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How to Watch Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, Where She Has Nothing Left to Prove



How to Watch Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, Where She Has Nothing Left to Prove

The United States Tennis Association’s decision to proceed with this year’s U.S. Open, which begins on Monday, means, among other things, that Serena Williams will get another chance to win her twenty-fourth major and tie the record set nearly fifty years ago by the Australian great Margaret Court. It could be Williams’s best shot. Six of the top eight women’s players in the world are not competing: some are injured; some are wary of travelling to New York during the global coronavirus pandemic. In all, nineteen of the top hundred players have chosen to stay home; it will be a historically thin draw. Williams, who is now ranked ninth in the world, finds herself one of the top four seeds. It’s clear that she understands the opportunity.



Williams spent much of the early summer practicing on a court built in her back yard in Florida that has the same Laykold-brand surface that is being used for the first time this year on the hard courts in Flushing, Queens, in New York. Earlier this month, she journeyed to a tiny new tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, to get in some match play, winning two long three-setters before losing a third to Shelby Rogers, an American ranked outside the top hundred. On Tuesday, at the Western & Southern Open—which was moved this year from its home in Mason, Ohio, to the Billie

serena williams becomes second



Jean King National Tennis Center, in Flushing, so that players could remain in the same lockdown bubble for that tournament and the U.S. Open immediately afterward—she lost in the round of sixteen to Maria Sakkari, of Greece, after winning the first set and going up 4–1 in the second. She was drubbed in the deciding set, 6–1, having stopped stepping into her forehand, stopped chasing balls in the corner—stopped believing in herself, or so it seemed. It was not what Williams, afterward, or anyone else would call confidence-building on the eve of a Grand Slam.



The U.S. Open may not be the final major of this year’s tennis season: a covid-19-postponed edition of the French Open is scheduled to be held in the first weeks of fall—although, with virus infections on the rise again in France, who knows. Williams has given interviews about her past experiences with pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in the lungs that cause difficulty breathing and can be life-threatening. She’s been cautiously isolating with her family when not on a tennis court, and hasn’t said whether she’ll travel to Paris. She has won the French Open three times, but clay is the surface least conducive to her game—with its big serves, big returns, and desire for short points—especially at this stage of her career. If a tournament does get under way in France next month, Williams will turn thirty-nine during its second week. That is not normally an age for grinding rallies and sliding into shots on the terre battue.



It’s not normally an age for winning a major on any surface. The oldest woman to win a tennis major was thirty-five. That was Williams herself—and she did it, we learned later, when she was six weeks pregnant, defeating her sister Venus at the 2017 Australian Open. January of 2017, in any sport, is a long, long time ago. Williams’s daughter was born the following September, and, since then, Williams has reached four more Grand Slam finals, but she hasn’t won a set in any of them.


serena williams playing the US open

How important is it that Williams win another slam? There was a time when a player’s tally of Grand Slam wins was but one factor among many in calculating her place on the list of all-time greats. In the early days of women’s professional tennis, in the nineteen-seventies, and in the amateur era that preceded it, it was not uncommon for players to skip slams here and there. Players from Europe and America often passed up the Australian Open; until 1987, it was held in December, close to the holidays, and Australia is a long way for most players to travel. (This likely has a lot to do with Margaret Court winning the Australian Open eleven times.) Chris Evert, the greatest women’s clay-court player ever, eschewed Paris three times so that she could play World Team Tennis.



Now the Grand Slams are broadcast on television all over the world, and the revenue from those broadcasts has helped lift total prize money at the U.S. Open and other slams to fifty million dollars and more—majors, today, are really major. In turn, fans and commentators have come to rely on Grand Slam victories to tell the story of tennis. On the men’s side, there’s Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic—the Big Three—each with the prospect of finishing his career with the most major titles in the men’s game. And, on the women’s side, there’s Williams, with her quest for one more, which is sure to be the focus of tournament telecasts from Flushing (particularly given the absence of Federer and Nadal—the former is injured and the latter, citing the coronavirus, has declined to compete in New York).



Williams’s quest to win a twenty-fourth major, and her first as a mother, has been a prime-time narrative thread since her return to the game, in 2018. And why not? More than three million viewers tuned in to watch Williams in each of the last two U.S. Open women’s finals, the largest American audiences for tennis in recent years. Fans want to watch her win; they want to watch her make history. And, for many of them, her comeback on the Grand Slam stage has yielded a series of anticlimaxes.



