- Serena Williams is drawing record-breaking crowds for the 2022 U.S. Open.
- Both her first- and second-round opponents described struggling with crowd noise.
- Even players a few courses away from the 23-time Grand Slam champion were distracted by cheers.
NEW YORK — Serena Williams has an incredible, unbelievable finish at the 2022 U.S. Open — likely the last match of her illustrious professional tennis career.
The crowd noise from Arthur Ashe Stadium — where the 23-time Grand Slam champion plays every match she plays in prime time — was explosive. In her first two victories in Flushing Meadows, the nearly 30,000-strong audience was filled with movie stars, sports icons and even former U.S. presidents who provided Williams with chants of encouragement and several standing ovations .
Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic and Estonia’s Annette Kontaveit (Williams’ first- and second-round opponents, respectively) said that in their fight against the sport’s all-time greatest champions , they are all battling the noise and prejudice of the crowd. Covinic, ranked No. 80 in the world at this year’s U.S. Open, has almost certainly never had a match as high-profile and closely watched as Monday night’s opener.
“It was too loud,” Kovinic said with a smile after the game. “Everyone told me it was probably the noisiest court in tennis. It was really noisy at some point… that must have been on a court outside, we didn’t have that experience.
“I remember the first game, I missed Serena’s forehand [go up] 1-0, that hit into the net,” she added. “Because everyone was going crazy, I mean, at that moment, I didn’t hear that, so I couldn’t predict where the ball was going. That was the first time I realized, ‘Well, if they were that loud, the whole game was going to be tough. ‘”
Meanwhile, Kontaveit faces the six-time U.S. Open singles champion in a three-set thriller on Wednesday night for No. 2 in the world. The 26-year-old has played in many high-stakes games during her young but impressive career.
Nonetheless, none of them could have prepared her for the atmosphere around her, which is widely believed to be Williams’ last singles match.
“I expected it. You can expect some things — I saw it from the last game — but when you’re on the field, I mean, it’s hard,” Contavete said in the loss on Wednesday night. said after the game. “I know it’s coming, but I don’t think you can learn from someone else’s mistakes. Feeling it, it’s something I’ve never experienced before.
“Of course it was her moment,” she added, referring to Williams. “I mean, I try to do my own thing, [but] It’s all about her. I’m well aware of this…I don’t think they’re against me, they just want Serena to win that badly. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s a personal attack on me or anything. It’s fair – she deserves it. “
But the player in an enviable position about 78 feet from Williams Field isn’t the only one affected by the raucous crowd that follows her every move. Cheers and jeers from Arthur Ashe could be clearly heard by athletes who were playing on adjacent fields at the same time.
Even those a considerable distance from the main U.S. Open stadium — the largest tennis court in the world — catch the ball on the Queens field. Australian Ajla Tomljanović, 29, who will face Williams in the third round on Friday night, said she could hear the din in the outfield.
“I’m playing on course 7, and I’ve played both of my matches with her so far, and I can hear the crowd,” the world No. 46 said after her three-set win on Wednesday. “I thought, pitch 7 wasn’t that close. I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this annoys me, I didn’t even play her.’
“When the crowd is involved, that’s what it can bring you,” she added, looking ahead to Friday night’s game. “I thought maybe the closest thing to it was when I played Emma [Raducanu] Court No. 1 in Wimby. I remember after that game I was like, ‘Wow, that was so intense. I mean, the size of the crowd affects me a little bit. “
Tomljanovic plans to borrow strategies from Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic, who was banned from this year’s U.S. Open for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion has thus turned himself into a villain and has a wealth of experience dealing with less favorable crowds.
“I remember Novak saying once when they asked him a lot about it, when the crowd turned against him, he just pretended it was for him,” Tomjanovic explained. “When they chant, I don’t know, Rafa [Nadal]Roger [Federer]who he heard Novak, Novak.
“I kind of like the reaction,” she added. “I’ll probably use it on Friday night.”