Follow the live broadcast as Serena Williams plays Danka Kovinic at the US Open.
Iga Swiatek is the top seed for the first time this year at the US Open and is trying to secure her first Grand Slam title somewhere other than the red clay of Roland Garros.
But on the eve of the US Open, Swiatek had another priority: Finally summon up our courage to meet Serena Williams, the formidable champion who Swiatek said made her feel like “a kindergartner just looking at her.”
On Sunday, Swiatek posted a picture of her with Williams on her social media accounts: “This is the highlight of my day,” Swiatek wrote on Twitter. “Congratulations on your amazing journey and legendary career @serenawilliams. Great respect for all you have done for our sport.”
It was that kind of preparation for this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. There is an abundance of established and emerging players and story lines at USTA Billie Jean King’s National Tennis Center. But they are all relegated to the background for now as Williams, one of the greatest athletes of any generation, prepares to play what could be her last singles match Monday night in the first round against unseeded Danka Kovinic.
Until this year, no Chinese men had qualified to play in the US Open, but two players who have managed to play this year – 25-year-old Zhang Zhenzhen and 22-year-old Wu Yiping – are on Monday’s schedule after training together in the Stadium 8 on Sunday, with a small crowd of mostly Mandarin-speaking fans, applauded their efforts and cornered them for autographs and photos when the course ended.
On Monday, Americans Elizabeth Mandlick and Brandon Holt, both sons of the US Open champions, will make their first Grand Slam appearances. Mandlik, daughter of Hana Mandlikova, will face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Holt, son of Tracy AustinShe will face No. 10 and American top seed Taylor Fritz, himself the son of former Top Ten player Kathy May.
Monday too, Dominic Thiem, US Open Men’s Tennis Championships 2020He will return to the tournament after missing last year’s tournament due to a serious wrist injury. He has a tough job against Pablo Carreno Busta, the smooth-moving Spaniard who has twice reached the semi-finals of the US Open and recently won the Masters 1000 in Canada.
But all those tennis thrillers would replace Williams against Kovinich, and even other tennis players were looking for opportunities to meet and catch up with Williams.
“I’ve been watching her my whole life,” 21-year-old Polish star Swiatek said of the 40-year-old Williams. “She was basically all over the place, because she was always winning and she was somewhere in the semi-finals or in the finals. I didn’t always feel like I was the kind of player who could play similar tennis, because she always seemed so strong, really stronger than anyone. From her opponents physically. But mentally for sure, she’s the one that will show you how to use your position and how kind of intimidating you are for being No. 1. I’m trying to do that. I don’t know if it’s going well or not.”
Serena Williams farewell tennis
The US Open may be the tennis star’s last professional tournament after a long career of breaking boundaries and obliterating expectations.
For Swiatek, Williams’ ability to juggle outdoor interests and motherhood with her tennis career was a “brilliant example”.
“I think it’s great to have someone like this in our sport who paved the way and showed us that you can do anything,” she said. “Sky is the limit.”
Trying to regain her magic after an unsuccessful streak, former top seed and two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka spent more of her press conference on Friday answering more questions about Williams than any other topic.
“I think her legacy is really so broad that you can’t even describe it in words,” Osaka said. “It has changed the sport so much. I have brought people who had never heard of tennis into the sport. I think I am a product of what I did. I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, and her whole family. I am so grateful to her.”
The Osaka family used the extraordinary success of the Williams family as a “blueprint,” according to Osaka’s father Leonard Francois.
Naomi Osaka achieved her grand slam achievement by upsetting Serena Williams at 2018 US Open Final In a match in which Williams was penalized in a match after a series of code violations by Chief Justice Carlos Ramos. He ended up crying in Osaka at the awards ceremony in the stadium to the boos from the stands, which were directed not at her but at the way the final had played out.
She and Williams have long since moved on from that harrowing evening and have developed a strong intergenerational bond.
When Williams played (and lost) in the first round of the West and South Open earlier this month against Emma Radocano, Osaka was in the standskeen not to miss the opportunity after Williams announced that the end of her football career was imminent.
“I remember seeing an interview she did, I don’t know what it is, like something in court, if you retire, you wouldn’t tell anyone,” Osaka said. “I was really scared: Dang, when was the last time she was going to play? Just seeing her announce it and letting people appreciate her legacy is really cool.”
Monday night wouldn’t be the last chance to do so: win or lose against Kovinich, Serena entered the women’s doubles doubles with her older sister Venus Williams.
But Monday night should be a special moment, a sporting and cultural event that comes on the 25th anniversary of Arthur Ashe Stadium, which remains the largest permanent tennis court in the world with a capacity of 23,771.
While Venus, unclassified, Reached the women’s singles final In the year that Ash Stadium opened in 1997, Serena was unable to play a game on Center Court. But she made her first Grand Slam and US Open debut, losing in the first round of doubles with her sister to Cathy Rinaldi and Jill Hetherington.
A quarter century later, Venus, 42, and Serena are the only women in this year’s draw who have also played in the 1997 Open.
It’s a moment to celebrate, an era to remember, and while there’s no shortage of matches on Monday worth watching closely, there’s no doubting which one is causing the biggest stir.
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