NEW YORK — Somebody, after all, will find yourself within the historical past books because the final opponent of Serena Williams’ stellar profession. It could possibly be Danka Kovinic, a 27-year-old from Montenegro who’s “honored” to be the first-round U.S. Open foe of somebody she remembers watching on TV as a baby.
Their match – scheduled for Arthur Ashe Stadium at 7 p.m. on Day 1 of the Grand Slam match that Williams has indicated will mark her farewell – is the primary time the 2 girls have shared a courtroom.
Kovinic’s response when she heard in regards to the matchup from her coach: “I used to be blissful; I received’t lie.”
“It’s a privilege to share the courtroom with Serena,” Kovinic mentioned in an interview at Flushing Meadows. “I simply actually hope that I can present my good recreation. Possibly my greatest recreation.”
They’ve crossed paths in tour locker rooms over time, however Kovinic mentioned she by no means acquired up the nerve to request a joint follow session.
“I used to be like, `OK, that’s Serena and I’m Danka,”‘ mentioned the Eightieth-ranked Kovinic, whose greatest Grand Slam outcomes had been reaching the third spherical on the Australian Open in January and French Open in Might earlier than shedding at every to a significant champion (Iga Swiatek in Melbourne; Simona Halep in Paris). “I didn’t really feel like I may method her to ask.”
Different subjects are, or can be, of curiosity over the approaching two weeks, from renewed questions on whether or not it is sensible for ladies to make use of barely totally different tennis balls than the boys do at Flushing Meadows – that is the one Grand Slam match that does that – to Novak Djokovic’s absence attributable to being unvaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, to Rafael Nadal’s pursuit of a twenty third main title regardless of a current restoration from a torn stomach muscle, to Emma Raducanu’s return to the positioning of her out-of-nowhere run from qualifier to Slam champion a yr in the past in New York.
And on and on.
However for now, nothing – and nobody – in tennis issues as a lot as Williams.
“Serena is an icon. If I wasn’t taking part in her, I wouldn’t have all this consideration. I’m conscious of that,” Kovinic mentioned. “So it’ll be a really good expertise and, on the similar second, possibly slightly bit demanding. After all I’ll really feel stress. However I’ll attempt to flip it into one thing optimistic.”
What’s she most keen to seek out out about Williams’ recreation?
“The whole lot,” Kovinic mentioned with a chuckle. “I do know she hits onerous, however I don’t know the way totally different that’s from the opposite women I play.”
Different gamers can think about what these circumstances would possibly really feel like for Kovinic, who has a 2-4 profession file on the U.S. Open – 104 fewer match wins on the place than 23-time Grand Slam champ Williams, who turns 41 on Sept. 26.
“It’s a troublesome one,” mentioned Caroline Garcia, who’s seeded seventeenth and will meet Williams if each attain the semifinals. “Danka is aware of that she’s going to step on courtroom with each single particular person there in opposition to her. When Serena was taking part in previously, the ambiance already was electrical, so I can’t think about what it’ll be on the market now.”
Garcia is coming off a title final week at Cincinnati, the place Williams misplaced her opening match 6-4, 6-0 to Raducanu.
“I couldn’t take into consideration who was on the opposite aspect of the courtroom, as a result of I knew as quickly as I did, my thoughts would in all probability begin going,” Raducanu mentioned about taking up Williams. “So I simply needed to take it, have a look at the ball, not take into consideration anything.”
Kovinic says she typically tries to fret solely about herself and her ways, somewhat than what’s taking place on the opposite aspect of the web.
Irrespective of who’s on the opposite aspect of the web.
Is perhaps a tad totally different this time.
“It’s like: I do know what to anticipate,” mentioned Kovinic, the one lady to win a Grand Slam match whereas representing Montenegro. “And on the similar time, I don’t know what to anticipate.”
Followers who attend the match, or watch on TV, “don’t know a lot about me,” Kovinic mentioned.
So she supplied a little bit of a scouting report: Like Williams – properly, possibly not fairly like Williams, Kovinic mentioned with fun – she depends on a giant first serve. She will win factors together with her forehand. She mixes spins.
Her greatest victory in all probability got here in opposition to Raducanu in Australia this yr.
“She was actually, actually stable, was staying with you, counterpunching. Then, after you drop one brief after an extended rally, she would assault,” Raducanu mentioned.
Kovinic has by no means performed a match in Ashe.
By no means even hit a ball within the 23,771-capacity stadium, the most important Slam stage, though she hoped to get the prospect to follow there over the weekend. She did enterprise inside greater than a decade in the past, as a teen entered within the junior competitors, to sit down within the higher reaches of the stands and watch Kim Clijsters play.
“It was spectacular,” she mentioned. “From up above, the courtroom appears so tiny. I assume it is going to be a totally totally different feeling after I step on the bottom down there.”
Serena’s opponent, Kovinic, ‘honored’ to face her at U.S. Open initially appeared on NBCSports.com