February 23, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Pics: Seeded No. 17, Serena prepares Open run

NEW YORK – The U.S. Tennis Association came through with what they said they would do back in June.

They upgraded former champion Serena Williams’ seeding for this year’s women’s event. 

The 36-year-old would be No. 26 based upon her current ranking. But the tournament moved her up to No. 17.

On the plus side, it doesn’t bump a deservedly seeded player out, as it did at Wimbledon with Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.

But it’s largely a ceremonial bump of nine spots. The way the brackets work for seeding purposes, seeds No. 17 through No. 24 are drawn at random, to (potentially) face a player in the No. 9 through No. 16 seeds bracket in the third round.

So moving Williams up two spots, to No. 24, would have had the same effect.

“If she would have gone to the finals of these (US Open Series) tournaments, I think that would have raised her seeding a little bit, but again, she was — I think safely we can say unsuccessful in the hard court lead-up. For them to seed her 17, I think that’s pretty fair,” Chris Evert said during an ESPN conference call on Wednesday.

Save Venus, sacrifice Gavilova

(Here’s Williams practicing in cavernous Arthur Ashe Wednesday. The roof was closed, and it was hot and pretty stuffy in there).

Had the tournament seeded Williams any higher, it would have meant that her older sister Venus – also a former champion and currently in the No. 16 spot – would have been dropped out of that group.

Again, that’s fairly symbolic in the sense that 9-16 are drawn to play against 17-24. So in that sense, had Venus been in the lower bracket and drawn a player seeded No. 9-12 in the third round – and beaten her, it would have actually improved her lot.

The way the elder Williams has looked this summer, it might well be a moot point.

Instead, the casualty of the USTA’s arbitrary treatment for Williams is Australia’s Daria Gavrilova.

Gavrilova would have been the No. 24 seed (in that 17-24) group. With Serena Williams’s upgrade, she’ll now be No. 25 and in that 25-32 group that is drawn to face one of the top eight in the third round.

In a little bit of symmetry, Gavrilova is the only player Williams defeated during a truncated US Open series warmup tour. 

Not a great summer

Williams was trounced, 6-1, 6-0 by Johanna Konta in her first match at the San Jose tournament. There were some seriously extenuating circumstances in that match, despite an opinion held by some that Konta wasn’t given her due for the victory.

But dropping a baguette and a bagel on Serena Williams involves a lot more than a player who has struggled most of the season having a vintage day.

It was clear even during the match that Williams was agitated. Often, she looked flat-out anguished. And anyone who has watched her throughout her career could tell that this wasn’t run-on-the-mill Williams on-court drama.

Mom break needed

Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby. We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on Aug 6, 2018 at 3:24pm PDT

Basically, she needed a mental health week – which of course is her right.

Seeded on the past, not the present

After beating Gavrilova in Cincinnati, Williams was beaten by a red-hot Petra Kvitova in a match of tremendously high quality. But she didn’t win it.

Evert’s colleague Brad Gilbert said in the same conference call that he would have seeded Williams No. 1 at Wimbledon, based on her history. And he would have put her in the 5-8 bracket in New York.

“She’s never had this love before in her life. She’s never had this nurturing feeling, this protective feeling. It doesn’t switch on and off. It’s there.  … Even more than the physical part, the emotional part is the toughest one to try to figure out for Serena to be successful and to get back to being No. 1 and also to feel guilt-free that she’s spending enough time with her child,” Evert said.

“It’s just a love affair that she’s never had before, and it’s just gut-wrenching sometimes when you’re feeling guilty about your kid.  Again, these are — she’s only had to think about herself her whole career. She’s only had to think about Serena.”

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