One of the new faces of the game, Emma Raducanu, will face a retiring legend of the sport in Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week, such is the luck of the draw for the WTA 1000 that was made on Friday.
It’s incredible, her career. She has achieved so much. And to see her around in this US swing is really inspiring. Like she keeps playing because she obviously loves the game. And I think that longevity of a career is something that a lot of the players, and me especially, we aspire to achieve as well. Emma Raducanu
The generational clash will see 19-year-old Raducanu take on 40-year-old Williams for the first time in their careers after Serena announced earlier this week that she is to step away from the WTA Tour.
The Western & Southern Open is the second WTA 1000 tournament of the summer hard-court season, and the last major stop before the final Slam of the season at the US Open.
World No 1 Iga Swiatek tops the 56-player singles draw, where the top 8 seeds receive byes into the 2nd-round.
Joining Swiatek in the top half of the draw are No 3 Paula Badosa, No 5 Ons Jabeur and No 8 Garbińe Muguruza, while Simona Halep, Coco Gauff, Belinda Bencic and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina have also landed in the loaded top half.
World No 2 Anett Kontaveit anchors the bottom half of the draw, along with No 4 Maria Sakkari, No 6 Aryna Sabalenka and No 7 Jessica Pegula, but the news in the bottom half comes from 4 unseeded stars, with the soon-to-retire Williams emerging as Raducanu’s next challenge as the Briton prepares to defend her US Open title.
The 40-year-old remains in pursuit of her elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title that would see her finally draw level with Margaret Court, having been stunned by Harmony Tan in an epic 1st-round match on her return from almost a year out injured at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
Raducanu faces a tough test against Williams, with the World No 10 drawn to face the American in the 1st-round in what is likely to be the former World No 1’s final tournament before the US Open.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion indicated this week she was ‘evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me’.
“As I said in the article [in September Vogue], I’m terrible at goodbyes. But, goodbye Toronto,” a tearful Williams told the National Bank Open crowd after losing in straight sets to Belinda Bencic in the 2nd-round.
Raducanu, 19, went home a round earlier in Toronto, with her 7-6(0) 6-2 loss to defending champion Camila Giorgi, following a quarter-final loss to Liudmila Samsonova at Washington’s Citi Open.
Monday’s match is the first meeting between Raducanu and Williams and comes 23 years since the latter won the US Open for the first time, also as a teenager.
When asked for her thoughts on the American’s pending retirement plans, Raducanu responded: “It’s incredible, her career. She has achieved so much. And to see her around in this US swing is really inspiring. Like she keeps playing because she obviously loves the game.
“And I think that longevity of a career is something that a lot of the players, and me especially, we aspire to achieve as well.”
The winner of the 1st-round encounter will next face either Victoria Azarenka or Kaia Kanepi, another extremely stern challenge.
Bianca Andreescu and Camilia Giorgi, who beat Raducanu in Toronto, will face each other in the 1st-round, with the winner taking on 7th-seeded Pegula.
In the lower half of Section 3, 14th seed Karolina Pliskova takes on 7-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, a wild-card entry, against whom the Czech, the 2016 champion, holds a 2-1 record and is coming off a strong week in Toronto.
No 4 seed Sakkari, who faces either Alison Van Uytvanck or a qualifier first up, is the highest-ranked player in the section.
Kontaveit headlines Section 4 and faces a qualifier in round 2, while 4-time major champion Naomi Osaka faces Zhang Shuai first up, with a possible 2nd-round encounter against 13th seed Leylah Fernandez on the cards.
In the 1st section, Swiatek kicks off against either Sloane Stephens or Alice Cornet, while Gauff, who takes on a qualifier first, is a potential quarter-final opponent.
Section 2 is headlined by 3rd seed Paula Badosa, who takes on a qualifier, while Jabeur is a projected quarter-finalist, and the 5th-seeded Tunisian is up against Caty McNally or Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the 2nd-round.
The qualifying rounds are being held over this weekend to determine the 8 players to be included in the main draw play, which begins on Monday, 15 August at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.