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On the First Day of US Open, All Eyes Are on Serena Williams


Follow live as Serena Williams plays Danka Kovinic on the U.S. Open.

Iga Swiatek is seeded No. 1 for the primary time this yr on the U.S. Open and is attempting to secure her first Grand Slam title somewhere aside from the red clay of Roland Garros.

But on the eve of the U.S. Open, Swiatek had one other priority: finally working up the courage to satisfy Serena Williams, a formidable champion whom Swiatek said made her feel like “a child from kindergarten just taking a look at her.”

On Sunday, Swiatek posted a photograph of her with Williams on her social media accounts: “That is the highlight of my day,” Swiatek wrote on Twitter. “Congratulations in your amazing journey and legendary profession @serenawilliams. Huge respect for every little thing you’ve gotten done for our sport.”

It has been that form of buildup to this yr’s final Grand Slam tournament. There are an abundance of established and emerging players and story lines at the united statesT.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. But they’re all relegated to the background for now as Williams, one among the best athletes of any generation, prepares to play what could possibly be her final singles match on Monday night in the primary round against the unseeded Danka Kovinic.

Until this yr, no Chinese man had qualified to play within the U.S. Open but two managed it this yr — 25-year-old Zhang Zhizhen and 22-year-old Wu Yibing — they usually are on Monday’s schedule after practicing together on Court 8 on Sunday with a small crowd of predominantly Mandarin-speaking fans applauding their efforts and besieging them for autographs and pictures when the training session ended.

On Monday, Americans Elizabeth Mandlik and Brandon Holt, each children of U.S. Open singles champions, will make their very own Grand Slam debuts. Mandlik, the daughter of Hana Mandlikova, will face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Holt, the son of Tracy Austin, will face Taylor Fritz, the No. 10 seed and top-ranked American who’s himself the son of former top 10 women’s player Kathy May.

Also on Monday, Dominic Thiem, the 2020 U.S. Open men’s champion, will return to the tournament after missing last yr’s Open with a serious wrist injury. He has a troublesome task against Pablo Carreño Busta, the smooth-moving Spaniard who has twice been a semifinalist on the U.S. Open and recently won the Masters 1000 tournament in Canada.

But all those intriguing tennis stories will take a back seat to Williams vs. Kovinic, and even the opposite tennis players have been in search of opportunities to satisfy and meet up with Williams.

“I watch her my whole life,” Swiatek, the 21-year-old Polish star, said of the 40-year-old Williams. “Principally she was in all places, because she all the time won and was somewhere within the semifinals or the finals. I didn’t all the time feel like I’m this sort of player who can play similar tennis, because she all the time seemed so strong, really stronger than any of her opponents physically. But mentally obviously, she’s the one who’s going to indicate you the right way to use your position and the right way to sort of intimidate with being No. 1. I’m trying to try this. I don’t know if it’s going well or not.”

The U.S. Open could possibly be the tennis star’s last skilled tournament after an extended profession of breaking boundaries and obliterating expectations.

For Swiatek, Williams’s ability to juggle outside interests and motherhood along with her tennis profession have been a “great example.”

“I believe it’s great that we have now any person like that in our sport who cleared the trail and showed us that you may do anything,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Naomi Osaka, a former No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open champion attempting to get well her mojo after an unsuccessful stretch, spent more of her news conference on Friday answering questions on Williams than every other topic.

“I believe that her legacy is de facto wide to the purpose where you may’t even describe it in words,” Osaka said. “She modified the game a lot. She’s introduced those who have never heard of tennis into the game. I believe I’m a product of what she’s done. I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, her whole family. I’m very thankful to her.”

Osaka’s family did use the extraordinary success of the Williamses as a “blueprint,” in keeping with Osaka’s father Leonard Francois.

Naomi Osaka made her Grand Slam breakthrough by upsetting Serena Williams within the 2018 U.S. Open final in a match where Williams was penalized a game after a series of code violations by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Osaka ended up in tears on the on-court awards ceremony amid boos from the stands, which weren’t directed at her but at the way in which the ultimate had unfolded.

She and Williams have long since moved on from that traumatic evening and developed a robust intergenerational connection.

When Williams played (and lost) in the primary round of the Western and Southern Open earlier this month to Emma Raducanu, Osaka was within the stands, eager to not miss the chance after Williams had announced that the tip of her playing profession was imminent.

“I remember seeing an interview she did, I don’t know what it was, like an on-court thing, that if she retires, she’ll never tell anyone,” Osaka said. “I used to be really scared: Dang, when is the last time she’s going to play? Simply to see her announce it and let people appreciate her legacy is de facto cool.”

Monday night won’t be the last probability to achieve this: Win or lose against Kovinic, Serena is entered in the ladies’s doubles along with her older sister Venus Williams.

But Monday night ought to be quite a moment, a sporting and cultural happening that comes on the twenty fifth anniversary of Arthur Ashe Stadium, still the largest everlasting tennis venue on the planet with its capability of 23,771.

While Venus, unseeded, reached the ladies’s singles final the yr Ashe Stadium opened in 1997, Serena didn’t get to play a match within the most important stadium. But she did make her Grand Slam and U.S. Open debut, losing in the primary round of doubles along with her sister to Kathy Rinaldi and Jill Hetherington.

1 / 4 century later, Venus, 42, and Serena are the one women on this yr’s draw who also played within the 1997 Open.

It’s a moment to rejoice, an era to commemorate, and though there isn’t any shortage of matches on Monday value watching closely, there will be little question about which match is generating the largest buzz.

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