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Meghan Markle and crowds of fans hope for Serena Williams’ spectacle at the US Open

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Spectacular wait are the words accompanying the gigantic photo of Serena Williams currently lighting up Times Square.

We’ll see if that’s the case when the American lines up in Flushing Meadows for what may be the last singles match of an extraordinary career.

Williams has indicated that just before her 41st birthday, her time is up after 23 Grand Slam titles and enough drama to fill anyone’s life.

Tennis icon Serena Williams has practiced on Arthur Ashe ahead of the US Open

The former world number one takes on Danka Kovinic in her tournament opener in New York

The former world number one takes on Danka Kovinic in her tournament opener in New York

However, those who unpack the Arthur Ashe Stadium may not witness a defining moment in tennis history.

There are few less intimidating draws Williams could have had than Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, and she could well live to fight another night. If not, she’s also in double with sister Venus.

Kovinic, the world No. 80, has not won a set, let alone a match, in the three tournaments she has been tied to since the French Open due to a back injury.

Williams and older sister Venus have accepted a doubles wildcard to enter the Slam

Williams and older sister Venus have accepted a doubles wildcard to enter the Slam

Either way, crowds will flock to pay tribute to the most distinguished female athlete of this century, who has long transcended the realm of sport, let alone tennis.

She moves in higher circles than the rest of the game, counting the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, among her friends (both want everyone to know how close they are).

In tennis, there is no doubt about Williams’ significance, even though it has been more than five and a half years since she last won a Grand Slam title.

Every player in the lead up to this year’s tournament has been asked about Serena’s imminent departure, but none spoke more clearly than the impressive Coco Gauff.

Tennis fan Meghan Markle has been friends with Williams for a long time and will be happy to help her

Tennis fan Meghan Markle has been friends with Williams for a long time and will be happy to help her

She is one of those inspired by Williams and her sister Venus, who will have a legacy of the female player body that is much more diverse than it was 30 years ago.

“Before Serena came along, there wasn’t really an icon of the sport that looked like me,” said Gauff.

“So growing up I never thought I was different because the number 1 player in the world looked like me. I think that’s the most important thing I can tell from what I’ve learned from Serena.

“And on a more personal level, too, I’ve had a few conversations with her later in life. I think it’s just the way she treats herself.

“She never puts herself down, I love that she always lifts herself up. Sometimes you are a woman, a black woman in the world, and you settle for less. I feel like Serena taught me that she never settles for less.”

She also acknowledged Williams’ longevity: “I think it’s hard to dominate for generations. That’s why she will always be considered the GOAT to me. She did not dominated one generation. She did not dominated for two generations. She dominated for more than three generations.’

One of the reasons Williams played on for so long is the breaks she’s taken, which in turn has diluted her ability to win more major titles and will see her stranded at 23, one less than Margaret Court.

She’s only played 30 events since winning the 2017 Australian Open, including the two she’s competed in this month in preparation (the last of which was well beaten by Emma Raducanu). Her lack of visibility while pursuing other interests and starting a family is why women’s tennis doesn’t necessarily have to fear the future without her.

Coco Gauff has great admiration for the ancient legend of the game and her huge influence

Coco Gauff has great admiration for the ancient legend of the game and her huge influence

There is indeed an argument that it could even be reinforced. For some time now, there has been a feeling that any women’s field without Serena in it is seriously diminished. Now that she’s been following other legends in retirement, that will no longer be the case.

Yet no one has had her appeal, partly due to the controversies that have also characterized her career. Some of the most prominent have taken place in the same Arthur Ashe arena she will bow to, such as her terrible, finger-pointing rant on referee Carlos Ramos in 2018.

Needless to say, it’s doubtful these will be big in the gushing tributes being prepared.

Within the next two weeks, the women’s game will be rolling around for new superstars to promote. In the US, there is hope of re-investing in teenage Gauff, who has risen to number 12 in the world and reached the final of the French Open. She can also be seen in the tennis promotional materials distributed around the city around this time of year.

Raducanu is among the others looking to join Iga Swiatek as the one truly outstanding player in the female ranks.

The champion faces Serena in the other half of the draw. If the two met in the final, it would be a miracle to surpass anything seen 12 months ago.

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