It would obviously take a brave woman to stare at Serena Williams at Ashe Stadium, as 24,000 (excluding a handful in their player’s chest) support the legend to sustain her career for just a few days. Perhaps the most recognizable feature in tennis history, a wall of noise pointing in one direction that never happens anywhere else.
Watching her two matches, you could hear the desperation in the crowd under the bustle, and the actual fear that this would be the last time you sifted through the excitement. You can hear it on the broadcast as well (not to mention the party after the first round match that was definitely planned to follow either score and contained enough “This Is Your Life” that they were definitely inclined to prepare if Serena lost). ESPN commentators bend back and forth to praise Serena or compare her to her younger self, which she certainly isn’t. She’s moving well…for 40. She’s been pushed on the field by Anett Kontaveit by a fair amount, and she’s been able to hang around thanks to some great, impressive defense that we’re not used to seeing from Serena because she rarely needs it. Adel played with it because she still had it in the bag, and for the resistance of Kontaveit who hit the ball amazingly and probably deserves more recognition from the New York tennis crowd she was playing (32 winners).
Perhaps that twinge of desperation from the New York crowd wanted to make up for lost time, because it wasn’t always the most welcoming place for Serena. It’s been a while since this has been the case, but it has already happened, with Flushing Meadows taking the same amount of time as the rest of tennis to fully welcome the Williams sisters. It was a slow process. No one can forget the joy of a large part of the audience at that Famous match against Jennifer Capriati This is almost solely responsible for the installation of the Hawk-Eye. Sure when Serena threatened someone who wasn’t universally accepted either (and shouldn’t be), but he was also a crowd willing to jump on her too.
But everyone got there eventually, and now no one wants it to end. This includes Serena, who has extended and chased some balls that she might not have reached anywhere else on the planet and under any other circumstances. It was amazing to see Serena having to fend off a player like Kontaveit, who has obviously molded herself to be Serena – a massive forehand paired with extra movement and ready to pounce on any winner’s chance. But that has been the story of the last few years of Williams’ career, as she encounters players who are products of the game she changed.
It may take longer after. The draw is open, and Serena can’t see the current wild beast of the Iga Świątek round until the final. I ate the second and third seeds. Most of the other top seeds are in the other half of the clouds. Coco Gauff and Madison Keys are about to play with each other, and they’re the only two players who might not experience the full power of Ashe Stadium (albeit slightly). Other than Świątek, no one on the Tour is holding much momentum (even Kontaveit’s form coming into the US Open has been shaky, but it says something about the current state of the Tour still taking second place).
“This is the circus. Everyone is trying not to go home ”(the name of this flick!). New York may have missed some circus and regretted it. But they definitely don’t want to go home now, squeezing every drop of any time left.
Can I steal something from old friend Jesse Spector? Well, I will do the following:
Ohtani seems to have risen from hell to slap the dingers and make the hitters look an idiot, which could very well be. Angels fans are also likely to feel when he trades this winter. Really deal with the devil.