Serena Williams time is ending and a new era is already here

The main story of women’s tennis for the last year or so has been the wide open court. Any tournament can be won by any player at any time. We had a lot of newcomers last year in quarterfinals, semifinals, finals and on top of the podium. That’s why Iga Swiatek’s winning streak kicked everyone off their feet earlier this season. For the first time in a while, there was a single storyline and player that everyone saw and trusted.

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It felt like a throwback to another era, to the days of Serena Williams as the most dominant player in women’s tennis. With Williams gracefully ending her uniquely dazzling career at the US Open, we’ll likely never see anyone like her again, or experience the phenomenon that created and inspired her. There may never be another player that fans trust so much, not just to win, but to give them a show that’s always, always worth watching. It felt like a throwback because it was.

Those days are gone, and while there may never be another player who can captivate the world like she does, there are so many exciting players who are beginning to shine. Swiatek was unbeatable on clay. Coco Gauff has started to unfold. Jessica Pegula is having the best year of her career so far. The same applies to Elena Rybakina, who won Wimbledon. Simona Halep is on the rise. Ons Jabeur makes history. It’s a new era in women’s tennis and the post-Serena era has already begun.

Players to be seen at the US Open 2022

Serena Williams

The US Open will be Williams’ swan song as she bids farewell to her dominant, game-changing career and the sport that changed her forever. Williams has openly admitted she doesn’t expect to win in New York but wants to compete on her own terms in a tournament that has meant so much to her over the years. Despite her expectations, there’s always a chance she’ll make it through to the later rounds because she’s Serena and she’s already proven that there’s nothing she can’t do. Watch her to see if she can muster one last deep run. Watch her to see her play one last time. Watch her because she’s the tallest person to ever set foot on a tennis court. Whatever the reason, just watch them because we’ll never get the chance to do that again.

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 16: Serena Williams of the United States waves to fans after her first round match at the Western & Southern Open on August 16, 2022 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, OH.  (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Serena Williams will say goodbye to tennis at the US Open. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Iga Swiatek

Swiatek, the world No. 1, remains a force to be reckoned with. Her absolutely amazing run that led to Wimbledon – including capturing the French Open crown – was something we haven’t seen in decades. Her 37-match winning streak was ended with a third-round elimination at Wimbledon, which was disappointing but not surprising as she struggles on grass. At the US Open she is back on hard courts, a surface on which she has won three times this year. Expectations of her will remain high for quite a while due to this unreal streak that is quite unfair to her, but there’s a good chance she could run deep and even make it to the finals.

Simona Halep

Earlier this year, Halep told her family that she thought she was “done with tennis.” Now, after signing former Serena Williams manager Patrick Mouratoglou in April, she is on the upswing. In less than a year of working together, Halep looks like the confident, competitive player we all remember. In June, she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, her first Grand Slam semifinal in two years and her best performance at the All England Club since winning in 2019. Beating Beatriz Haddad Maia to win the Canadian Open was her 39th Second win of the season behind Iga Swiatek. She didn’t earn ranking points at Wimbledon (because nobody had them), but her win at Cincy catapulted her back into the WTA top 10 for the first time since July 2021, quite a bounce from February when she was 27th . She retired from the Cincinnati Open with a hamstring problem and her status is unknown, but with Iga Swiatek looking vulnerable, it could be a chance for Halep to lift the US Open trophy.

Coco Gauff

Gauff is wild. She made it to her first-ever Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in June (losing to Swiatek, who is a wrecking ball on clay), which helped her 11-12). She’s consistent – she’s made at least the third round of every WTA 1000 tournament she’s competed in this year – and she’s also an ace doubles player who is currently world No. 1. She was forced to withdraw from the Cincinnati Open with an ankle problem, but Gauff was quick to tweet that it was only a minor sprain and she should be ready for the US Open.

Simona Halep of Romania celebrates winning the women's singles final between Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and Simona Halep of Romania at the 2022 National Bank Open tennis tournament in Toronto, Canada, Aug. 14, 2022. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images )

Simona Halep is playing her best tennis in years. Could she win her first US Open trophy? (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Jessica Pegula

It’s been a big year for Pegula. She reached the quarterfinals of two Grand Slams and was successful in WTA 1000 tournaments with two semifinal earnings and a place in the final. She’s in the WTA top 10 for the first time in her career, something she, the daughter of billionaire Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, has long worked towards. She has never made it past the third round at the US Open, but her style of play could set a new career high.

Elena Rybakina

Rybakina was the surprise winner of Wimbledon after beating Ons Jabeur to secure the title. Until then, her best result at a Grand Slam was the quarter-finals of the French Open in 2021. It seemed like she came out of nowhere, but she also found success at the WTA 1000 this season. She has two quarter-final finishes, after never making it past the third round. This could be a legitimate breakout season for her, but a deep run at Flushing Meadows would cement her as a contender.

Naomi Osaka

After a turbulent 2021, Osaka just couldn’t get on track. She made it to the finals of the Miami Open earlier this year but has not progressed past the second round of any WTA 1000 tournament. Last month she lost in the first round at both the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Open, which doesn’t bode well for her chances at the US Open. However, she is a two-time US Open champion. Maybe playing Flushing Meadows will help her find her form.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernández

Raducanu and Fernandez faced each other in the 2021 US Open teenage final. Raducanu caught on and became an instant star in her native Britain. Since then, both women have had their share of struggles and successes, but Raducanu’s struggles have been more public. The notoriously pushy and obsessive British tabloids won’t leave her alone, turning everything into a referendum on whether she’s good enough to get that much attention. Fernandez, who unexpectedly folded to Raducanu after playing so well before the final, managed to stay out of the spotlight for the most part. Expectations will be high for both of them at Flushing Meadows.

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