Boyzone was at the top of the charts and more than a quarter of the women’s top 100 was still unborn when Serena Williams made her US Open debut 24 years ago.
Already a nascent superstar at 16, Williams has been the talk of tennis ever since and is celebrated as such at Flushing Meadows as she marks the end of one of the sport’s great careers.
A few weeks from her 41st birthday and anxious to focus on having a second child, Williams has reluctantly decided that now is the time to hang up her bat.
While she’s played sparingly in recent years and women like Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek have made their claim at the top of the game, Williams remained the alpha woman of the Tour and her retirement will leave an inevitable hole.
Most of her fellow players in New York only know tennis with Williams in it.
Former US Open finalist Madison Keys told the PA news agency: “I grew up with Serena, I adored her forever and got to play her several times on tour, these are still some of the most memorable matches I’ve ever played had played and it will also be some of the special moments I had on a tennis court.
“I will be very sad not to see her play tennis anymore but I think she will continue to do amazing things.
“She doesn’t want to use the word retired and I won’t use the word retired. I think it’s really shaping up to be the next part of her life and I think like everything she does it’s going to be phenomenal and incredibly successful.”
Aside from her family commitments, Williams has several business ventures, including an investment company, which is expected to be the focus of her next ventures.
Williams announced her decision in a long and thoughtful article for Vogue earlier this month, but has since kept as low-key as possible.
Admitting she doesn’t like farewells, she quickly walked off the field after a tearful farewell in Toronto following a lopsided loss to Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati last week.
Williams’ training sessions in New York have so far at least given some hope that she can perform at a higher level when she takes on Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in the first round.
“It gets emotional for everyone and it’s hard to play knowing it’s a goodbye,” Martina Navratilova told PA. “I feel for her. I had a hard time getting the racquet out of my racquet bag for the last few matches I’ve played. Hopefully it will have a happy ending.”
Williams’ quest for the elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title that would take her to the top of the all-time charts with Margaret Court was a major factor in her lasting so long.
Dreaming of the perfect ending seems unrealistic, but Williams seems reconciled to the idea that she’s accomplished more than enough, and the current generation of American women is a testament to her enormous influence.
Twelve of the top 100 are American, while women’s tennis in particular has a much more diverse playing field than it did on that day in 1998 when a black girl from Compton began her journey to New York.
“You don’t even have to say her last name, everyone knows Serena,” Keys added. “If you ask 15 girls why they started playing tennis, they might all say it was her. She will obviously leave a lasting legacy that people will talk about forever.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/serena-williams-new-york-boyzone-madison-keys-naomi-osaka-b2153123.html Serena Williams is preparing for an emotional final tournament at the US Open