Friday, July 1, 2022

Soul of the US Open 2016: ‘Greatest Athlete Ever’ Serena Williams Wins 307th

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

*Flushing Meadows – Serena Williams played the opener for the Williamses sister act on Saturday at the 2016 US Open.  She faced off against Johanna Larsson of Sweden during the Arthur Ashe day session.  Venus Williams was scheduled to play later that night.

Serena Williams, the world no. 1, unveiled her “day wear” white tennis dress with pink accents and matching “power” sleeves, and took care of business with very few complications. She was too focused for Larsson and sent her packing in exactly one hour, 6-2, 6-1.  The Swede was clearly over matched, as Serena Williams had to exert very little energy in pounding her off the court.  At the conclusion of the match, the most notable stat was the short time it took to end it – and amazing the fact that the win enabled Serena to back up her current Nike ad campaign: The Greatest —— Athlete ever (striking through female).

Serena Williams achieved the feat of tying Steffi Graf in the number of Grand Slams won back at Wimbledon this year. The win now puts her firmly in the record-breaking zone. Thus, with every match going forward, she’ll likely be rewriting history in some way. With yesterday’s match win, her 307th, she, toppled Martina Navratilova and equaled Roger Federer. 

“It is actually a really good feeling,” she said of the achievement. “So, to be up there with both men and women is something that’s super rare, and it actually feels good.” 

Nike ad featured around New York
Serena Williams Nike ad featured around New York

The striking ad campaign was unveiled at the start of the 2016 US Open and is prominently placed around New York.

“I definitely think there’s a difference between the way male and female athletes are treated,” she said of the nature of the ad.  “I also believe that as a woman we have still a lot to do and a lot to be going forward.”

Serena Williams’ next match, in the 4th round, will be against Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) on Monday.  The 22 Grand Slam champion leads their head to head, 4-0.

As for her sister, Venus Williams, whatever she’s on, we want it!  She’s the oldest woman on tour, yet she’s glowing and burning through her matches – with energy to spare – like she’s fresh off the junior’s tour. 

“Serena’s been holding up her end of the bargain, but I’ve been all over the place,” she said of her performance leading up to the resurgence. “It’s time I pull myself together.”

She could say that with confidence because she soundly handled German stand out, Laura Siegmund, during the first night match on Arthur Ashe (the tournament set an attendance record, 65,286, with combined day and night session numbers). 

Venus’s movement was sharp, her net play was efficiency and her serve got the job done in taking Siegmund down, 6-1, 6-2.  She won 6/10 break points and 14/19 net points to do so. It was a performance reminiscent of the pre-Sjogrens Venus Williams and she now moves on to face Karolina Pliskova of Czechoslovakia. 

That’ll prove to be a real test, because the Czech has the weapons to come out on top, particularly the serve. 

“Every match is different,” she said when asked about facing the Czech’s big serve. “I’ll adjust and go out there and do my best.”

Madison Keys, the only other female American standing, was given a run for her money – as predicted – in her 3rd round match by 18-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan. After the being down 0-3 in the first, she fought back and took it, 7-5. But she fell short again in the second and couldn’t recover when Osaka resumed the play that earned her the 3-0 lead in the first.  She dropped that set at 4-6.  The decisive third started off with Osaka soundly on top, with Keys on the ropes at 1-5, but the wheels then came off Osaka’s game and the American found another gear. Nerves overcame the Japanese youngster and she allowed Keys to go up 6-5. Osaka finally eked out one more game to stay in it, which forced a tiebreaker. Keys, however, pulled out all the stops and experience to seal the deal at  7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3).

Madison Keys’ next match is on Sunday at 1:00pm, against former world no. 1 and Serena’s bestie, Caroline Wozniacki (DEN).  They’ve never played one another before.

All three American women – women of color, we proudly say – move into week 2, the business end of the tournament.

Donald Young is still alive in doubles on the men’s side, with partner Nicholas Monroe. They play their 3rd round match on Sunday.

He was knocked out of mixed doubles with partner, Taylor Townsend.




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