NEW YORK — Serena Williams rose from her sideline seat after a break throughout a coaching session inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, and as she walked to the baseline on the finish of the court docket coated by shade on a steamy morning, a number of voices from the stands referred to as out in unison, “Serena, we love you!”
About to hit some serves in preparation for the primary spherical of the U.S. Open on Monday night time — and what may wind up being the final singles match of her profession — the 23-time Grand Slam champion didn’t break stride, though she did flip her head within the followers’ route, acknowledging the sentiment with a smile.
Later, there have been comparable cries from the gang and a few rounds of applause for Williams, who can be entered in doubles after she and her older sister, Venus, got a wild-card entry by the U.S. Tennis Association.
“It’s the end of a great career. And hopefully she can finish it off feeling good about herself and enjoying the moment and enjoying the crowd and listening to the people, to everyone, saying how much they love her,” mentioned Rennae Stubbs, who gained 4 Slam titles in girls’s doubles and has been working with Williams, alongside coach Eric Hechtman, since final week. “She responds to that in a positive way and not in a negative way. She embraces it. My goal is to have her hopefully enjoy this moment.”
With the temperature within the 80s and never a hint of a breeze, Williams was on the market rather less than an hour, pausing at one level to eat some fruit. This adopted an earlier hitting session on a smaller apply court docket adjoining to Ashe.
“We’ve been friends for a long time. I’ve helped her and advised her in ways before. She just wanted a friendly voice around her. I’m her friend and she knows that I know tennis,” mentioned Stubbs, whose earlier teaching included time with one other former No. 1, two-time main finalist Karolina Pliskova. “She was just like: ‘Do you want to come on the court and give me some thoughts?’ And I said: ‘Of course.’”
While each match — in singles and doubles — and every apply session involving Williams, who turns 41 subsequent month, is bound to attract loads of eyeballs, there may be extra to know concerning the yr’s final Grand Slam event.
NADAL AND RACE FOR NO. 1
Novak Djokovic is lacking a Grand Slam event for the second time this season as a result of he’s not vaccinated towards COVID-19, and — mixed with not incomes any rating factors for his Wimbledon championship — his maintain on No. 1 within the ATP rankings has slipped. He’ll be No. 7 on Monday. Five males have an opportunity to be No. 1 after the U.S. Open, and Rafael Nadal is amongst them. He has gained 4 of his males’s-record 22 Grand Slam titles in New York, the place he’s competing for the primary time since 2019. The 36-year-old Spaniard is 19-0 in majors this season, with trophies on the Australian Open in January and French Open in June, adopted by a run to the Wimbledon semifinals in July earlier than withdrawing due to a torn stomach muscle, an damage he says is especially “dangerous” and “risky” whereas serving now. Current No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, the defending U.S. Open champion, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud want to succeed in the Sept. 11 remaining to have a shot at topping the rankings the following day.
OSAKA IS ‘ANXIOUS’
Naomi Osaka gained two of her 4 Grand Slam titles on the U.S. Open so would possibly usually be thought of a real contender to depart New York with one other. She has not been at her finest, nonetheless, coming into her first-round showdown towards Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins on Tuesday night time. Osaka, a former No. 1 now at No. 44, is on a three-match shedding streak and is 2-6 for the reason that begin of April. “I feel like I would have lied, like, a day ago or so and said that I was really relaxed. But actually, when I practiced today, I felt very anxious,” Osaka mentioned Saturday. “I think it’s ’cause I really want to do well, ’cause I feel I haven’t been doing well lately. I don’t know. It’s tough. Like, of course, you don’t want to lose in the first round of a Slam.”
COACHING COMES TO A MAJOR
For the primary time at a Grand Slam event, in-match teaching might be allowed on the U.S. Open. Coaches should sit in designated courtside seats and solely can talk with gamers whereas they’re on the similar finish of the sector. Count Tenth-seeded Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked American man, amongst those that aren’t thrilled. “I don’t like it,” Fritz mentioned. “Tennis is an individual sport, so why should someone else be able to help you?”
NEW TIEBREAKER FORMAT
It’s now not sufficient to win seven factors to say a final-set tiebreaker at Flushing Meadows; now a participant must get to 10. The U.S. Open joined the three different main tournaments in agreeing to undertake a uniform system this season: At 6-all within the third set of ladies’s matches and fifth set of males’s, a first-to-10, win-by-two tiebreaker might be used to find out the winner.