While Serena Williams remains the dominant force in women’s tennis, she is not the only American woman who is capable of making a run into the second week of the US Open, reports the USTA.
Serena has been the world No. 1 for 183 consecutive weeks, and she comes into New York in search of her 23rd Grand Slam women’s singles title, which would break Steffi Graf’s record for the most in the Open era and which would be one behind Margaret Court’s all-time mark.
But the Williams sisters are only the tip of the tennis iceberg in the U.S., and the next wave of talented players is quickly coming through the ranks. Let’s take a look at those waiting in the wings to be America’s next great hope.
There are 14 American women whose rankings were high enough to earn them direct entry into this year’s main draw, the most at this tournament in more than a decade. Combined with the six U.S. players who received wild cards and the three who worked their way through the qualifying tournament, there will be a total of 22 U.S. women in the 128-player field. Sloane Stephens was set to compete, but a right-foot injury forced her to pull out of the tournament earlier this week.
Joining Serena among the seeds in the main draw are sixth-seeded Venus Williams, No. 8 Madison Keys and No. 28 CoCo Vandeweghe.
Madison Brengle, Shelby Rogers, Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale, Louisa Chirico, Irina Falconi, Nicole Gibbs, Alison Riske and Samantha Crawford all earned direct entry into the tournament, as they were ranked inside the top 104 at the cut-off date of July 18.
Vania King, Sofia Kenin, Kayla Day, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Danielle Collins, Lauren Davis each received wild cards, while CiCi Bellis, Taylor Townsend and Jessica Pegula came through three rounds of qualifying to secure their spots.
After the Williams sisters, King, Lepchenko and Mattek-Sands, 25 of the other Top 30-ranked American women were born in the ’90s. Bellis, ranked No. 158, and Kenin, ranked No. 246, are still teenagers, and Chirico and Townsend only turned 20 this spring.
Many consider Keys the next star of American women’s tennis, a sentiment bolstered by her winning her second career title in Birmingham this summer and reaching the final of top-tier events in Rome and Montreal, proving her powerful game can translate to any surface.
With Serena turning 35 two weeks after the US Open and Venus already 36 years old, it may be 21-year-old Keys who carries the torch for women’s tennis over the next decade. But she may not be alone.
The 14 American women earning direct entry into the main draw are the most at the US Open since 2004, when 15 U.S. women were ranked high enough to receive an automatic spot in the main draw. That year, the USTA gave eight American players wild cards, and one other player earned a spot through qualifying, making it 24 players in the 128-woman field.
Since 2004, double-digit American women have received direct entry into the main draw five times but only once in the past eight years…last year.
The US Open draw caps a strong year for American women, who had 15 players earning direct entry at Wimbledon and the French Open and 13 at the Australian Open. In addition to Serena being in all three finals, winning in London and losing to Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza in Melbourne and Paris respectively, Venus reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, and Shelby Rogers made the quarters at the French.
Rogers is one of 15 Americans in the Top 100 and one of 23 inside the Top 150. Germany has eight women in the Top 100, Russia has seven, the Czech Republic has six, and Italy has four.
The best thing about this group of budding champions is that they are all rooting for each other to succeed. As Shelby Rogers says,“we can laugh and have a good time, and that sort of friendly competition is really a great thing for us. It’s a very positive thing but helps all of us and pushes us all. We generally want each other to do well, and when we see each other doing well, we want to do well ourselves. So it’s a really great thing to be a part of, and I’m so happy to be in that group with them. There are a lot of us Americans that are doing super well, and we’re all kind of pushing each other, I think it’s a really amazing thing to be a part of.”
We are all hoping that Serena will be successful in capturing her 23rd Grand Slam women’s single’s title, but we are also pleased that we have a great “cushion” of potential successors we can rely on to keep the US as a strong contender.