US Open kicks off with retirement news, withdrawal and hope

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

The U.S. Open Tennis Championships returned to Queens’ USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 23 with hot air and fanfare.

The first week consisted of qualifying matches and fan events. For free, attendees could watch players practice, enjoy performances by local artists and dine at the tennis center’s renowned food court.

The main draw began on Aug. 29, but several major developments occurred beforehand.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams announced plans to retire from the sport in an article for Vogue’s August issue.

Although she currently ranks no. 413 in women’s singles, the American tennis superstar was no. 1 multiple times, most recently in 2010.

Williams has 23 Grand Slam singles championship titles, with six of them in the U.S. Open. Alongside older sister Venus Williams, she has won 14 doubles championships overall.

Mentioning the recent retirements of fellow Grand Slam winners Ashleigh Barty and Caroline Wozniacki, the 40-year-old tennis superstar cited her family as the main reason.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” Williams told Vogue, noting her venture capital firm as one of those things. “Soon after that, I started a family. I wanted to grow that family.”

The news resulted in increasing sales of U.S. Open tickets, with the USTA telling CNBC it sold out the first three days of the main draw. A surge in ticket prices for the final women’s match was reported, with one costing $1,074 on average this year versus $562 in 2021.

Fans hope for one last championship to send her off, but a loss at a prior tournament in Cincinnati may squash hopes. Regardless of how far she goes in this tournament, she will leave a farewell for fans to remember.

Veteran players will face a younger crowd that includes rising players Bianca Andreescu and Coco Gauff in New York. ATP No. 7-ranked, two-time Grand Slam tournament winner Simona Halep was ousted in an upset by 20-year-old Daria Snigur on Aug. 29.

On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament on Aug. 25 due to travel restrictions that bar non-U.S. citizens or immigrants unvaccinated against the coronavirus from entering the United States.

The former No. 1-ranked tennis star told BBC News that he would remain unvaccinated, even if it meant missing a match.

The last time the Serbian tennis player competed in a Grand Slam was in July at the U.K.’s Wimbledon Championships, where he won his 21st singles championship title. He has won the U.S. Open three times.

The absence of Djokovic plus injured favorite Roger Federer leaves victory possible for fellow veteran players like 59-time rival Rafael Nadal and current No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the 2021 men’s finals. Though a long shot, Andy Murray could win his first U.S. Open in 10 years.

There is also a chance for emerging tennis stars, such as No. 3-ranked 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz Garfia and No. 8-ranked 22-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime, to win the championship.

With the Open still in the early stages, fans can look forward to more surprises on the court.