Serena's Opponents Welcome Grand Spotlight At US Open

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Ana Ivanovic, who gave Serena Williams a wink and a handshake after falling in the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals, says she's rooting for Williams to win the US Open.

Tennis players can be a self-centered bunch. Narrowly focused on their own goals and careers, it isn't often that they get caught up in another player's progress. Serena Williams' quest for the Grand Slam is an exception.

Naturally, there are conflicting emotions. As fellow competitors, they want to stop her in her tracks. As fellow players, they recognize her accomplishments and the compelling prospect of history being made. Williams, who won her fourth Grand Slam in a row at Wimbledon, will be attempting to become the fourth player in women's tennis to sweep all four majors in a season.

"It's exciting -- for Serena," two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said with a laugh.

I would rather ... that I win the US Open, but for her to win the Grand Slam, that would be amazing to see.
Andrea Petkovic

Kvitova, like others, would rather be making her own run at Flushing Meadows. But having the calendar Grand Slam in play elevates the tournament for everyone in the field, providing extra incentive and challenge. Williams by herself is quite enough. This time, however, her opponents will be playing both Serena and the Slam.

"Everybody wants to beat her because if she wins she will get the four," said Garbine Muguruza, who played Williams at Wimbledon in what was the Spaniard's first Grand Slam final.

At the same time, players know a Williams victory would be a special occasion for tennis as a whole. Ana Ivanovic goes so far as to say she would like to see Williams win, an unusual sentiment from a former Grand Slam champion also seeking the title.

"I know, I know," said Ivanovic, smiling. "I just think we're lucky to have someone like Serena in our sport. She's worked really hard and been at the top for so long, I think she deserves it. I don't think many people recognize it. She doesn't get enough credit for what she has achieved.

"Everyone talks only about men's tennis, but to have someone like Serena, it's very fortunate."

The watch is on to see how the No. 1 responds to what is, even for her, a new experience. The players know how competitive Williams is and the way she can raise her game, but they also have seen her become emotional and go through swings in form. In her two tournaments since Wimbledon, Williams lost in the semifinals in Toronto and won the title in Cincinnati.

"I'm very excited to see because she's in such a different sphere," Andrea Petkovic said. "I would rather ... that I win the US Open, but for her to win the Grand Slam, that would be amazing to see.

"I can definitely sense, and she probably senses it as well, all the pressure."

That could mean an opportunity for the field to shake her dominance. Williams has dropped just two matches this season, but she's also been pushed to the brink in a handful of others.

"It's the first time it's happened since I have been on tour," Agnieszka Radwanska said. "We'll see how she is going to be playing at the US Open."

Williams, who embargoed talk of winning four in a row at Wimbledon, doesn't want the Grand Slam to be a big topic of conversation around her now, either. Caroline Wozniacki, who has become especially chummy with Williams over the years, says the two aren't talking about tennis much right now, and that includes any discussion about the Slam.

"Serena thinks about it more than I do, obviously," Wozniacki said. "But we don't really talk about it."

Others, however, will talk. A lot. And even the players standing in the way of Williams are aware of what they are going up against.

"There is more pressure," Radwanska said of Serena. "But she's playing great tennis."

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