Serena Williams’ opponents weren’t the only players struggling to prop up her overwhelming fans at the US Open

  • Serena Williams draws huge record-breaking crowds at the 2022 US Open.
  • Her opponents in the first and second rounds described their suffering from the noise of the crowd.
  • Even the players who were several pitches away from the 23-time Grand Slam champion were distracted by the cheers.

NEW YORK – Serena Williams has made an unlikely breakthrough at the 2022 US Open – possibly the final tournament of her illustrious professional tennis career.

The crowd noise coming from Arthur Ashe Stadium – where the 23-time Grand Slam champion played every game during prime time – was nothing short of an explosion. Dotted with movie stars, sports icons and even former US presidents, the audience, some 30,000, gave Williams’ cheers and several standing ovations during her first two victories at Flushing Meadows.

Fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium stand on their feet as they watch Serena Williams defeat Annette Kontaveit.

Fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium stand on their feet when watching Williams defeat Annette Kontaveit.

AP Photo / Julia Nikhenson

Danka Kovinic of Montenegro and Annette Kontaveit of Estonia – Williams’ first- and second-round opponents respectively – said they suffered from crowd noise and prejudice during their matches against the sport’s greatest champion. Kovinic, ranked No. 80 in the world prior to entering this year’s US Open, almost certainly didn’t play a high-profile match and watched closely on Monday night’s opening match.

“It was so loud,” Kovinic said, laughing after the match. “Everyone was telling me this is probably the highest court in tennis. It was really noisy at some moments… that was one thing for sure on the outdoor courts, we don’t have that experience.

“I remember the first match, the forehand that I missed for Serena [go up] 1-0, that hit into the net. “Because everybody got so crazy, I mean, at that moment, I didn’t hear that sound so I couldn’t predict where the ball was going to go. That was the first moment I realized, ‘Well, if they’re so loud, the whole match is going to be tough.'”

Serena Williams.


Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Kontaveit ranked second in the world after facing the six-time US Open singles champion in Wednesday night’s three-set thriller. The 26-year-old played several high-stakes matches over the course of her young but impressive career.

However, none of them could have prepared her for the atmosphere surrounding what was widely expected to be Williams’ last singles match.

“I was expecting it. You can expect something – I saw it from the previous game – but when you’re on the field, I mean, it was tough,” Kontaveit said after her Wednesday night loss. “I knew it was coming, but I think you can’t learn from anyone else’s mistakes. Feeling that, it was something I hadn’t experienced before.

Annette Kontaveit (left) shakes hands with Serena Williams after her second-round match at the 2022 US Open.

Kontaveit (left) shakes hands with Williams after his second-round match at the 2022 US Open.

Robert Deutsch – USA Today Sports

“Of course it was her moment,” she added, referring to Williams. “I mean, I was trying to do my own thing, [but] This is totally about her. I was very aware of that…. I guess they weren’t attracted to me against me, they just wanted Serena to win that bad. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s a personal attack against me or anything. That’s fair – she deserves it.”

But the players in the unenviable position 78 feet across the field from Williams weren’t the only ones affected by the raucous crowds that followed her every move. Athletes competing in nearby stadiums at the same time could clearly hear the cheers and jeers coming out of Arthur Ashe.

Even those positioned a long way from the US Open’s main stadium – the world’s largest tennis arena – were holding racquets across the courts in Queens. Ajila Tomljanovic, the 29-year-old Australian who will play Williams in her third-round match on Friday night, said she could hear the clamor from outside courts.

Ajla Tomlijanović during her second-round match at the 2022 US Open.

Ajla Tomlijanović during her second-round match at the 2022 US Open.

Mike Staub/Getty Images

“I was playing on Court 7, both games for me so far, at the same time you play, and I could hear the fans,” the world number 46 said on Wednesday after winning three sets. “I’m like, Court 7 isn’t that great. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this bothers me, and I’m not even playing against it.'” “

“When the crowd gets involved, that’s what it can do for you,” she added, looking forward to Friday night’s game. “I think it was probably the closest thing to her when she played Emma [Raducanu] Court 1 in Wimbe. I remember coming out of that match and thinking, “Wow, that was intense.” I mean, it got me a bit, crowd size.”

Tomljanovic is planning to borrow a strategy from Novak Djokovic, who famously was not allowed to compete in this year’s US Open after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during the quarter-final match against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on day 7 of the Erste Bank Open Tennis in Wiener Stadhal

Novak Djokovic.

Getty Images / Thomas Kronsteiner

As a result, the 21-time Grand Slam champion has become of himself a villain, with extensive experience dealing with less fortunate crowds.

“I remember Novak once saying when they asked him a lot about it, when the crowd was against him, he was just pretending it was for him,” Tomljanovic explained. “When they chant, I don’t know, Rafa [Nadal]Present [Federer]Whoever hears Novak, Novak.

“I kind of liked that response,” she added. “I might use that on Friday night.”

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