The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Cox: What’s next for Serena?

September 11, 2019

So when will we see Serena again?

It’s an interesting question. Williams has not played post-U.S. Open tournaments since 2014. That year, she competed in two hard court events in China, then the WTA Finals in Singapore, which she won in the final over Simona Halep.

But that was then, she was 34 years old and not a mother. Let’s face it, the only thing she has to play for at this point in her spectacular career is the possibility of catching Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam triumphs in history. Staying healthy has been a challenge for her in 2019, with a number of retirements and withdrawals.

The guess here is that Williams won’t reappear until January, either in the run-up events to the Australian Open or in Melbourne itself. The problem with that, of course, is that part of the problem for Williams this season was not playing enough matches. After losing to Sofia Kenin at the French Open, she talked about playing one or more of the warmup events before Wimbledon, but never did.

She turns 38 on Sept. 26. She’s just suffered back-to-back setbacks to Bianca Andreescu, one of the up-and-coming stars in the game. How does that impact her? What motivates her to play this game, and what will motivate her to play more?

Stay tuned.

WTA Rankings

The topsy-turvy WTA rankings took another turn after the U.S. Open, with Ashleigh Barty able to re-capture the world No. 1 ranking despite losing in the round of 16 at Flushing Meadow. Naomi Osaka lost at the same stage, and therefore lost the top ranking and fell to fourth in the world.

Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina are ranked second and third, respectively, with Canada’s Bianca Andreescu leaping all the way to fifth. Barty, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to much care about the rankings.

“I couldn’t tell from you a bar of soap what’s going on with the rankings,” Barty told reporters last month at the Rogers Cup. “It’s not something that I worry about or focus on. You know, I try to do the best I can every single day, and that’s all it is.

“It’s just a number next to your name. It doesn’t define you as a person or as a player. Obviously, the closer you are to that No. 1 ranking, it means you’ve played some exceptional tennis.”

Four women have held the top ranking at one point in the past two years, including Barty, Osaka, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki. Halep has held on to No. 1 the longest during that period at 48 weeks.

Women and business

These women mean business. Literally.

Immediately after the conclusion of the U.S. Open, several WTA players headed to the Harvard Business School to participate in a program designed to educate athletes about business. The group included Caroline Wozniacki, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Vania King, all part of a WTA initiative to get players involved in post-career planning.

For Mattek-Sands, it was a quick turnaround. She went from winning the mixed-doubles title at the U.S. Open on Saturday to an Ivy League campus on Monday. In typical fashion, she posed in front of the Harvard Business School for her Twitter feed in bright red pants, a white t-shirt emblazoned with the message “Girls Can Do Anything” and with her tongue sticking out.
She and Jamie Murray, meanwhile, became the first duo to defend the U.S.

Open mixed title since Kevin Curran and Anne Smith in 1981 and 1982. Murray has actually won three in a row, starting in 2017 with partner Martina Hingis.

Mattek-Sands needed a wild card to get into the tournament despite being a defending champion because of an absence from the tour due to knee surgery in February related to her gruesome knee injury at Wimbledon in 2017.

Coaching changes

Photo by: Jared Wickerham/Tennis Canada

The on-again, off-again relationship between Aryna Sabalenka and her coach, former tour pro Dmitri Tursonov, was one of the great side stories of the U.S. Open.

It was reminiscent of the Elaine Benes-David Puddy relationship from Seinfeld. They break up, they get back together, they break up again. Yada yada yada.

By the end, as Sabalenka captured the tournament’s doubles title with Elise Mertens, nobody seemed quite certain as to their working status. It seemed to be over when Sabalenka lost in singles, but Tursonov was seemingly back in the fold for the doubles.

“We’ve had some long discussions for a little while, and made the decision that he needs to take care of some things, and I need to take care of some things,” wrote Sabalenka on her Instagram account after her singles defeat. The Belarussian was as high as No. 9 in the WTA rankings, but has fallen to No. 13 in the world.

So who knows exactly where that partnership is headed. What we do know is Angelique Kerber, who has hit a rough patch since splitting with Rainer Schuttler, is now working with German federation coach Dirk Dier.