A legendary chapter for tennis could close Monday at the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams laid out her plans to walk away from the sport in an August cover story for Vogue but didn't outline a specific timeline for her retirement. She remained coy when asked Friday by Today's Dylan Dreyer and Sheinelle Jones whether the U.S. Open will be her final tournament.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion said she expects this to be her swan song but didn't shut the door on entering the 2023 Australian Open.
"You never know,” Williams said. “I’ve learned in my career, never say never."
Every time she steps onto the court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the stakes couldn't be much higher. That journey will start Monday night against Danka Kovinic.
When: Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. ET
TV Info: ESPN
Live Stream: ESPN+
Based on how this year has unfolded, Williams may not be getting a storybook ending.
The 40-year-old returned to competitive action at Wimbledon in June and lost to Harmony Tan in the first round. A second-round exit in the National Bank Open at the hands of Belinda Bencic followed that, and she lost to Emma Raducanu in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in her final U.S. Open tuneup.
Rust and age have combined to diminish Williams' skill set.
Kovinic, the No. 80 player in the world, hasn't fared much better of late. She's riding a five-match losing streak and has a 17-14 record this season.
The 27-year-old will probably have more eyes on her Monday than she ever has for a single match, and she'll be effectively playing the role of the villain since the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd will be firmly behind Williams.
"Serena is an icon," Kovinic said in an interview with the Associated Press' Howard Fendrich. "If I wasn’t playing her on Monday, I wouldn’t have all this attention. I’m aware of that. So it’ll be a very nice experience and, at the same moment, maybe a little bit stressful. Of course I will feel pressure. But I will try to turn it into something positive."
The Montenegro native could wilt under the spotlight, or she could relish the chance to be the final opponent to beat one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
You certainly don't want to bet against Williams. A competitor like her could roll back the years for one more deep run in a Grand Slam—one on home soil no less.
Should Kovinic play the role of spoiler Monday, it won't be the last time Serena walks onto the hard court in the Big Apple. She and older sister Venus are scheduled to play Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova in the women's doubles draw Wednesday.