Serena Williams’ final run at the US Open just a week away
Serena Williams enters her last US Open at 40 – ranked 402.
After igniting at Wimbledon and two tune-ups on the hard court at The Open, the retired tennis legend from Compton, Calif., has as much chance of losing in the first round as he does of qualifying for the last four of the Open.
No final decision has been made, but it looks like the USTA will take Serena off the opening night card next Monday at Ashe Stadium and let the retirement drama play out Tuesday night.
The draw doesn’t take place until Thursday, but everyone in tennis knows the unranked Serena has never been more vulnerable. His long quest to equal or beat Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles turned into a pipe dream.
But as a USTA insider put it, « As has been said many times throughout her unprecedented career, never count out Serena Williams. That still applies to her final tournament. »
Are the tennis gods listening? Pete Sampras entered the 2002 Open 20 years ago in a big slump, won the title, then retired at age 32.
Serena has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam titles for nearly five years – the last time she won a major at the 2017 Australian Open. It’s been 21 straight Slams in which Williams hasn’t lifted the trophy of the championship – without a title since her motherhood.
Serena’s flamboyant service is still there, but that’s about all that’s amazing. Aged 41 at the end of September, Williams no longer moves well enough on the pitch and is bewildered by opponents changing pace.
But Serena will be celebrated as the most accomplished female player of all time despite too long of a wait.
At Wimbledon, after breaking a 364-day break, Williams was dropped in the first round by softball player Harmony Tan.
Williams won her first game in Toronto earlier this month, then quickly lost to Belinda Bencic, 6-2, 6-4.
At the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last week, Serena was stuck with a bad draw when she faced Britain’s Emma Raducanu, the surprise Open 2021 champion. Serena also lost in two sets, but his superstar aura is still evident.
“Playing her might be one of the last opportunities I have to play her,” Raducanu said afterwards. « You have to cherish the moment, and you’re going to treasure that memory for the rest of your career. To be honest, I was kinda impressed.
With Williams’ recent bad luck, she will attract Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, the hottest player on the circuit who won the final tune-up in Cincinnati on Sunday against Petra Kvitova.
Garcia, a former top-5 player, struggled with injuries and had to go through qualifying in Cincinnati. She won eight straight matches to give her three WTA titles this year and will start at No. 17. The blistering server has won more WTA matches than anyone since June.
« Now I’m the superstar and favorite for the US Open, » Garcia said with a laugh during the post-match interview. “Two months ago, I was nothing. It’s a big tournament and I come in with a lot of confidence.
The men’s draw is in a state of disrepair, mainly due to the struggles of the Big 3.
Novak Djokovic, who won Wimbledon, is banned from entering the United States because he is not vaccinated. Roger Federer has just hit the training grounds after knee surgery last winter. And Rafael Nadal has just suffered an abdominal tear which caused him to withdraw from the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Nadal missed most of the Open tune-ups. He resurfaced in Cincinnati last week and was fired by Borna Coric in his opener, claiming rust and hesitation.
« The last month and a half has not been easy, because having a tear in the stomach, we do not know when [you are] 100% on the thing, » Nadal said after his loss. « It affects a little bit not being sure that you can do your best on every serve. »
Nadal could still be the favorite as defending Open champion Daniil Medvedev is not in top form after being banned from Wimbledon – with Russian and Belarus players not allowed to compete following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia – while Spanish teenage star Carlos Alcaraz has calmed down.
« I have to move on and start thinking about the energy that the crowd gives me in New York, » Nadal said. « I know it’s a very special place for me, and I love it – unforgettable times there. »
Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece could be one of the top contenders for his first Open title, even though he lost Sunday’s Western & Southern Open final to Coric, 7-6, 6-2.
But the only Flushing star that matters now is Serena – as long as she still sparkles in the Queens sky.