The Serena Effect – The New York Times

It’s one of those sports stories that has become big enough to appeal to even those who don’t normally follow sports. At 7 p.m. ET tonight, Serena Williams’ utopian run at what looks to be her last US Open will resume. To put it in context, my colleague Kurt Streeter – a Times journalist who played competitive tennis when he was younger – is taking over today’s newsletter. – David Leonhardt

So far, so is Serena.

As has happened many times over the past two decades, the US Open is eating away at the electrical power provided by Serena Williams. Of course, she’s one of several hundred professional tennis players at Flushing Meadows, a list that includes legends like Rafael Nadal and promising upstarts like Coco Gauff.

But as long as she remains on the hunt for her 24th Grand Slam singles title, Serena will be the main driver here. Everyone else is playing in her orbit.

And wow, what is its trajectory in Flushing Meadows now. I’ve played a lot of tennis in my life – I was the captain of the first black men’s tennis team at the University of California, Berkeley – and I’ve watched a lot of big, long-term sporting events as a player. is a reporter. Serena’s matches to date, especially her first round in singles, go down as some of the most varied I’ve ever witnessed. To me, the crowd looks a lot like New York, and that says a lot.

The Serena Effect Happens Again!

So it should be for the woman who looks set to stay in the game after arguably the greatest tennis player ever, male or female. And that should be for the woman who made it through the crowded tennis courts here in 1999, when she won the US Open at the age of 17, becoming the first African-American woman to win the title. major champion since Althea Gibson in 1958 and the first African-American player, male or female, since Arthur Ashe to win Wimbledon in 1975.

Think of all the memorable moments Serena had while playing under the bright lights at Queens. Six singles titles, most recently in 2014. Ten times competed for the title, most recently in 2019.

Consider dramatic comebacks and competitions that ended in deep controversy (see: Osaka, Naomi, US Open, 2018). Keep in mind she’s barely competed on tour this past year, and when she does, she looks average and very similar to her 40s.

And her match on Wednesday night, a sensational three-set win over 2nd seed Anett Kontaveit, will likely go down as one of her most memorable. The crowd of 29,959 spectators – a record for a US Open evening – were ecstatic and cheered for their heroine to fight back and forth, all with stormy energy that rocked the stadium. Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Beat the young, wet-footed No. 2 seed to rise from the abyss after an ugly second set by recalling some old genius? Yes, that’s very Serena. Perfect branding.

As always, Serena dismissed her doubts and played with an eye-catching glee. I get goosebumps, and I’m not the only one.

Of course, more attention to Serena comes from her recent announcement that she plans to “evolve” away from tennis so that she can devote all of her attention to having a second child, running the business. fashion business and work as a venture capitalist.

It is assumed that this event will be the last time we see her play meaningful tennis.

It will be?

Probably not, if she goes on with matches like the ones she’s had this week – when she moves like a younger version of herself and assists in the competition with basic shots. body.

One of the pleasures of any tennis Grand Slam is the chance to see the full spectrum of tennis stars. Now, they’re everywhere in Flushing Meadows – with mesmerizing brushstrokes and a variety of techniques and personalities. Look over there, it’s Gauff, or top-seeded female tennis player, Iga Swiatek, starting with a laser! The scene here is part of tennis heaven – talented, flammable Nick Kyrgios on one court, Nadal on another.

But for now, all the other players seem to be warming up. Serena is the big show, the main attraction, as she should be.

You can follow Kurt on Twitter at @kurtstreeter.

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Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

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