Serena Williams’ remaining Grand Slam, Rafael Nadal’s try at 23 majors and extra to look at this 12 months’s US Open

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A farewell to Serena Williams, one of many sport’s most legendary gamers. The involuntary absence of Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic. The return of final 12 months’s debut main champions Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev.

The 2022 US Open actually has it all.

After an sudden, unpredictable and at occasions chaotic tennis season, we have made it to the ultimate main of the 12 months. The primary three Grand Slams had been stuffed with exceptional competitors, worthy champions and oh-so-much drama and the US Open seems to be to be extra of the identical — after which some.

Will we see one other first-time winner, or two, at this 12 months’s occasion? Will Williams conclude her astounding profession by making much more historical past? Might Rafael Nadal make some historical past of his personal? Does Nick Kyrgios have an opportunity to win all of it? Listed here are the gamers and storylines it’s good to find out about heading into the 2022 US Open.


Finish of an period

After one of many best careers in tennis historical past, Serena Williams is predicted to play in her remaining match on the US Open. The 40-year-old gained the primary of her 23 main singles titles on the occasion in 1999 and now, 23 years after her Grand Slam breakthrough, it’s going to come to an finish.

In a first-person essay for Vogue, Williams detailed the combined feelings she was having about her resolution however defined she hoped to have one other youngster within the instant future.

“There isn’t any happiness on this subject for me,” Williams wrote about her impending retirement. “I do know it isn’t the standard factor to say, however I really feel a substantial amount of ache. It is the toughest factor that I might ever think about. I hate it. I hate that I’ve to be at this crossroads. I maintain saying to myself, I want it could possibly be straightforward for me, however it’s not. I am torn: I do not need it to be over, however on the similar time I am prepared for what’s subsequent.”

Since making her announcement, shared forward of her second-round match on the Canadian Open, Williams has but to win a match. She misplaced to Belinda Bencic in Toronto, and in her opener in Cincinnati in opposition to Raducanu. She nonetheless obtained standing ovations at each occasions and ticket gross sales for the US Open skyrocketed on the day her Vogue piece printed on-line.

So whereas it stays unclear how Williams, a six-time US Open champion, will fare in opposition to Danka Kovinic in her first-round conflict in New York, it appears sure there will not be an empty seat in the home at Arthur Ashe Stadium for that match — or any she performs in.

Williams has not hidden her need to match Margaret Court docket’s long-standing report for essentially the most main titles (24), however has failed to take action since getting back from childbirth in 2018. Per Caesars Sportsbook, she enters the match with 25-to-1 odds — which does not precisely make her a favourite — but when anybody might pull off the miracle ending, it needs to be Serena Williams.


As for Venus …

Whereas Serena has been getting a hero’s send-off from her friends and followers alike since making her announcement, sister Venus has been silent on her future plans. She performed in her first singles match in almost a 12 months on the Citi Open earlier this month, and has since performed at each Toronto and Cincinnati. She has gone winless in any respect three occasions however obtained a wild card for the US Open.

It could be unfair to invest if this may even be Venus’ remaining match, however it’s clear the tip is nearing for the 42-year-old and one would think about Venus too will obtain a heat and adoring reception from the New York followers.


No Novak

After turning his season round with a title at Wimbledon — his twenty first at a significant — Djokovic finds himself sidelined but once more. The 35-year-old was forced to withdraw from the US Open earlier this week attributable to journey restrictions into the US on account of his unvaccinated COVID-19 standing.

It has been a wierd and difficult 12 months for Djokovic. He was one victory away from finishing the elusive calendar slam on the 2021 US Open however in the end misplaced to Medvedev within the remaining — and it solely went downhill after that. He was deported from Australia in January forward of the Australian Open and performed in only one match earlier than the clay season started. He misplaced the world No. 1 rating, and he fell within the quarters on the French Open. Even the victory at Wimbledon got here with a caveat as a result of there have been no rating factors awarded on the match. In consequence, his rating fell but once more and he presently sits at No. 6.

Having reached the ultimate on the US Open in 2021, Djokovic will now lose 1,200 rating factors and can probably drop to the underside of the highest 10. He’s subsequent anticipated to play on the Laver Cup in September in London, however no rating factors are awarded there.

Whereas Djokovic is definitely essentially the most notable absence on the occasion, he is not the one one. World No. 2 and 2020 match finalist Alexander Zverev, No. 28-ranked Reilly Opelka, 2022 Australian Open quarterfinalist and fan favourite Gael Monfils additionally withdrew.