But this, I would suggest, is the wrong way to watch Williams play now. She has already made history. She is, clearly, the greatest of all time: the most dominant for the longest stretch of years; the most influential on the way the game has come to be played; the most consequential culturally, too, as an icon for Black women, especially. Tennis fans across the world will rightly be rooting for her, but to watch with too much anxiousness that she win risks distracting from the very components of her greatness, which are still, remarkably, on display, if no longer consistently. The gift to tennis is that she has continued playing well after her legacy was secured, with sufficing flickers of brilliance, “granted by the relenting fates a golden twilight.”



That last phrase is from John Updike, writing in this magazine sixty years ago, about watching another Williams—Ted—taking his final at-bats. Hitting, Updike wrote, was essentially lonely—like the writing he did, or like singles tennis. Updike ventured to Fenway Park on a late September afternoon in 1960 to get a last glimpse of a player who “assiduously refined his natural skills” and brought to the plate an “intensity of competence” that rewarded a fan whatever the outcome of a particular plate appearance or game.

There will be no fans allowed inside Arthur Ashe Stadium this pandemic summer. But, to the extent that the ESPN camera angles allow, watching Serena’s point-by-point play, noticing again her incomparable skills and the intensity she has brought to them, will be a boon, win or lose. Keep an eye out for how she steps a foot or more inside the baseline to return a second serve, rocking back and forth to not be caught flatfooted, taking the ball early, on a short hop, whether to the forehand or backhand side—not easy, that—and, if she’s able to extend her arms, striking it hard enough and deep enough to take immediate control of the point, if not hit an outright winner.


Watch what she does, mid-point, with a short ball to her forehand. She might crush it, but she is just as likely—and this is beautiful to see, and difficult to pull off—to roll it to her opponent’s forecourt, acutely angled, the topspin carrying the ball out of reach. And her backhand, look closely: it’s open-stanced, the way her father taught her and Venus, not sideways as tradition long advised—the better to buy her a little more time, take the ball a bit later, and also, near impossibly (the strength and timing entailed!), direct it not crosscourt but inside-out, flummoxing a right-handed opponent already leaning and preparing her backhand.

A match or tournament, like a life, is more than its outcome. Let’s take our last measures of Serena in moments.

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Roger Federer after early Wimbledon loss – ‘I’m extremely down, it was quite bad’



Roger Federer made a breakthrough run at Wimbledon 2001, beating the seven-time champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round before falling in the quarters to Tim Henman in four tight sets. Twelve months later, the Swiss returned at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club as the top-10 player and one of the title favorites, hoping to go further than a year ago and fight for the trophy.

Nonetheless, the 2002 Wimbledon campaign turned out to be a rather quick and unsuccessful one for Federer, losing to an 18-year-old Mario Ancic 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 on June 25. In his first Major match (he was the runner-up at the junior event in 2000), the Croat ranked 154th qualified for the main draw as one of the youngest players in the field, entering only the second ATP event after Miami in March.

The defending champion Goran Ivanisevic was not in the draw, and another hard-hitting player from Split was there to replace him in style, firing one booming serve after another to keep Federer without any rhythm, with his return working better than Roger’s to earn the triumph.

Ancic needed an hour and 40 minutes to take down the most prominent youngster at that moment, repelling five out of six break chances and stealing Roger’s serve on three occasions to notch straight-sets triumph, his first on the ATP level!

In 2002, Roger Federer suffered a heavy loss to Mario Ancic at Wimbledon R1.
Ancic was the youngest player to make a winning Wimbledon Centre Court debut since Bjorn Borg in distant 1973, drawing only positive vibes from the big scene and delivering a barrage of aggressive and attacking strokes to leave Roger behind!

The Croat kicked off the encounter in the best way, breaking Federer twice in the opening set to take it 6-3 in just 29 minutes. There were no breaks in set number two, and Mario won the tie break 7-2, playing better when it mattered the most and sealing Federer’s fate with a break in the third set’s fourth game.

“I’m still looking for reasons why I played so bad; I’m down right now, and it’s quite normal after such a loss. I expected much more than coming here and losing in straight sets; I’m disappointed, and I haven’t got any words at the moment.

I knew Mario was young but not much more; I tried to get some information from other players as many of them hit with him, unlike me. Besides that information, I couldn’t figure out his game today. I let him play well today, and I’m down about my performance; it was quite bad.

I mean, I had my chances in the second set and missed them all. I had the break in the first but couldn’t take my chances today. I was 40-0 up on the return once in the second set, and that was my only big chance which I didn’t seize.

