With the first round in the books at the US Open, all eyes remain firmly fixated on Serena Williams, who is trying to become the first woman to win the Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did it in 1988.
Should Serena complete the sweep of the majors, she’ll tie Graf’s 22 majors — the most in the Open Era — and stand only behind Margaret Court, who won 24, for the most in women’s tennis history.
Oddsmakers believe that she’ll have no problem winning the US Open — Bovada gave her even odds, which is almost unheard of. The other top-seeded players in Serena’s side of the draw are dropping left and right. The most fascinating narrative of the tournament may be whether or not Serena and Venus will meet in the quarterfinals.
I’ve been wandering around the Billy Jean King Tennis Center for the past two days, and there’s a buzz here that’s unlike what I’ve felt in past years here. Even if she’s not as heavily marketed as Maria Sharapova on the innumerable advertisements around the grounds, Serena Williams is still totally beloved in Queens. Fans want this for her, the commentators want it for her, and it will be fascinating to see if she can really do it.
Lost in Serena’s spotlight, though, are the other American women who have also enjoyed success in the year’s final major. Through the first round of the US Open, American women went 13-9, which is especially solid when you consider that only four of the 22 women earned seeds. Coco Vandeweghe upset fellow American Sloane Stevens, and 19th seed, 20-year-old Madison Keys also dominated her opening round. It’s only been one round, but these other American woman are so far proving that Serena’s not the only name to look out for, even if she is the scariest.
The men, by comparison, fared less well, going 6-10 in first round play.
Top-ranked American John Isner won his first round match, and up-and-comer Jack Sock put on a clinic against Dominican Víctor Estrella-Burgos, despite the lively Dominican fans waving flags in the Grandstand. Sock became the first American to reach the Round of 16 of the French Open since Pete Sampras in 1999, and he’s just 22. But at Wimbledon he lost in the first round and is sometimes erratic. Still, if Sock can best Ruben Bemelmans in the second round, he’ll likely face Wawrinka in what would be a battle of two of the biggest forehands in tennis and a great opportunity for the greater public to get to know Sock.
Two other American men had notable first rounds wins. Donald Young came back from two sets down to top the 11th-seed Gilles Simon — the first time in Young’s career he’s battled back from two sets. Veteran Marty Fish — who announced earlier this year that he will retire after the US Open — came back from a set down to win his first match. He’ll play Felicano Lopez today in what could be the last match of his career.
Otherwise, the men have struggled. Ryan Harrison, Sam Querry, and Steve Johnson — three players who have all respectively been called the next great American tennis sensation — all lost their opening round matches. No American man has won the US Open since Andy Roddick did it in 2003, and it looks like this drought will continue into the future.
Luckily for American fans, there’s still Serena. Serena’s arguably the most dominant athlete alive, and almost certainly the best American athlete competing right now. If she can win, she’ll make arguing otherwise pretty tough.
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