The ladies’s draw stays remarkably intact with virtually the entire high gamers remaining. Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion, announced she would be missing the event for “the best possible reason” on Wednesday, and former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, presently ranked No. 47, withdrew earlier this month, however they’re the most important absences up to now.


Nadal’s quest for 23

After successful the primary two majors of the 12 months, issues have lately cooled for Nadal attributable to accidents. He needed to withdraw forward of his semifinal match at Wimbledon attributable to an belly tear and since then he has performed in only one match: A gap-round loss to eventual champion Borna Coric in Cincinnati.

The four-time champion on the US Open appeared optimistic heading into the match.

“I would like to maneuver ahead and simply begin to consider the vitality that the group provides me in New York,” Nadal mentioned after the loss to Coric. “I do know it is a very particular place for me, and I get pleasure from it. [I have] unforgettable moments there, and I [am] going to strive my highest each single day to be prepared for that.”

If Nadal had been to win one more title, and assuming Serena Williams would not do the identical, he would match her mark for essentially the most main titles within the Open Period, which could not precisely be the sweetest going-away current for Serena.


Ball controversy

Prime-seeded Iga Swiatek made headlines in Cincinnati when she called the balls used by women at the US Open “horrible” and questioned why ladies used totally different balls than males on the occasion, not like at each different Grand Slam.

“I do not know why they’re totally different than males’s ones,” Swiatek advised reporters. “I do not know, like, 15 years in the past in all probability ladies had some elbow accidents as a result of the balls had been heavier and so they modified them to ladies’s balls, however proper now we’re so bodily well-prepared that I do not suppose it could occur. Plus, we won’t get these balls in Europe, or truly, once we purchase them at retailer, they’re completely totally different than the match balls, so after I’m working towards with US Open balls at dwelling [in Poland], I am working towards with males’s ones.”

The balls are used all through the summer time hard-court swing in the US and Canada. Swiatek, who had a 37-match win streak earlier this 12 months, misplaced within the spherical of 16 at each occasions she performed main into New York.

Swiatek mentioned the balls had been “arduous to manage” and revealed she and Paula Badosa had beforehand complained in regards to the scenario to WTA CEO and chairman Steve Simon final 12 months. Ashleigh Barty‘s longtime coach Craig Tyzzer shared an analogous sentiment after Barty gained the Australian Open earlier this 12 months, and mentioned his star participant (who has since retired from tennis) would by no means win the match with the present balls.

Tyzzer implied the balls had been a part of the rationale so many sudden ladies had gained the US Open lately. 5 of the earlier seven ladies’s champions on the match, together with Raducanu in 2021, have been first-time main champions.

The balls will definitely be a speaking level all through the fortnight and will face heavy scrutiny. In a press release to ESPN final week, the WTA mentioned it “would proceed to watch and talk about additional with each our athletes and our sports activities science groups,” and acknowledged it had obtained requests to vary the balls from “a choose variety of our athletes.”


Repeat for Raducanu?

After beautiful the world together with her most unbelievable US Open title in 2021 — turning into the primary qualifier within the Open Period to win a significant — it has been a puzzling 12 months on the courtroom for the 19-year-old Raducanu. She did not advance previous the second spherical at any of the majors this season, and hasn’t reached a semifinal or remaining in any match since her Cinderella run.

However Raducanu does deliver some momentum together with her to Queens. After a quarterfinal look on the Citi Open earlier this month, she defeated Serena in Cincinnati in commanding vogue, 6-4, 6-0, after which adopted it up lower than 24 hours later with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over two-time main champion Victoria Azarenka. She in the end misplaced to Jessica Pegula 7-5, 6-4 within the third spherical however obtained a much-needed confidence increase for what she was in a position to obtain.

“I feel this week was an excellent step for me,” Raducanu mentioned after the loss to Pegula. “Prior to now 12 months, I feel it is in all probability like the primary match or like one of many few tournaments that I’ve truly, you understand, like began going for my photographs extra.

“I feel that lately I used to be type of taking part in and hoping they’d miss, and I feel I used to be pushing the ball round much more, moderately than this week I type of simply was like, look, I am simply going to strive, I do not care if I make errors, prefer it’s fantastic, however I am simply going to love overhit if something.”

Raducanu presently sits at No. 11 on the earth, however will dramatically drop if she is unable to come back near replicating final 12 months’s success. With 2,756 complete factors getting into the occasion, and a couple of,040 factors to defend, Raducanu would drop to round No. 80 if she had been to lose in her first-round match in opposition to 2022 Australian Open quarterfinalist Alize Cornet.

