Serena Williams’ first opponent at U.S. Open is Danka Kovinic

2022 US Open - Previews
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NEW YORK – Serena Williams’ first opponent at what she has indicated will be her last U.S. Open – and, indeed, the last tournament of her career – is unseeded Danka Kovinic.

Win that, and Williams could face No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round.

The brackets for the women’s and men’s singles events were released Thursday by the U.S. Tennis Association.

Play begins Monday; first-round matches will be held that day and Tuesday. There was no immediate word on when Williams will be scheduled to compete.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who turns 41 on Sept. 26, announced this month she was preparing to step away from her playing career. She did not explicitly say when she planned to stop but made it sound as if the U.S. Open would mark her farewell.

Williams has won the hard-court tournament in Flushing Meadows six times.

Kovinic has never been past the second round in four appearances at the U.S. Open. She is a 27-year-old from Montenegro who is 80th in the WTA rankings this week and has been as high as 46th.

Williams and Kovinic have never played each other in singles.

Williams is just 1-3 this season, having recently returned to singles action after a year away following a first-round injury exit at Wimbledon in 2021.

Her first match back came at the All England Club in late June, and she lost her opener there in a third-set tiebreaker to 115th-ranked Harmony Tan.

After winning a match at a tournament in Toronto, Williams was eliminated in straight sets there by Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic, then lost again in straight sets at Cincinnati against reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Because Williams has said she’s preparing to wind down her tennis career, her every move will be the focus at the start of the U.S. Open. Fans will pay close attention, because each match could be her last.

While Williams has spent more than 300 weeks at No. 1, her lack of activity has contributed to a slide; she is 410th this week.

That meant she would not be seeded in New York and could have been placed anywhere in the field – and against any player.

Other possible opponents for Williams, should she progress through the tournament, include No. 27 seed Martina Trevisan of Italy in the third round and 2021 U.S. Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez of Canada or 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the fourth.

Williams could face her older sister, seven-time major champion Venus, only in the final, because they are on opposite sides of the bracket.

No. 1 Iga Swiatek, a two-time French Open champion, will meet Jasmine Paolini in the first round, while Raducanu will begin her title defense against Alize Cornet.

Potential quarterfinals are Swiatek vs. No. 8 Jessica Pegula, and No. 4 Paula Badosa vs. No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka on the top half of the field, and Kontaveit – or, perhaps, Williams – vs. Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur, and No. 3 Maria Sakkari vs. No. 7 Simona Halep or French Open runner-up Coco Gauff on the bottom half.

One fascinating first-round matchup is Naomi Osaka, who won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020 for two of her four major championships, against Danielle Collins, the Australian Open runner-up this January.

Shortly before the draw announcement, some expected news arrived: Novak Djokovic tweeted that he would not be in New York for the U.S. Open.

The 35-year-old from Serbia, who owns 21 Grand Slam titles, is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Foreign citizens who have not received the shot are not allowed to enter the United States.

Djokovic is a three-time champion at Flushing Meadows; he lost in the 2021 final to Daniil Medvedev, ending a bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969.

Medvedev is seeded No. 1, making this U.S. Open the first major since 2004 without Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray in that spot. He will start by taking on Stefan Kozlov of the United States.

No. 2 Nadal, whose 22 Grand Slam titles are a record for a man, was drawn to face Australian wild-card recipient Rinky Hijikata.

Potential men’s quarterfinals are Medvedev vs. No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 5 Casper Ruud in what would be a matchup between the past two French Open runners-up, Nadal vs. No. 7 Cam Norrie, and No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz.

Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, who is seeded No. 23, could meet Medvedev in the fourth round. In the first round, Kyrgios will play his fellow Australian, good friend and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Sunday to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”