Thursday Feb 2, 2023
Thursday Feb 2, 2023

Serena Williams prepares to retire


Nepalnews
AP
2022 Aug 29, 20:47, NEW YORK
Serena Williams practices at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the start of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Thursday. (AP Photo)

Whether or not it actually does turn out to be the final event of her lengthy, storied and influential playing career — and in professional tennis, perhaps more than in any other sport, goodbyes sometimes end up being see-you-agains — the two-week hard-court tournament that begins Monday at Flushing Meadows and wraps up the 2022 Grand Slam calendar will be, first and foremost, about Williams.

As long as she remains in the field, at least. Williams faces Danka Kovinic, a 27-year-old from Montenegro, in Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first round of singles Monday night and also is entered in doubles with her sister, Venus.

The focus on Williams is fitting, because so much of the past two decades, and then some, of tennis, in general, and at the U.S. Open, in particular, have been about Williams, who turns 41 next month. There is that unmistakable skill with a racket in hand and indiminishable drive to be the best that led to 23 major singles championships, the No. 1 ranking and Olympic gold medals, and that transcendent, attention-demanding quality that made her a celebrity as much as a superstar athlete.

Serena Williams holds up the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, during the women's singles final of the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo)
Serena Williams holds up the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, during the women's singles final of the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo)

The ways in which Williams — and, to be sure, 42-year-old Venus, the owner of seven Slam singles titles herself and Serena’s partner for 14 major doubles trophies — changed the game are varied and numerous, and extend beyond the way their speedy serves and booming groundstrokes prompted, or even forced, other players to try to either match that style or figure out how to try to counter it.

Williams has said she doesn’t know how to define her legacy, but it is all around, whether embodied by players who credit her with being an inspiration, such as four-time major champion Naomi Osaka or French Open runner-up Coco Gauff, or in rules changes that clearly, or at least likely, are a product of episodes involving her.

A line can be drawn to the decision this year by the U.S. Tennis Association to allow in-match coaching for women and men at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time from the chaotic 2018 U.S. Open final in which Williams ended up being docked a game after being warned about receiving instructions from her then-coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, during a loss to Osaka.

Serena Williams practices at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the start of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Thursday. (AP Photo)
Serena Williams practices at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the start of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Thursday. (AP Photo)

The proliferation of electronic line-calling, to the point that there are no line judges at U.S. Open matches anymore, can be traced back to a 2004 quarterfinal match at Flushing Meadows in which multiple erroneous rulings went against Williams during a loss to Jennifer Capriati.

At the U.S. Open alone, there were other run-ins with officials (who can forget the foot-fault brouhaha in her 2009 semifinal against Kim Clijsters), groundbreaking fashion choices (a catsuit in 2002; knee-high boots two years later) and plenty of triumphs, dating all the way back to 1999, when a 17-year-old Williams beat Martina Hingis for her initial Grand Slam trophy.

So the Ashe court provides a fitting backdrop for a farewell, although Williams did not quite explicitly say that she would never compete again after the U.S. Open while telling the world via an essay in Vogue magazine that she was prepared to begin “evolving away from tennis” to focus on having a second child and pursuing her business interests.

Every time she steps on court in New York will be treated as if it might be the last time. Even her practice sessions have been attended by throngs of fans in the days prior to the tourament’s start.

READ ALSO:

Serena Williams to retire US Open tennis Arthur Ashe Stadium Olympic gold medals
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