Serena Williams to face No. 80 Danka Kovinic as US Open draw announced

NEW YORK – Serena Williams’ first opponent in what she has hinted will be her last US Open – and indeed the last tournament of her career – is unseeded Danka Kovinic.

If you win that, Williams could meet No. 2 seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round.

The brackets for the women’s and men’s singles events were released Thursday by the US Tennis Association.

The game begins Monday, and the USTA announced hours after the draw that Williams’ half of the women’s field will start that day. The first round continues on Tuesday.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who turns 41 on September 26, announced this month that she is preparing to give up her playing career. She didn’t explicitly say when she planned to quit, but made it sound like the US Open would mark her farewell.

Williams has won the hard court tournament at Flushing Meadows six times.

Kovinic never advanced past the second round in four appearances at the US Open. She’s a 27-year-old from Montenegro who ranked 80th in the WTA rankings this week and has moved up to 46th.

Williams and Kovinic have never played each other in singles.

Williams is just 1/3 this season, having recently returned to singles action after a year’s absence following a first-round injury exit at Wimbledon in 2021.

Her first match back came at the All England Club in late June, and she lost her first set there in a third-set tiebreak to Harmony Tan in 115th place.

After winning a match at a tournament in Toronto, Williams was eliminated there in straight sets by Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic and then lost again in straight sets to reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati.

As Williams has said she is preparing to retire from tennis, her every move will be the center of attention as the US Open begins. Fans will pay close attention as each match could be their last.

While Williams has spent more than 300 weeks at No. 1, her lack of activity has contributed to a slide; she is 410 this week.

That meant she wouldn’t be seeded in New York and could have been placed anywhere on the field – and against any player.

Other possible opponents for Williams should she make it through the tournament are Martina Trevisan of Italy, No. 27, in the third round and 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez of Canada or 2021 French Open winner, Barbora Krejcikova, fourth from the Czech Republic.

Williams could only face her older sister, seven-time Major champion Venus, in the Finals because they are on opposite sides of the bracket.

No. 1 Iga Swiatek, two-time French Open champion, meets Jasmine Paolini in the first round while Raducanu begins her title defense against Alize Cornet. Both games take place on Tuesday.

Possible quarterfinals include Swiatek vs. No. 8 Jessica Pegula and No. 4 Paula Badosa vs. No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka in the top half of the field, as well as Kontaveit – or maybe Williams – vs. Wimbledon runners-up Ons Jabeur, and No. 3 Maria Sakkari vs. No.7 Simona Halep or French Open runner-up Coco Gauff in the bottom half.

An intriguing matchup in Tuesday’s first round is Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open in 2018 and 2020 for two of her four major championships, against Danielle Collins, the runner-up at this January’s Australian Open.

Shortly before the draw was announced, some expected news arrived: Novak Djokovic tweeted that he would not be in New York for the US Open.

The 35-year-old from Serbia, who owns 21 Grand Slam titles, is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Foreign citizens who have not received the injection are not allowed to enter the United States.

Djokovic is a three-time champion at Flushing Meadows; He lost to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final, ending a bid for the first calendar year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969.

Medvedev is seeded at number 1, making this US Open the first major since 2004 without Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray on the court. He will face Stefan Kozlov from the USA on Monday.

No. 2 Nadal, whose 22 Grand Slam titles is a record for one man, was drawn against Australia wildcard receiver Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday.

Possible men’s quarterfinal matches include Medvedev vs. No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 5 Casper Ruud in a matchup between the last two French Open runners-up, Nadal vs. No. 7 Cam Norrie and No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz against No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz.

Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, seeded 23rd, could face Medvedev in the fourth round. In the first round on Monday, Kyrgios will play fellow Australian, good friend and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis.

https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34458405/serena-williams-face-no-80-danka-kovinic-us-open-draw-announced Serena Williams to face No. 80 Danka Kovinic as US Open draw announced

Emma Bowman

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