As players only die-hard tennis fans know dueling in empty stadiums – Sunday afternoon’s round of 16 pitted Croatia’s Petra Martic and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva and Spain’s Alejandro Fokino and Spain’s Alexander Zverev against Germany – it’s hard not to see the empty rows of seats as an omen.
“Hopefully it’s only this year,” said Andrea Gaudenzi, president of the Professional Tennis Association, which represents male players and their tournaments.
Williams – a megastar without whom it would have been difficult to see the tournament unfold – could still win the title. Lesser-known Sofia Kenin, 21, of the United States, won the Australian Open in January and made her way into week two of the US Open before losing 6-3, 6 -3 against 16th seed Elise. Mertens from Belgium. 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka has attracted a lot of attention both for her play and her persistence in speaking out against systemic racism.
Even with them at the top, the women’s tournament is basically a dice game. On Sunday evening, No. 23 and no. 28 seeds in the women’s table had reserved places in the quarterfinals, as had Shelby Rogers, ranked No. 1. 93 in the world.
“Women’s football is so deep that anyone can win a major tournament,” Jen Brady, 25, of the United States said Sunday after upsetting a former world number one. 1, Angelique Kerber, to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
For years, tennis has relied on rivalries to sell itself. Judging from this year’s US Open, that might not be possible in the near future, for men and especially women.