Now that Serena Williams’ farewell tour is over at the US Open — singles and doubles — is there anything left to spark the tennis imagination over the next two weeks?
After all, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer aren’t here, and the women’s field has become so cheap that any of the 30 players can win. Maybe not by appointment, but here are five reasons to keep an eye on Flushing Meadows.
Bad Boys and the Defending Champion
The first big men’s glamour match will take place on Sunday night, when No. 1 seed Daniel Medvedev and No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios will take center stage in the fourth round.
Medvedev has been a spectator, playing twice as the second late game at Arthur Ashe Stadium after Williams. By then, the crowd had emptied into small, quiet crowds.
Sunday, though, will be the focus of a super heavyweight bout with Kyrgios, the bad boy in tennis who has also quietly entered his best showing at the U.S. Open.
Kyrgios reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, but it was a fluke that Rafael Nadal dropped his semifinal match.
“As an athlete, you want to be in those moments,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t want to be a future or a challenger in a backcourt without a crowd. That’s not why I’m in the sport. It’s not why I’m picking up a racket.”
Ajla Tomljanovic didn’t have any fans at Ashe Stadium on Friday night, but is hoping for support when she plays Lyudmila Samsonova in the fourth round on Sunday at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Tomljanovic, 29, has answered an important trivia question: Who faced Serena Williams in the last game? Now ranked 45th, the Croatian-born, Australian-raised, right-handed 5-foot-11 pitcher will try to build on her three-set victory over Williams.
Showing nerves of steel, she fought back against Williams to win the first set and pulled back from a 4-0 deficit in the second to force the tiebreaker. Having not given up in the second set, Tomljanovic exhausted Williams, who hit hard against a weak opponent in the final set.
“I was very nervous because I had never played in Ashe and I had never faced Serena,” she said. “I knew the crowd was going to be tough. From the first ball, I was happy that I felt comfortable. From then on, it was an instinct.
Coco Gauff is the most likely to take over the mantle from Williams, and the 18-year-old darling reaches the fourth round for the first time in her young career.
The Delray Beach, Fla., product will face China’s Zhang Shuai during the day on Sunday. She played the best tennis of her career and the French Open finalist could have a chance at her second Grand Slam final in 2022. She eliminated the tough American Madison Keys in the third round.
Carlos Alcalás reached the final at the 2021 Open, and the 19-year-old fast player from Spain won a string of hard court matches in the spring, earning him the nickname “The Next Nadal.” He’s short, but super fast, like his fellow Spaniard – one of the most exciting players on the tour.
The draw favours Alcalás making further progress and he can face the legendary Nadal in the semi-finals that will turn the Ashe Stadium into the West of Madrid. Alcaraz had no problem fielding American Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday.
When 13th-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2019, restaurateur Giovanni Bartocci was a regular in the players’ boxes , as if Italy had won the World Cup. He’s back in Berrettini’s box after his restaurant Via Della Pace closed during the pandemic, but it’s now reopening. All Italian tennis players frequent this place during the Open.
Former Wimbledon finalist Berrettini looks dangerous again after returning from a string of injuries. He faces Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Faukina in the round of 16. He has a good draw to play against clay-court specialist Kasper Rudd in the quarterfinals.