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Quite frankly, the main thing that’s completely new with the US Open tennis tournament in Forest Hills, New York is that COVID-19 will be making its presence known by ensuring there will be no fans in the stadium or anywhere on the grounds. The coronavirus has also taken a toll on the players that will attend the event, especially since professional tennis is about as diverse as any sport when it comes to international players. Players traveling to New York, a former COVID hotspot in the US, will have to deal with quarantine between two international airports as well as making sure that all their travel arrangements, including accommodations, are completely safe and free of the virus.

Angelique Kerber of Germany plays during the Gold Medal Women’s finals match in tennis, Saturday August 13, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Marc Serota)

What I consider to be the old part of this year’s event will be the historic rivalry between Serena Williams of the United States and Angelique Kerber of Germany, as well as the continued resurgence of Serena’s older sister Venus Williams. Serena has won a record 13 grand slam titles on hard court and holds the Open record for most titles won at the Australian open with 7. She also shares the Open era record for most titles won at the U.S. Open with Chris Everett at six championships and counting. Serena is still not in top form after the birth of her daughter and several injuries over the past couple of seasons, and she is also introducing a new racquet. She tested it at the Australian open and has now made it a final product going into the US Open.

Serena Williams plays during her second round match in tennis, Monday, August 8, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Marc Serota)

Serena is not only battling long time rivals like Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, and Caroline Wozniacki, but she also has a plethora of young guns that have been nipping at her heels for the last couple years. Those young guns include Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, along with Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

There is also the ever-lasting and always dangerous Williams sister Venus, who has been ranked as high as ninth in the world and is still not showing any signs of slowing down.

WTA tennis star Venus Williams plays during the Sony Ericcson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, March 28, 2008. Marc Serota

Kerber, on the other hand, is one of those international superstars who is a former number one and one of Serena‘s top rivals. Angelique will be traveling to the US from Germany during the coronavirus crisis because, as she said recently, she “can’t wait to get back on the court and compete. This is why me and my team have decided to take on the challenge and fly to NYC in a few days!”

Earlier in the year, 23rd ranked Kerber had expressed her concern about traveling to the US., and indicated that a decision from her side would come after assessing the situation. It appears she took some time and discussed it with her team before deciding to compete at the US Open. She joins former champions Kim Clijsters, Serena WilliamsVenus Williams and Naomi Osaka in the main draw. It is interesting to see that the women’s draw has a lot of former champions but only has 4 top 10 players.

In my experience of covering the US open, it’s become apparent that experience on the big stage of New York is always a plus because of the tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm of the New York fans. But without those fans in the stands pumping up the Williams sisters, the key question is: can they fight through a strong field and manage to meet each other in the finals? Especially when they have to go through so many young and hungry competitors to get there.

We’ll see.

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About The Author
Marc Serota
Marc Serota
As a Portrait photographer Marc Serota has lensed iconic athletes and celebrities for CORBIS and GETTY as well as major brands such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the NBA, NHL and the NFL. Serota is a renowned award winning photographer having logged 25+ years with news agencies such as REUTERS, Getty Images, The Associated Press and UPI shooting the biggest entertainment, news and sports stories from the early 1990’s to the present. Marc has covered numerous Super Bowls, Olympic games, NHL Stanley Cup’s, NASCAR races, ATP and PGA events. Visit Marc's website: Follow Marc Serota @G_O_A_T_shooter on Twitter and @marcserota on Instagram.
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