US Open: Serena Williams’ last hurray at home headlines fascinating two weeks of tennis
By Matias Grez, CNN
The curtain will soon fall on one of the greatest careers the sporting world has ever known and Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open, will provide a fitting stage for Serena Williams’ final act.
Williams announced earlier this month that she would be “getting away from tennis” after this year’s US Open, saying she had “never liked the word retirement”.
Now 40, Williams’ career will come full circle as her final match will be played at the site of the first of her 23 Grand Slam singles victories, the 1999 US Open. As a teenager, Williams burst onto the scene to stun world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the final and lay the first stepping stone on her path to two decades of dominance.
“If I could pick one thing that she possesses incredibly strongly compared to other players and champions, it’s a strong determination to push through tough times and win no matter what, year after year,” said Marin Cilic. , the 2014 US Open men’s champion, told CNN Sport.
“Hopefully she’s going to have a fantastic US Open and to say goodbye is to go with the win. So [I’m] hoping she can do it.
Serena’s first-round singles match – and possibly her last – is on Monday night against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams is also set to play her first doubles match with her sister Venus on Wednesday.
Since returning to the tour in June after a year out through injury, Williams has only managed to win one game and hasn’t been able to close in on the form that helped her win her title. last Grand Slam title in 2017.
Even if she can’t achieve a dream final by winning the title at Flushing Meadows, Williams’ 23 Grand Slam singles titles will be the most won by any player in the Open Era and just one less than Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Williams’ greatness isn’t just limited to the singles court, having won every Grand Slam doubles title at least twice and winning two of four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She also made over $94 million in career earnings from the field.
Few female tennis players have transcended the sport like Williams and her presence will no doubt be missed on the Tour.
One of the many young talents who will likely bridge that gap is reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu. The teenager stunned the sports world last year when she became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam title in what was only her second Grand Slam main draw appearance.
Raducanu and Williams first crossed paths two weeks ago at the Cincinnati Masters, with Raducanu taking the lead in straight sets.
However, it was one of 12 wins Raducanu picked up in a season that was marred by injuries and spotty form. She showed flashes, however, of the player who triumphed at Flushing Meadows last year, notably in the recent demolition of two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati.
Two thousand of the 2,756 ranking points that currently put Raducanu 11th in the world – and as high as 10th in June – come from his US Open victory, and failure to close in defense of his crown will see the downfall 19 years old. in the WTA world rankings.
Raducanu’s run in Cincinnati ended at the hands of world No. 8 Jessica Pegula, but it was close competition to end a week that will likely give Raducanu some boost of confidence ahead of the US Open.
Among the stars hoping to clinch the New York crown from Raducanu will be Polish world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who won a remarkable six singles titles in 2022.
The two-time French Open winner enters the tournament as a bookies favorite but only reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows and struggled for form on the hard court ahead of the US Open.
However, Swiatek reached the Australian Open semi-finals earlier this year and won three successive WTA 1000 hard-court events earlier in the season, so she undoubtedly has the ability to go. all the way to New York.
Rafael Nadal aims for 23rd place
In the men’s draw, all eyes will be on Rafael Nadal as he looks to add to his men’s record 22 Grand Slam titles.
However, the 36-year-old has only played one match, a first-round loss to Borna Ćorić at the Cincinnati Masters last week, since pulling out of the Wimbledon semi-finals due to a an abdominal injury and it’s still unclear how fit Nadal is. US Open.
“The main thing for me is to stay healthy,” Nadal told reporters after the loss. “It was a tough injury to deal with, to be honest.
“The last month and a half hasn’t been easy because, having a tear in your abdomen, you don’t know when (you’ll be) 100% on the thing, so it affects me a bit in terms of not (being) confident that you are able to do your best on every serve.
But New York has been a happy hunting ground for Nadal over the years, with the Spaniard winning the title four times, most recently in 2019 when he went through a five-set epic against Daniil Medvedev.
Russia’s Medvedev, competing under a neutral flag since his country invaded Ukraine, is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the trophy and retain the crown he won in 2021 to mark his first Grand Slam victory .
The 26-year-old’s only title of 2022 came on hard-court Mexico earlier this month, but Medvedev reached the Australian Open final earlier this year, losing terribly after holding a two-set lead over Nadal.
Alexander Zverev, who would have been among the favorites to win, confirmed earlier this week that he is withdrawing from the US Open after failing to recover from injury in time.
The world No. 2 underwent surgery in June on torn ligaments in his ankle, which he suffered after landing awkwardly in the French Open semi-final against Nadal.
Zverev’s absence from the draw moves all players ranked below him one seeded spot, meaning Nadal and Medvedev can now only face each other in the final.
Novak Djokovic confirmed on Thursday that he will not participate in Flushing Meadows in 2022. US vaccination rules for non-US citizens meant the Serb would not have obtained a visa to enter the country, so Nole will wait at least one more year before returning to the Big Apple.
The world No. 6 triumphed at Wimbledon earlier this year to win his 21st Grand Slam title and move on to longtime rival Nadal, but was unable to take part in any of the warm-up events. US Open of the Tour in the United States or Canada. .
The US Open will be the second grand slam this year that Djokovic will miss due to his unvaccinated status, having had his visa revoked twice ahead of the Australian Open in January.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to travel to New York this time for the US Open,” Djokovic said. writing on social media. “Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support.
“Good luck to my fellow players! I will keep fit and positive and wait for an opportunity to compete again. See you tennis world!”
With a wide open field, the men’s draw will be fascinating to watch – will it be Nadal tying Serena to 23 Grand Slam singles titles or will another rise to reign in New York?
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