Usually, I prefer to be in a favored role. I still think Arazi was a tough opponent at the French Open. Here, I should have won this match. I was a big favorite over Ancic, but he played well today. It is very disappointing to lose back-to-back first round at Majors. I’m looking for reasons why but I have time to figure that out, so we’ll see,” Roger Federer said.

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Naomi Osaka: “My biggest fear is to disappoint people”



Naomi Osaka failed to win the 2021 Miami Open, after resounding quarter-final defeat to Maria Sakkari. However, we know that Naomi is definitely the tennis player of the moment. Winner of the last Australian Open, for a total of 4 Slam titles, the number 2 of the Japanese world has shown all her sensitivity and strength, becoming a bulwark in the movements in defense against discrimination and racism: she is a great fighter for social equality.

Yet Naomi, in one of her latest interviews, confessed what her greatest fear is. She said “My biggest fear is to disappoint people.” Considering her activities on and off the pitch, the young Japanese girl has only gained enormous love and following from all over the world.

Osaka also said: “Nothing can surpass a simple bowl of vanilla ice cream in my eyes. I love cooking. I got to experience it during the quarantine and it made me love it even more. One of my favorite memories is about Arthur Ashe Stadium.

of New York. There’s something about being in New York, it’s just a great vibe.”

Latests on Naomi Osaka
On the last days, on Twitter, she condemned the recent hate crimes against Asian Americans. She wrote: “If people loved Asian people as much as they love bubble tea, anime, mochi, sushi, matcha etc.

Imagine profiting / enjoying things that come from a culture and then attacking / diminishing the ethnic group that created it.” On Twitter we can read comments by users who said: “Think about how many people love hip hop culture, and gentrifying communities, Eating ethnic food and so on,” or also: “Hate loves to take.”

Following the first Australian success, on 28 January 2019 it also reached the first place in the world ranking for the first time. Naomi was the first ever Japanese athlete to win a Grand Slam title, the third in the Open Era to qualify for the WTA Finals in 2018 and the first Asian ever to reach the top of the WTA rankings.

Naomi and Ashleigh Barty are fighting for the WTA world no.1. Barty has been world no.1 since September 2019, for 69 weeks, 62 of which are consecutive. Over the course of her career she has won seven WTA titles out of eleven finals played, four of which are Grand Slam tournaments: she boasts the victory of two US Open in 2018 and 2020 and two Australian Open in 2019 and 2021.

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Rafael Nadal: ‘If my uncle had not introduced me to tennis…’



Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Swiss Roger Federer, respectively in 3rd and 7th place in the latest ATP rankings, are the two players with the most career Grand Slam trophies (20). Followed by Serbian Novak Djokovic, current world number one, stopped at 18 with the last title achieved at the Australian Open 2021.

The Big 3, as they have been called over the years, have all decided to skip the Masters appointment 1000 of Miami, together with Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils. Finally, the surprising Polish Hubert Hurkacz triumphed in Florida, winner of players such as Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrej Rublev, in addition to the success obtained in the final against our Jannik Sinner, certainly not at the best of his form.

In recent years, the world of social networks has acquired increasing importance, also used by numerous professional tennis players to share experiences on the Tour and be able to compare themselves with their fans, especially in a period like the current one marked by the Coronavirus emergency that has forced tournaments to go on stage without an audience, or at least with a small number of spectators.

Twitter is widely used, in which Rafa Nadal holds the record for the highest number of followers among tennis athletes: 15.7 million. In second place Federer, with about 12.7 million followers. Follows the American champion Serena Williams, the most followed tennis player on this social network with a figure that is around 10.8 million.

Rafael Nadal recently spoke at length about the people he considers to be the most instrumental figures during his playing career. The 20-time Major champion described the role played by his uncle and former coach Toni Nadal, as well as that of his parents, current coach Carlos Moya, Carlos Costa (manager) and Francisco Roig (assistant coach).

Rafael Nadal pays tribute to all the key members of his team
“Without all the people who have been by my side none of this (his success) would have been possible,” Rafael Nadal said. “That if my uncle had not introduced me to tennis or helped me decisively during practically my entire career, I would not be where I am.

That if my father and my mother had not been willing to accompany me to a place every weekend and not doing the things that maybe they had other options to do, maybe they had more fun.” According to Rafael Nadal, he might not have developed his perseverance and fighting spirit without the continuous support that he received.

“If I had not had the people who would have guided me on the right path, then perhaps I would not have had that spirit of perseverance, of overcoming,” the Spaniard continued. “I think I have been lucky to have the people by my side who have helped me

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