After all Raducanu was one in every of a handful of youngsters who made headlines on the match in 2021. Her cohorts — fellow finalist Leylah Fernandez, final 12 months’s shock quarterfinalist and now present world No. 4 Carlos Alcaraz and 2022 French Open runner-up Coco Gauff — will all be seeking to take their success one step additional.


Medvedev’s quest for No. 2

Like Raducanu, Medvedev returns to New York seeking to defend his title and win his second main trophy. However not like Raducanu, he is without doubt one of the favorites to take action and presently the No. 1 participant on the earth. It has been an up-and-down summer time for Medvedev, who was unable to play at Wimbledon when Russian and Belarusian gamers had been banned. Since then he gained the title in Los Cabos, misplaced his opener in Montreal and reached the semifinals in Cincinnati.

So, whereas definitely not the strongest hard-court season of his profession, Medvedev sounded happy about his present degree following his quarterfinal victory over Taylor Fritz on the Western & Southern Open.

“Typically, yeah, [I’m] pleased with my degree,” Medvedev mentioned. “If I can proceed to play this fashion, and particularly in the course of the match elevate my degree, I can beat anyone.”


The emergence of Kyrgios

After years of not fairly dwelling as much as the sky-high expectations, Kyrgios is taking part in a number of the greatest tennis of his profession. Because the begin of the grass-court season in June, he has reached his first main remaining at Wimbledon, gained the title in Washington D.C., in addition to two doubles titles and defeated top-10 gamers like Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Throughout this era he is additionally confronted allegations of assault by his former companion in his native Australia, and authorized proceedings are underway.

Whereas he admitted his “tank [is] attending to the tip” in Cincinnati final week and was routed by Fritz 6-3, 6-2 within the spherical of 32 within the remaining lead-in occasion, Kyrgios usually thrives on the most important phases and in opposition to the hardest opponents. Please watch the clip beneath, or frankly wherever on the web, for proof of this:

Now, realizing he is able to reaching a significant remaining and with some robust hard-court outcomes to bolster him, this might simply be Kyrgios’ time for his largest breakthrough but. It will not be straightforward, nevertheless. He’ll face his longtime good friend and frequent doubles companion Thanasi Kokkinakis within the first spherical after which doubtlessly might play No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut within the third spherical and Medvedev within the fourth.


Who’s subsequent?

Kyrgios is not the one participant with a respectable likelihood to win a maiden Grand Slam in New York. Listed here are a couple of others driving some momentum into the Huge Apple — which, in case we’ve not made clear, has seen greater than its fair proportion of first-time champions:

Caroline Garcia: The previous world No. 4 is having a profession resurgence this season. She nabbed her third title of 2022 final week in Cincinnati, turning into the primary qualifier to win a WTA 1000-level occasion. The 28-year-old dispatched a trio of top-10 gamers in Maria Sakkari, Pegula and Aryna Sabalenka en path to the ultimate, after which defeated two-time main champion Petra Kvitova for the trophy. Again within the high 20, there could be nobody with extra confidence and hearth than Garcia proper now.

Borna Coric: The opposite shock Cincinnati champion shocked the sphere — together with a surprising three-set upset over Nadal within the spherical of 32 — to win the primary 1000-level title of his profession. After shoulder surgical procedure in March and an almost 10-month absence, Coric had one of the best week of his profession on the Western & Southern Open and surged 123 rating positions to make his return to the highest 30. “I used to be simply believing that I can win the subsequent match,” Coric mentioned on Sunday. “That is what I did for 5 days in a row.”

Daria Kasatkina: She reached the primary main semifinal of her profession on the French Open in June after which was unable to play at Wimbledon, however Kasatkina gained her very subsequent match after popping out on the Silicon Valley Basic. She reached a career-high rating of No. 9 earlier this month.

Cameron Norrie: The highest-ranked British participant had his career-best consequence at a significant with a semifinal run at Wimbledon — and has but to decelerate since. He reached the ultimate at Los Cabos and the semifinals in Cincinnati and enters the US Open with the highest-ranking of his profession at No. 9.

Jessica Pegula: One of the vital constant ladies on tour this season, Pegula superior to the semifinals in Toronto and the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, and gained the doubles titles in Washington D.C. and Toronto (with two totally different companions nonetheless!). Having reached the quarters in two of the three Grand Slams already this season, and now taking part in on dwelling turf as an American, it might simply be Pegula’s time to take the newest step in her unorthodox profession.



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