Serena Williams’ Last Dance And The Future Of Black Tennis | A 2022 US Open Preview

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The 2022 U.S. Open is under way in New York city and it is significant for a number of reasons. It’s the last Grand Slam on the tennis calendar and it will be the final major tournament for Serena Williams, the greatest of all time. With the GOAT set to “evolve” away from tennis (her words), what does the future of Black professional tennis look like?

A Nod To The GOAT

Since Williams made her announcement via a first-person essay in Vogue magazine, nostalgia has wafted through the air in and around the sport. She is the great champion, a dynasty unto herself. In nearly 30 years as a professional tennis player she has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles (six at the US Open), 14 in doubles, two in mixed doubles, and, four Olympic gold medals.

Whenever she has her last match during this fortnight our minds will begin to wonder about the future, and what other Black players can achieve greatness in a predominantly white sport?

The Women

There are a number of Black women that have already won majors, played in Grand Slam finals and have been top 20 in the world.

Naomi Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion, winning the U.S. Open twice, and former world No. 1. She’s had a tough time balancing the fame and success of being the best in the world. But she’s only 24 and a good run in NYC can quickly right that ship.

Sloane Stephens won the US Open in 2017 and was a finalist at the French Open in 2018. She struggled with her form since then, failing to win a tournament until earlier this year at the Abierto Zapopan. She advanced to the quarters at the French this year where she lost to the eventual runner up, Coco Gauff

Gauff is 18 and the 12th-ranked player in the world and world No. 1 in doubles. She made her first Grand Slam singles final this year at the aforementioned French. She will be looking to advance to the second week in New York for the first time in her career. If she can handle the pressure of being compared to Williams, especially this week, watch out.

Madison Keys is having a resurgence in 2022. The 27-year-old 2017 US Open finalist is back in the top 20 and won her first title since 2019 at the 2022 Adelaide International 2. Keys also advanced to a major semifinal at the Australian Open for the first time since 2018. The hard court is her best surface and she can get hot.

Taylor Townsend, the former world junior No. 1 and new mom. At 26 she is back on tour and advanced to the semifinals at the French Open this year in doubles. She had a run to the fourth round in singles at the U.S. Open in 2019, and with her net game she is always dangerous.

Shoutout to Whitney Osuigwe and Sachia Vickery who lost in the US Open qualifiers.

The Men

Félix Auger-Aliassime is the highest ranked black tennis player (8th), man or woman, in the world. The 22-year-old Canadian national has advanced to 10 ATP finals, winning his first title earlier this year at the Rotterdam Open. He advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s Australian Open, and the fourth round of the French Open in May. He was a semifinalist at the 2021 US Open.

Frances Tiafoe is one of only two American men ranked in the top 25 in the world. His current ranking of 24 is the highest in his career. He’s only 24 years old and advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in his career this year. He has twice advanced to the fourth round at the US Open.

Former two-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year at Georgia Tech, Christopher Eubanks, advanced through US Open qualifiers and will play in the main draw. Nicknamed “The Giraffe” due to his 6-foot-7 frame, this is the fourth time he’s qualified for the main draw at the US Open.

Gauff was on hand at Eubanks’ final qualifying match cheering him on.

Shouts to Gael Monfils. The frenchman will miss the U.S. Open as he deals with a foot injury. He and his wife, fellow professional tennis player Elina Svitolina, are expecting their first child.

The Future

With both Auger-Aliassime and Gauff you have two Black players under the age of 23 in the top 15. That’s a good sign. The next step for both will be breaking through and winning a major. But outside of the players mentioned there isn’t much Black representation in the top 100 players in the world men or women.

The United States Tennis Association has said diversity is a priority but the numbers are what they are, and there is still an economic barrier of entry for this sport.

US Open Predictions

Women’s Champ: It’s hard to bet against world number one Iga Swiatek, but wild things happen in NYC at this major. Williams will be the sentimental favorite. Still, Swiatek gets the nod for now, with Gauff, and Simona Halep lurking.

Men’s Champ: Defending champion Daniil Medvedev loves to play in NYC. I like him to repeat. Carlos Alcaraz and Auger-Aliassime are threats, and if he can stay healthy, so is 22-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal.