Former WTA Tour professional Barbara Rittner believes that the US Open draw has been kind to Serena Williams.
Williams might not be in championship-winning form but Rittner believes she might be able to get onto a roll at Flushing Meadows.
It doesn’t seem like Williams has enjoyed the kind of preparation that would suggest she might be on for a 24th Grand Slam title but Rittner feels that her first round assignment is winnable for the 40-year-old.
Williams takes on Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, a player with a clear preference for clay court action and Rittner feels that the queen of the Slams will celebrate each win as a big success.
“Each round that Serena wins is a success,” Rittner told Eurosport. “But she got a good draw, and with Danka Kovinic, she has an opponent who doesn’t have the confidence to compete in this atmosphere at the moment.
“In addition, she [Kovinic] is by far not as highly-rated on hard courts as she is on her favourite surface, clay. Serena, on the other hand, I think she can fight her way into the tournament and maybe reach the third or fourth round, and I would definitely like to see her do that.”
Rittner doesn’t believe that Kovinic is in the right space mentally to overcome a player like Serena Williams on a big emotional occasion.
“A player who is in good shape and self-confident experiences such a match as a dream,” Rittner added
“There are many on the tour who would love to be on the court with Serena again. For Kovinic, that might not be the case at the moment. I can’t imagine her looking forward to the match and probably becoming a small part of Serena’s farewell story.”
Rittner doesn’t rank Serena Williams or defending champion Emma Raducanu as contenders for the US Open crown.
“If you want to single someone out, it’s Simona Halep,” added Ritner. “She won a major competition in Toronto in the preparation.
“In Cincinnati, Halep dropped out of the tournament but seems to be fit again. I see her at the top of the pyramid of title contenders.
“Behind her, there is a whole list of names that are possible contenders. The two former US Open champions, Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, are always capable of a lot, Karolina Pliskova or Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina should also be on the list.
“I also have an outsider tip: Zheng Qinwen from China. At 19, she is already playing great tennis, was in the round of 16 at the French Open and was also strong on hard courts in Toronto. I think she can achieve quite a lot.”
Serena Williams will take on Danka Kovinic on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court that has played host to a number of significant moments in her career.
The match is set to begin shortly after midnight BST.
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