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Highlights from the doubles match between Serena and Venus Williams at the US Open

When Serena and Venus Williams take to the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night, they’ll add another line to their resume: It will be the first time the US Open women’s doubles first round will be played in a night session at Ashe. .

Doubles matches, especially in the first round, are usually confined to small courts where fans traverse between matches. Golden his time slot at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s largest stadium is a coveted spot. The tournament did not hesitate to show Serena Williams… from tennis.

Having Williams in the stadium with the most seats for the first game of the night session makes sense for the US Open. This is your chance to sell the most tickets, get higher TV ratings and fill the surrounding squares. It’s also a chance for the wider tennis world to attract new fans to the game before she retires.

Tennis Channel analyst and author John Wertheim said the task for the US Tennis Association is to “alchemize all this goodwill.”

“Turn all these messages about access and overthrowing conventional wisdom and diversity into a surge in participation,” said Wertheim. “We’ve been told, ‘The secondary ticket market is exploding’ and ‘This is great for TV ratings. to long-term growth of

The US Open has spoken candidly about Serena Williams’ excitement after winning her singles second-round match Wednesday night.

And Williams acknowledged the tournament’s celebratory atmosphere in light of his recent retirement announcement.

credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

“I’ve been blocking out pretty much everything, but at the same time, I’m kind of embracing it because I want to enjoy the moment,” she said. is not just a little hug, it’s important to understand that you’re here to focus and do your best this time.”

Even some players are moved by the buzz around Williams. After his second-round win against Belarusian Ali Aksandra Sasnovich on Thursday, 28-year-old American Jessica his peggra said it was exciting to see Williams in the tournament.

“If there’s no game at night, we all turn on the TV because we want to see what’s going on, what’s going to happen, how she plays,” Pegula said. . “She was there and she feels like she’s absorbing every moment of being Serena, every moment of it. I think she was so cool to watch.”

Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University, said that with Williams continuing to run at the U.S. Open, the tournament “needs to take advantage of the situation. good script.

“Like any marketer’s bridge, we need to take advantage of every advantage and capitalize on every opportunity to promote the sport,” said Neirotti. “Serena Williams is now every American’s favorite Cinderella story, right? But it’s more than tennis.”

Daniel Allen, 30, describes herself as a new tennis fan and flew in from Chicago this week to attend her first US Open. I wanted to see her practice.

“Even just a glimpse is great,” Allen said over a honey deuce on the square in front of Ashe Stadium. “She’s like our Michael Jordan.”

Men’s tennis has players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but women’s tennis won’t have a clear-cut superstar after Williams retires.

There was hope that three-time Grand Slam champion Ashleigh Barty could fill the void. But in March she retired at the age of 25, surprising her tennis world. Poland’s Iga Spheretek, the current world number one, has won two Grand Slam singles titles for her, but it’s unclear if she can sustain her success. Japan’s girlfriend, 24-year-old Naomi Osaka, has won four Grand Slam her events since 2018, but she has struggled in recent times, including this tournament where she lost in the first round.

A survey last month by Morning Consult of 2,210 Americans, including 1,513 sports fans, found that about a third of Americans said they would “play women’s tennis” after Williams retired. It turns out I’m not very interested.”

credit…Anna Watts of The New York Times

But Allen said he would watch more tennis.

“There’s been a lot of great new talent in the last few years,” she said, citing 18-year-old American Coco Gauff as an example. “It’s good to see people of color, especially,” she said.

There may be a lull until a dominant force like Williams reappears, but Wertheim compares Williams’ retirement to when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA, and over time either said it would rise

“There are some coordination and marketing challenges that will be on par for a few years,” Wertheim said. “Over time, another star will fill that void. It may not be the star who won 20 or more majors, but the sport will win. It always does.”

Delpy Neirotti said tennis has lost stars before, pointing to Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert, saying that new stars were just emerging.

“I never thought tennis was dead,” she said. “It’s just a new generation.”

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