Aretha Franklin, who treated the sold-out U.S. Open crowd with a stirring rendition of her hit, “Respect” during the Althea Gibson tribute Monday, said she was delighted to be a part of the historical celebration… “What a night,’’ the queen of soul noted during a press conference afterwards. “It was wonderful, tremendous.”

Franklin said her interest in tennis is as dated as her early hits.
“I’ve always loved tennis,” she said. “I go all the way back to Rosie Casals, Chrissie Evert, the backhand, that treacherous backhand that she had. Ilie Nastase, Billie Jean, Evonne Goolagong. I loved to play. I tried to play, yeah.”

Her current favorites?
“Of course, the Williams sisters,” she said. “I like Justine (Henin). There’s another girl, Lindsay Davenport. I like her a lot. She perseveres to the very end.”

Franklin said USTA officials requested the song, which got the reaction she had hoped for.
“I really wanted to see this stadium get up and rock and they did,” she said. “So that was fabulous for me.”
She says she enjoys reaching people throughout the world with any song that’s recognized wherever she goes.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Franklin said. “It’s kind of like the song, ‘You like to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name.’ Everybody knows ‘Respect’ and that’s great. They sing along with me and I like that.”
Her reaction to the out-fits the Williams sisters wear on the court?

“Very daring, very daring, but they’re young,” she said. “(And) young people start new trends. I wish I was in that shape that Serena is. You know, the little body suit, all of that. One of my sons said, ‘Mom, you know, I like her shape. Her shape is okay.’ All right, I know what you’re saying (laughter).”