Regardless of either player’s form, this will be an almighty occasion. Serena Williams, an absolute legend of the sporting world is winding down the clock on her time as a professional tennis player. Emma Raducanu, who is just getting started, set the tennis world alight in 2021 when she won the US Open as a qualifier.
The draw gods of Cincinnati have pitted them against one another, giving us a blockbuster of a first round. What’s in store for this epic clash of generations?
Serena Williams vs Emma Raducanu: Battle of the Generations
Serena is Coming to the End
Taking into account each current player’s form, this encounter may not seem all that exciting to some. Serena, very possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, has only played three singles matches this year. Her lengthy return from injury has been tricky, and it’s resulted in a lot of missed time out there on the court. As many will know, Williams is far more than just a tennis player. She’s a fantastic businesswoman, a wonderful mother, and an inspiration to so many.
Her tennis isn’t at the level as it used to be–which isn’t surprising in the slightest. She’s 40 years of age and has had to deal with significant injuries of late. Coming back from this at her age in a sport as physically demanding as tennis is incredible in its own right, and anything she produces on court should be seen as nothing less than brilliant.
In her highly emotive and moving recent piece for Vogue, Serena discussed at length her career, her upcoming retirement from the sport, and much more. What’s great about this last stretch of her career is that she can go out on her own terms, and not to have it taken out of her hands by an injury. Even if she is unable to win tournaments, matches, or sets, this is her goodbye, and the tennis world is thankful for it.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion has given everything and more to this sport, and her mere presence at these tournaments is enough to satisfy most. Sure, it would be amazing to see her win another title–a US Open victory to reach #24 would be the icing on top of a career that transcended the sport. Though it’s unlikely that this will happen, she deserves her chance to try.
Raducanu Is Still Learning as a Professional Player
Raducanu is doing everything she can to adjust to her new life as a WTA player. She sky-rocketed to immense fame last year when she won the US Open as an 18-year old, coming through qualifying to do so (without dropping a set). She is the only player, male or female, to have achieved this. This was an accomplishment that was so sensational and impressive that the tennis world may not ever see it again.
It was widely acknowledged that 2022 would be a tough season for the Brit. Sports fans who know little about tennis would’ve thought that as she’d won the US Open, she would then go on to be a top player competing for all of the Grand Slams straight away. That, simply, is not how tennis works.
To put it into perspective, Raducanu was still doing her A-Levels when she had her breakthrough at Wimbledon last year. She only played a handful of main tour events in 2021. Yes, her fairy-tale run in New York was mesmerizing. Yes, she showed that she’s a phenomenal player. Should people have expected her to then go on to become a consistent world-beating player in 2022? Absolutely not.
Becoming accustomed to life on the main tour of the WTA is very tough. Her body has taken a big hit due to the physicality of competing week in week out against the very best players, causing a number of mid-match retirements. Her win/loss record in 2022 is currently 11/14, which is fueling her many critics with ammunition to say that her US Open win was “a fluke.” This take is clear nonsense. She beat everyone in front of her without dropping a set, and played brilliant tennis in doing so. Her peak level is clearly exceptional–people just have to be patient.
Serena vs Emma
Unsurprisingly, the two have never played before. Raducanu’s rise to the top of the game coincided with Williams’ injury, leaving no chance for them to face off against each other–until now. It seems rather fitting that Serena’s farewell tour sees her clash with a future star of the game and the current US Open champion.
As I said before, form shouldn’t come into this match. Serena still showed some incredible levels of tennis in Toronto during her victory over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, but Belinda Bencic in the following round was too solid for Williams. You can see from the clip below that she’s still got it, and there will be plenty more moments like this to savor in the coming weeks.
— wta (@WTA) August 8, 2022
The crowd will undoubtedly play a huge role here. As much as the U.S. crowd love Raducanu for her heroics last year, no one will ever have the crowd support over the legendary Serena Williams. How the Brit will deal with this is uncertain. If she is to win this match, she’ll have to be in an aggressive mindset; that’s when she produces her best tennis.
When Raducanu is flat and hits too passively, she’s in trouble. Serena will serve big, hit hard and find the angles to out-maneuver the 19-year-old if she isn’t being the aggressor. If Raducanu is taking the ball early and directing her groundstrokes around the court effectively, creating some of those wicked angles we saw last year, then she could be in a good position to be in the driver’s seat. Serena is a legend of the game and you still have to play a very high level of tennis to beat her, regardless of where is right now.
The tennis and the occasion itself will be truly epic. Will Emma Raducanu topple the GOAT? Can Serena pull off a famous victory over the reigning US Open champion? We’ll have to wait and see.