Emma Raducanu has described the chance to play Serena Williams before the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion retires as a “great gift”.
Raducanu faces Williams in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, which is likely to be the American’s final tournament before the US Open, where the British No 1 is the defending champion.
Williams has indicated she will retire after competing at Flushing Meadows, the 40-year-old saying she was “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me”.
“I think it’s gonna be an exciting match,” Raducanu told reporters. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s an amazing opportunity to play probably the best tennis player of all time. It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to ever play her.
“I think that, for our careers to have crossed over, I think I’m really fortunate that I get to play her. Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of her life.
“Expectations, I don’t really know, I don’t really care. I just want to go out there and, one, enjoy the match that I’m going to play whenever I do play it.
“It’s a great gift to play the best on her way out from the sport. So I’m just looking forward to that.”
A first meeting and, quite possibly, their last
Raducanu, at a career-high No 10, draws the unseeded Williams, 40, who has played only three matches in the past 13 months.
Raducanu said her strongest memory of Williams was when she was taken to Wimbledon as a seven-year-old by her first coach.
“We got on to Centre Court somehow and we watched her annihilate someone (6-1 6-1),” the 19-year-old said.
“That was just really cool to see her live. That day out with my first coach, I was so excited for the day. I think that was a really special time in my life, a memory that I’ll always have.”
Speaking in Toronto, the 19-year-old said: “To see her around in this US swing is really inspiring.
“She keeps playing because she obviously loves the game. And I think that longevity of a career is something that a lot of the players, and me especially, we aspire to achieve as well.”
Despite that career-high ranking, Raducanu is 11-14 for the season heading into Cincinnati.
“To have success at a young age, obviously you have to be really grateful because I’m doing what I love, but also I’ve reached success way earlier than I ever really would have thought I did,” Raducanu said. “So I’m pretty proud of myself in that way.
“But it has been a tough year. I’ve definitely gone through and experienced a lot of challenges. To be fair, I’ve learned a lot from all of it.”
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