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Serena’s legacy; Novak’s absence and US Open talking points: Match Points #40

In the latest episode of Match Points, host Josh Cohen and the panel discuss Serena Williams’ legacy, the absence of Novak Djokovic and all the burning issues ahead of this year’s US Open

August 27, 2022
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The figures

This year’s US Open is going to be like no other, not least since it is likely to be the last ever to include Serena Williams as an active player.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion will bow out with one last attempt at equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.

But in the latest episode of Match Points, host Josh Cohen and the panel discuss whether it matters what Serena Williams does on the court at the US Open this time, and examine the legacy she will leave behind.

The panel, former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and journalists Carole Bouchard and Simon Cambers dig into the other burning issues; from the absence of Novak Djokovic, Emma Raducanu‘s return as champion and whether a new kid on the block will find themselves lifting the trophy or whether Rafael Nadal will reign supreme once more.

Key Moments

04.15 – Host Josh Cohen asks the panel what they expect from Serena Williams in the US Open. Marion Bartoli said she expects her to “leave everything out there”. “I think she wants to go out on a high note. She doesn’t want to embarrass herself.”

06.40 – Simon Cambers says he expects Serena to put on a show. He says the crowd will be crazy. “I think she has a chance to get through (her first round) and I expect her to play a lot better than she has recently. I would say if I had to choose, I think she’ll lose first round.

07.50 – The panel debate what’s more likely; a Serena run to the quarter-finals or going out first round. Only Bartoli believes a quarter-final run is more likely.

08.45 – Cohen asks what Serena’s legacy will be. Carole Bouchard says her competitive spirit will stand out. “She hates to lose. That’s the image I will keep of Serena, the fist pump, the come on Serena, going above and beyond to win a match.” Bartoli says she gave hope to children from non-white backgrounds. “She has been an example to so many. She gave hope to those who didn’t have a voice. And she’s the most competitive person I ever faced in my life.” Cambers said she did things her way, inspired a generation of players who probably thought the sport was not open to them. “She made the impossible, possible.” Cambers says her longevity is also a factor.

11.50 – Bouchard says Venus Williams also deserves a lot of credit, for her own career but also being a massive part of Serena’s success.

15.30 – The subject moves on to Emma Raducanu, the defending women’s champion. Host Cohen asks whether her win last year was a fluke? “You can’t say it’s a fluke,” Cambers said. “She won 10 matches. Of course it was stunning but you can’t say it was a fluke.” Bartoli agrees. “You can’t say it’s a fluke to win a Grand Slam. Was it a little bit too much too soon? Possibly? I don’t think she will defend her title but I think she can have a decent run. I believe she will win another Grand Slam.

21.30 – The panel is asked how much they like the chances of Iga Swiatek, the women’s world No 1, of winning the US Open. Cambers says he thinks she’ll struggle to win it and Bartoli says the faster conditions won’t suit her. “This is not a tournament that suits her game,” Bouchard says. “She’s so good though that a player like this, if she can get a few wins and a bit of luck with the weather, if she’s in the second week, why not? But now you can see she’s thinking (too much).”

24.00 – Bartoli explains why she thinks Simona Halep and Coco Gauff could be live contenders for the women’s title.

26.00 – Cohen then asks what the absence of Novak Djokovic means for the tournament. Bartoli says it means the tournament is more open than usual and says Nick Kyrgios could be one to watch. “I sincerely believe we’re going to have a shock in the men’s draw. I don’t think we’re going to have the usual Daniil or Rafa. I think we’re going to have someone who sneaks out of the draw, takes his chance and comes out and wins his first Grand Slam title.” Cambers and Bouchard, though, believe Nadal will be the most dangerous.

31.10 – Is this Nick Kyrgios’ time? Bouchard says conditions may dictate. “You need to be a fitness beast to go through that tournament. It’s humid, heavy, it’s brutal. My only question, is he physically ready to go through two weeks of US Open. It’s not Wimbledon.” Bartoli says he will benefit from playing more at night, if the schedule works out. “For me, he’s in his best position to do it. If there’s one time he’s able to do it, it’s now.”

35.00 – Cohen asks how many people can win the US Open on the men’s side. Bouchard says maybe five or six men could win it, including some outside the top few. “Borna Coric was massive in Cincinnati, why not put him in the mix,” she says.

Bartoli says this could be the most open US Open in decades. “As a front-runner I would put Medvedev, just because he’s done it. My underdog is Nick Kyrgios. My third safe bet is Rafa, because he knows how to do it.”

Cambers says anyone of eight players could win it, including Felix Auger-Aliassime and maybe Cameron Norrie. But he also says it reminds him of this year’s Australian Open, when Nadal won again.

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