April 13, 2024

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Serena Williams will play Danka Kovinic in the first round of the US Open

Serena Williams will play Danka Kovinic in the first round of the US Open

While noting that it would be her last US Open and likely her final, Serena Williams was drawn to face unseeded Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the opening round.

Kovinich is ranked 80 in the world, but Williams, who turns 41 on September 26, is unranked herself and ranked 608 at this late stage of her career. She has only a 1-3 record in singles since her return to the tour in June and was hit properly6-4, 6-0, from Emma Raducano, last year’s surprise US Open champion, in the opening round of the Western and Southern Opens last week.

Williams and Covinich, 27, have never played in singles matches on the tour, but Covenich has the weapons, including a powerful serve, to stymie Williams in the first-round match to be played on Monday or Tuesday next week at Arthur Ashe Stadium. But there’s a huge achievement gap between the two: Williams is the greatest women’s player of the era with 23 Grand Slam singles titles and long runs for first place. Covinic has yet to win a singles tour title.

If Williams, the six-times US Open champion, wins, she will likely face the second seed, Annette Kontaveit, in the second round. Although Kontaveit is one of the top two seeds, she struggled through most of the 2022 season.

Venus Williams, 42, in what could be her last US Open title, will be the underdog in her first round match against Alison van Uytvanck, the 42nd-ranked Belgian who has a solid starter match.

Top seed Iga Swiatek, who won the French Open in June, lost early in her last four tournaments but showed excellent form on the American hardcourt earlier this season when she won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and the The Miami Open is on its way to a winning streak of 37 singles matches. Her first-round opponent at the US Open will be Jasmine Paolini, the unseeded Italian and 57th seed.

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Radocano, who has yet to reach another final of the tournament since her surprise victory in New York last September, has shown flashes of better shape recently, defeating Williams with a victory over Victoria Azarenka. But she had a grueling first-round match in New York with French veteran Alizee Cornet, who is a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open this season and one of the best defenders and opponents on the tour. Cornet defeated Swatek in the third round of this year’s Wimbledon.

But the best match of the opening round in the Women’s Championship could be Naomi Osaka vs. Danielle Collins. Osaka, the top seed and a former two-time US Open champion, is unseeded this year but remains a hard-court risky one as she showed when she reached the Miami Open final earlier this year. Collins, the fiery American 19th seed, reached the Australian Open singles final in January, losing to Ashleigh Barty, the now retired Australian star.

Unless Swiatek can get her form early in the season it looks like the women’s championship is wide open, and the men’s event could also be full of surprises in the absence of former top seed and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, who withdrew from the tournament. The US Open is on Thursday shortly before the draw as he remains barred from entering the US because he has not been vaccinated against Covid.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is the men’s top seed and defending champion after defeating Djokovic in last year’s final. But Medvedev has won only one championship this season. He will face Stefan Kozlov, the unseeded 110th American, in the first round. Second seed Rafael Nadal has played only one match since withdrawing from Wimbledon in July due to an abdominal injury. But Nadal has a smooth early round draw, as he faces Rinke Hijikata, a wild entry from Australia, in his opening match.

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Nick Kyrgios, the Australian who lost to Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon final, was drawn to face his close friend and doubles partner Tanasi Kokinakis in the opening round. Dominic Thiem, the 2020 US Open singles champion, who missed last year’s tournament with a wrist injury, will face Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on his return to New York, a tough task given that Carreno has twice qualified for the US Open semi-finals. He won the National Bank Open, the Masters 1000 in Canada, on a hard court.