MASON, Ohio — The Serena Williams farewell excursion is about to proceed Tuesday on the Western and Southern Open.
But for a way lengthy?
The matchup — Williams vs. Emma Raducanu of Britain within the opening around — turns out in particular smartly fitted to the grand instance this is Williams’s prolonged good-bye from skilled tennis.
With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, she is definitely the best girls’s tennis participant of this period and some of the biggest athletes of any generation. Raducanu, a sophisticated 19-year-old, stunned the sector (and herself) through successful ultimate 12 months’s U.S. Open as a qualifier, and has the smarts and strokes to be some of the leaders of the sport if she will alter to her new standing and resume smacking forehand winners and successful fits through the bunch.
The two champions at reverse ends in their careers have by no means performed each and every different, and Raducanu is one among a number of younger stars at the WTA Tour who’ve been hoping for an opportunity to stand Williams sooner than she walks clear of the game she lengthy ruled. She wrote in Vogue, revealed ultimate week, that the U.S. Open, which starts on Aug. 29 in New York, can be her ultimate.
But the query is whether or not Williams’s frame (she turns 41 on Sept. 26) could make it to her self-imposed end line. Her fit with Raducanu was once at the start scheduled, with nice fanfare, for Monday evening, with the match liberating a observation and informing lovers on website for the qualifying rounds that Williams can be enjoying in that opening-night slot outdoor Cincinnati.
But after tickets, possibly somewhat quite a few them, have been bought with Williams in thoughts, the fit was once bumped past due on Monday to Tuesday with a imprecise clarification from the match. “On account of a number of factors related to scheduling, the Serena Williams-Emma Raducanu match will now be held on Tuesday,” the match mentioned in pronouncing the Monday agenda.
People who have been knowledgeable in regards to the state of affairs however who declined to be recognized as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk at the topic, mentioned the postponement was once as a result of bodily issues of Williams, who has had continual knee tendinitis all the way through her occupation and neglected a 12 months of pageant after tearing her proper hamstring at Wimbledon in 2021.
There was once no affirmation of harm issues from Williams or from match officers. Williams practiced on Sunday and Monday, and the fit stays at the Tuesday evening agenda. But Williams, if she wins, must play on consecutive days for so long as she stays within the match. With the U.S. Open in her points of interest, she’s going to obviously now not wish to take undue dangers that might jeopardize her second in Queens.
The U.S. Open is her high goal as Eric Hechtman, her new trainer, made transparent in an interview ultimate week in Toronto, the place Williams misplaced in the second one around of the National Bank Open in immediately units to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
It was once the 3rd singles fit of Williams’s newest and unquestionably ultimate comeback, following an opening-round defeat to Harmony Tan, an unseeded Frenchwoman, at Wimbledon in June and a first-round victory in Toronto over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain.
“We had Wimbledon, and now we have Toronto and Cincinnati to build up for New York,” Hechtman mentioned after the loss to Bencic. “I’d say Serena’s played better in each match, and obviously there are things she could do better out there, but I thought her opponent played really well tonight. What we’re going to do is take the positives and improve tomorrow. She’s a champion, and we’re going to keep getting better every day, not just every match, but every day and hopefully we can make some improvements by Cincinnati.”
Hechtman, a 38-year-old membership skilled who performed on the University of Miami, has coached Venus Williams, Serena’ s older sister, since 2019 and started training Serena Williams previous this 12 months after she cut up together with her longtime trainer, Patrick Mouratoglou.
For years, Venus and Serena shared the similar coaches, their father Richard and mom Oracene Price, and within the sisters’ developmental years, the Florida-based trainer Rick Macci.
Working with Hechtman brings them, in a way, complete circle although he most often trains with them one at a time to present them individualized instruction.
“I feel blessed and thankful that I’m in this situation,” he mentioned. “It just fell into place, and I just hope I do them justice and help them as much as I can to go forward.”
Venus Williams, 42, who has but to announce any timetable for her personal retirement, won a wild card into the Western and Southern Open and has a frightening first-round fit at the major stadium courtroom in opposition to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, a former international No. 1, on Tuesday.
“Venus will do it how she wants to it when she wants to do it,” Hechtman mentioned of her leaving the sport. “She could play for five more years. Who knows?”
But her more youthful sister has made her intentions a lot clearer.
“Emotions are high,” Hechtman mentioned. “Every athlete faces this time at some point, and I think it’s good Serena did it the way she did it. I thought her first-person essay was unbelievable, and it shows a lot about how she is but also how intelligent she is. We’ve got a couple of tournaments left and hopefully we can use that as one of her major weapons: not just her tennis but her brain power and how she uses it on court.”
The energy hole that lengthy separated Serena Williams from the chase pack has been closed. Her successors on excursion thrive on torrid tempo, from this 12 months’s Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina to the emerging Americans Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova. It is more difficult to crush this technology, partially as a result of Williams set a brand new same old.
But Williams nonetheless has charisma, in particular with those that grew up staring at her from afar.
“When I look at her, I suddenly kind of forget that I’m here as world No. 1,” mentioned Iga Swiatek, the Polish 21-year-old who was once now not even born when Williams gained her first main identify on the 1999 U.S. Open. “I see Serena and it’s, ‘Wow, Serena!’ You know? And I feel like I’m a kid from kindergarten just looking at her. So it’s tough. I haven’t talked to her, but I’m just trying to say hi.”
And even though Williams is now not as cellular at age 40, she will win issues in a lot of manners, deploying drop pictures effectively in Toronto and the use of her still-impressive first serve to safe fast issues or arrange next-shot winners.
“I think she’s serving well,” Hechtman mentioned. “The pace is there on the serve, as it always has been through her career. She’s been improving since Wimbledon, and I think she’s definitely striking the ball cleaner, and I’d say the movement has improved. So, on all those fronts, it’s good.”
The intent is to have a greater, fuller preparation heading into New York than she had heading into Wimbledon, the place she had performed most effective two doubles fits at a match in Eastbourne, England, with Ons Jabeur sooner than dealing with Tan.
“We’re playing more events coming in,” Hechtman mentioned. “So I think that’s useful and what we need to be doing. It’s like warming up for a match, right? You don’t just start the match cold. You’ve got to get the rhythm, and she’s getting her rhythm with the more matches she plays.”
Body prepared, she’s going to play no less than one in Mason, Ohio.