? 5 Ways She Can Still Win After Tennis
And for those notable Black folks who couldn’t attend in person, a pair of virtual salutes particularly stood out as none other than LeBron James and Oprah Winfrey offered their own homages.
LeBron took to his Instagram Story and posted a photo of Serena when she was up an early break over Kovinic. The picture was accompanied by a simple word of encouragement: “TALK!”
Oprah, on the other hand, feted Serena with a surprise video tribute to the tennis icon’s career following the match.
Scroll down to see photos of the other notable Black folks who made sure not to miss Serena Williams’ final U.S. Open before she retires from the sport of tennis.
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Serena Williams’ Final U.S. Open: Notable Black Fans Turn Out To Bid The GOAT Farewell was originally published on newsone.com
1. Spike LeeSource:Getty
“I think of you as my little sister,” Lee said to Williams in a video posted on the U.S. Open’s Twitter. “Congratulations on all you’ve done. You’re definitely one of the GOATs. I want to give love to your parents and your siblings, because they’ve helped you, too. … Spreading love is the Brooklyn way.”
2. Isha PriceSource:Getty
Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., daughter of Serena Williams, Isha Price, Serena Williams’ sister, prior to Serena’s match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro during the Women’s Singles First Round on Day One of the 2022 U.S. Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
3. NYC Mayor Eric Adams and MLB star Francisco LindorSource:Getty
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (top C) and New York Mets Francisco Lindor (R) also attended.
4. Queen LatifahSource:Getty
5. Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.Source:Getty
6. Gayle KingSource:Getty
Gayle King interviewed Serena after the match.
Rapper Offset was seen sitting with model Bella Hadid as they both cheered on Serena.
8. New York City Mayor Eric AdamsSource:Getty
New York City mayor Eric Adams and his girlfriend Tracey Collins were in the house.
9. Anthony AndersonSource:Getty
“Black-ish” actor Anthony Anderson was there.
10. Mike Tyson and wifeSource:Getty
Mike Tyson and his wife Lakiha Spicer didn’t miss the event of the night.
11. Anika Noni RoseSource:Getty
Actress and singer Anika Noni Rose performed before Serena’s match.
12. Lori McNeilSource:Getty
Former professional tennis player Lori McNeil (left) was there.
13. Rock FoxSource:Getty
NBA champion Rick Fox was in attendance.
14. Gladys KnightSource:Getty
Legendary singer Gladys Knight was there looking proud of Serena.