Serena Williams enters what is expected to be her final US Open with a match on Monday night against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic but things could get tough quickly for the 23-times Grand Slam champion with second seed Anett Kontaveit possibly awaiting the winner.
The US Open draw did Williams no favours, the 40-year-old American landing in the bottom quarter where fifth-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur, the Wimbledon runner-up, 10th-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina and last year’s losing finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada all lurk.
Williams signalled her intention to retire this month, saying she was “evolving away from tennis” but never confirming the US Open as her final event.
The tennis world, however, is preparing a massive retirement party at Flushing Meadows with fans hoping it will be a long one.
Williams starts her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title against a player she has never faced before.
But the six-times US Open winner will be wary of the 80th-ranked Kovinic, who has enjoyed her best career Grand Slam results this year having reached the third round at the Australian and French Opens.
Williams will feel different emotions but the surroundings and scene will be familiar as she plays in her 21st US Open, having hoisted the title six times, though not since 2014.