Serena preps for tennis return – and a rude awakening – at Top Seed Open

Serena Williams in the first round of the Australian Open (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Serena Williams in the first round of the Australian Open (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) /

The WTA’s first US-based tournament since the shutdown begins tomorrow at the Top Seed Open. Serena Williams is leading the way but will have to power through a tough draw.

Serena Williams is making her grand return to the tennis circuit at this year’s Top Seed Open, held from August 10th-16th. It’ll be her first action on tour in six months; her last match came during February’s Fed Cup qualifiers where she took down Jelena Ostapanko 7-6, 7-6. The tournament marks the first competitive action based in the United States since before the coronavirus shutdown, dating back to March’s Oracle Challenger Series at Indian Wells.

While many players have questioned the decision to play in the US given the current world situation, Williams has been an advocate for her country’s return to play after five months in shutdown.

"“I’m excited,” Serena Williams said Saturday in a Zoom news conference. “There won’t be fans here, it’s all virtual, but it’s cool. … It’s also a really cool opportunity to come to Kentucky and kind of be isolating in a different place."

However confident Serena is going into this week’s event, she’ll surely be ready to remember why she’s struggled to take back her #1 ranking that she lost in May of 2017. Her quarter alone boasts 10 major championships across three winners: her sister Venus, 2-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, and 2017 US Open champ, Slone Stephens.

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It’ll be a nightmare draw for Serena, who’ll have this potential path to her first trophy since January’s ASB Classic:

1R: Bernarda Pera

2R: Azarenka/Williams

QF: Sloane Stephens

SF: Anisimova/Zvonareva

F: Gauff/Jabeur

Apart from the Williams sisters, There is plenty of young American talent set to play, as well. 16-year-old Coco Gauff is in the bottom half of the draw and is coming off of her Australian Open defeat of Naomi Osaka and a narrow loss to eventual champion, Sofia Kenin. Her long-time doubles partner, Caty McNally, has shown nearly as much potential in a short amount of time and could face her partner in the quarterfinals.

Aryna Sablenka, the current World #11, was one of 2020’s last champions before the shutdown. She took out Annet Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, and Petra Kvitova at the Premier 5 Qatar Total Open in February. Ons Jabeur (39th in the world) has been on fire in 2020; she reached the Australian Open quarterfinals (losing to Kenin) and took out Karolina Pliskova in Qatar before losing to Kvitova in the quarters.

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Serena Williams may be entering a tournament outmatched but when it all comes down to it, you can’t bet against her, no matter the circumstance. The Top Seed Open begins tomorrow with the qualifying round. Led by Americans Kristie Ahn and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, as well as Canadian teen sensation, Leylah Ferrnadez, they and 21 others will be fighting for 6 spots in the main draw.