With her emotional retirement from tennis on the horizon, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams was expected to steal the show when the US Open began on Monday.
Williams, who said earlier this month that her retirement countdown had begun, plays Danka Kovinic of Montenegro at Arthur Ashe Stadium in what could be her last appearance in a Grand Slam singles event.
The 40-year-old sports and cultural star won her maiden Grand Slam tournament as a 17-year-old prodigy at the same site in 1999.
Monday night’s sold-out session begins at 7:00 p.m. local time (2300 GMT), and Williams will be back at one of her favorite arenas to play in her signature style.
The New York Times reports that Williams will wear a sequined black bodice and a six-tiered skirt in honor of her six US Open championships.
The future of Williams’ run at the US Open beyond that match is uncertain.
Williams was defeated 6-4, 6-0 by British player Emma Raducanu at the Cincinnati Masters earlier this month. Raducanu had previously been eliminated from the Australian Open by Kovinic in January.
No of the outcome of Monday’s match, Williams won’t be leaving the US Open stage just away.
Organizers announced on Saturday that she and older sister Venus Williams would be receiving a wild card into the women’s doubles competition, which begins on Wednesday.
It’s still not certain if Williams would retire for good after the US Open.
Williams said she wouldn’t rule out continuing to play past 2023 when asked about retiring in New York on Friday’s episode of NBC’s Today show.
She told NBC, “I think so, but who knows.” when asked if she planned to retire.
When asked if she might enter the 2019 Australian Open, she said: “Although I really doubt it, you never know. Never say never in your career, is something I’ve learned.”
While Williams will undoubtedly steal the show on day one, the men’s draw begins with defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia taking on Stefan Koslov of the United States in the top half of the draw.
The ban on Russian players meant that Medvedev, who had previously thwarted Novak Djokovic’s hopes of completing a calendar-year Grand Slam by winning the US Open, was unable to compete in this year’s Wimbledon tournament.
Ten years after claiming his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, Britain’s Andy Murray, another aging veteran, kicks off his campaign against Argentina’s 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo.
Rafael Nadal of Spain, who is aiming for a record-tying fifth US Open victory and 23rd Grand Slam trophy overall, will kick up his campaign on Tuesday against Rinky Hijikata of Australia.
With Djokovic still banned from entering the U.S. due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19, Nadal has had a clearer path to the title.
Now that Djokovic is out of the running, Nadal’s most formidable opponent over the next two weeks could be his own injury-prone body.
There are concerns about the Spaniard’s ability to last the full two weeks at Flushing Meadows, as he has done four times previously in his career.
Since withdrawing from his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury, Nadal has played only once, suffering an opening-round defeat to Borna Coric in Cincinnati.
On Friday, Nadal said he had been cautious with his injury in Cincinnati, but that he had been able to put in full-out efforts in practice as he prepared for the US Open.
“Additionally, when I practice in Cincinnati, I take it very easy. In terms of the match itself, I do my best without focusing solely on the serve “Says Nadal.
“I’m hoping to be combat-ready. That’s all I can think to say.”