Serena Williams Takes On Emma Raducanu On the Highway to the U.S. Open

MASON, Ohio — The Serena Williams farewell tour is ready to proceed Tuesday on the Western and Southern Open.

However for the way lengthy?

The matchup — Williams vs. Emma Raducanu of Britain within the opening spherical — appears notably effectively suited to the grand event that’s Williams’s prolonged goodbye from skilled tennis.

With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, she is definitely the best girls’s tennis participant of this period and one of many best athletes of any period. Raducanu, a cosmopolitan 19-year-old, shocked the world (and herself) by winning last year’s U.S. Open as a qualifier, and has the smarts and strokes to be one of many leaders of the sport if she will be able to modify to her new standing and resume smacking forehand winners and successful matches by the bunch.

The 2 champions at reverse ends of their careers have by no means performed one another, and Raducanu is one in all a number of younger stars on the WTA Tour who’ve been hoping for an opportunity to face Williams earlier than she walks away from the game she lengthy dominated. She wrote in Vogue, revealed final week, that the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 29 in New York, could be her final.

However the query is whether or not Williams’s physique (she turns 41 on Sept. 26) could make it to her self-imposed end line. Her match with Raducanu was initially scheduled, with nice fanfare, for Monday night time, with the event releasing a press release and informing followers on web site for the qualifying rounds that Williams could be enjoying in that opening-night slot exterior Cincinnati.

However after tickets, presumably fairly a variety of them, had been bought with Williams in thoughts, the match was bumped late on Monday to Tuesday with a imprecise clarification from the event. “On account of a variety of elements associated to scheduling, the Serena Williams-Emma Raducanu match will now be held on Tuesday,” the event mentioned in asserting the Monday schedule.

Individuals who had been knowledgeable in regards to the scenario however who declined to be recognized as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk on the matter, mentioned the postponement was due to bodily issues with Williams, who has had power knee tendinitis throughout her profession and missed a 12 months of competitors after tearing her proper hamstring at Wimbledon in 2021.

There was no affirmation of harm issues from Williams or from event officers. Williams practiced on Sunday and Monday, and the match stays on the Tuesday night time schedule. However Williams, if she wins, must play on consecutive days for so long as she stays within the event. With the U.S. Open in her sights, she’s going to clearly not need to take undue dangers that would jeopardize her second in Queens.

The U.S. Open is her prime goal as Eric Hechtman, her new coach, made clear in an interview final week in Toronto, the place Williams misplaced within the second spherical of the Nationwide Financial institution Open in straight units to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

It was the third singles match of Williams’s newest and certainly final comeback, following an opening-round defeat to Harmony Tan, an unseeded Frenchwoman, at Wimbledon in June and a first-round victory in Toronto over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain.

“We had Wimbledon, and now we’ve got Toronto and Cincinnati to construct up for New York,” Hechtman mentioned after the loss to Bencic. “I’d say Serena’s performed higher in every match, and clearly there are issues she might do higher on the market, however I believed her opponent performed rather well tonight. What we’re going to do is take the positives and enhance tomorrow. She’s a champion, and we’re going to maintain getting higher each day, not simply each match, however each day and hopefully we are able to make some enhancements by Cincinnati.”

Hechtman, a 38-year-old membership skilled who performed on the College of Miami, has coached Venus Williams, Serena’ s older sister, since 2019 and started teaching Serena Williams earlier this 12 months after she cut up together with her longtime coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

For years, Venus and Serena shared the identical coaches, their father Richard and mom Oracene Worth, and within the sisters’ developmental years, the Florida-based coach Rick Macci.

Working with Hechtman brings them, in a way, full circle even when he typically trains with them individually to offer them individualized instruction.

“I really feel blessed and grateful that I’m on this scenario,” he mentioned. “It simply fell into place, and I simply hope I do them justice and assist them as a lot as I can to go ahead.”

Venus Williams, 42, who has but to announce any timetable for her personal retirement, obtained a wild card into the Western and Southern Open and has a frightening first-round match on the principle stadium courtroom in opposition to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, a former world No. 1, on Tuesday.

“Venus will do it how she needs to it when she needs to do it,” Hechtman mentioned of her leaving the sport. “She might play for 5 extra years. Who is aware of?”

However her youthful sister has made her intentions a lot clearer.

“Feelings are excessive,” Hechtman mentioned. “Each athlete faces this time in some unspecified time in the future, and I believe it’s good Serena did it the way in which she did it. I believed her first-person essay was unbelievable, and it exhibits lots about how she is but in addition how clever she is. We’ve bought a few tournaments left and hopefully we are able to use that as one in all her main weapons: not simply her tennis however her mind energy and the way she makes use of it on courtroom.”

The facility hole that lengthy separated Serena Williams from the chase pack has been closed. Her successors on tour thrive on torrid tempo, from this 12 months’s Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina to the rising Individuals Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova. It’s tougher to overwhelm this technology, partially as a result of Williams set a brand new customary.

However Williams nonetheless has aura, notably with those that grew up watching her from afar.

“After I take a look at her, I all of a sudden type of overlook that I’m right here as world No. 1,” mentioned Iga Swiatek, the Polish 21-year-old who was not even born when Williams gained her first main title on the 1999 U.S. Open. “I see Serena and it’s, ‘Wow, Serena!’ You already know? And I really feel like I’m a child from kindergarten simply her. So it’s robust. I haven’t talked to her, however I’m simply attempting to say hello.”

And although Williams is not as cellular at age 40, she will be able to win factors in quite a lot of manners, deploying drop photographs efficiently in Toronto and utilizing her still-impressive first serve to safe fast factors or arrange next-shot winners.

“I believe she’s serving effectively,” Hechtman mentioned. “The tempo is there on the serve, because it at all times has been by her profession. She’s been bettering since Wimbledon, and I believe she’s undoubtedly hanging the ball cleaner, and I’d say the motion has improved. So, on all these fronts, it’s good.”

The intent is to have a greater, fuller preparation heading into New York than she had heading into Wimbledon, the place she had performed solely two doubles matches at a event in Eastbourne, England, with Ons Jabeur earlier than going through Tan.

“We’re enjoying extra occasions coming in,” Hechtman mentioned. “So I believe that’s helpful and what we have to be doing. It’s like warming up for a match, proper? You don’t simply begin the match chilly. You’ve bought to get the rhythm, and she or he’s getting her rhythm with the extra matches she performs.”

Physique keen, she’s going to play no less than one in Mason, Ohio.

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