Zoe Yanco ’25
Sports Staff Writer
As the summer rounded out, the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens prepared for the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year: the U.S. Open. With rumors of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams competing together in their last doubles match, fans in both Queens and their own homes collectively united to bid their fondest farewells to the iconic duo. It’s no secret that the sisterly combo can get viciously competitive, but in their final cooperative effort, there were sentiments shared on both behalfs.
On Sept. 1st, the pair took the hard court for their first cooperative doubles match since their last appearance at the 2018 French Open. Set to face the Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka and Linda Nosvoka in Round 1, fans of the Williams sisters hoped for a farewell victory. While the Williams sisters did defeat Hradecka and her previous partner Andrea Hlavackova to win the Wimbledon doubles title in 2012, Serena and Venus had since aged into their forties, making the feat all the more difficult.
Despite the match’s rare primetime slotting and a star-studded crowd anticipating greatness, the Williams sisters were unable to produce. After losing a grueling 72-minute first set and finding themselves in a 3-0 deficit in the second, the pair’s following three consecutive victories were not enough to top Hradecka and Nosvoka. However, what likely hurt fans the most wasn’t the loss itself, but rather the unspoken consensus that the Williams sisters would likely never appear together again on the same side of the net. Realizing that she unintentionally caused this, Hrdecka apologized to the crowd during her on-court interview following play. While she did acknowledge her own triumph, she briefly sympathized with the crowd for the Williams’ retirement as a sisterly combo.
Despite the end of her doubles career, Serena looked ahead to her singles match where she took on Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia in the third round of play on Sept. 2nd. With her recent singles victory over second-seeded Anett Kontaveit in the second round of play and her victory over Montenegro’s Danka Kovinć in the first round, fans looked forward to seeing a diamond-donned Serena advance to the fourth round. While Serena had previously denied considerations of her potential 24th major, there’s no doubt that fans began looking ahead with hopeful aspirations.
With a sold-out crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams and Tomljanovic took the court. Tomljanovic, 29, is ranked 46th, and although Williams sits at 413th, fans of the tennis great knew that anything could happen. After three tight, tense sets, Serena netted a shot, and Tomljanovic had defeated Williams at the very site of her first Grand Slam victory in 1999. After wracking up 51 unforced errors and having given up leads in every set, maybe it really is time for Serena’s growth beyond the court.
In the September 2022 issue of Vogue, Williams mentioned her reluctance towards stepping away from tennis, but at this point, it seems to be more of an evolution away from the game. Just because Williams may be headed in another direction doesn’t mean it’s the last she’ll do for the game or for the fans. With appreciation for the process and the journey, Serena still expects the best from herself, and she hopes to give back to the tennis community that believed (and still believes) in her.
As fans of Tom Brady know, retirement is not always finite. In her Vogue piece, Williams mentions Brady as a figure of long-lasting greatness in sport, yet she acknowledges that gender roles prevent her from doing the same. With intentions of growing her family and supporting her daughter and husband, Serena, and women in sports alike, face the ultimate challenge of continuing their passion or hanging it up to fulfill their roles as mothers. With the 2022 U.S. Open in the rearview, the tennis world and the greater community at large can all appreciate Serena’s run and understand the challenges she faces as a woman in sports.
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