A little less buzz but the US Open show goes on without Serena

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NEW, YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) – With the curtain down on Serena Williams’ show, the US Open woke up on Saturday feeling empty as the tennis world began to adjust to life without the biggest sports star.

For the first time since the start of the US Open on Monday, Williams’ name did not appear on the Flushing Meadows match schedule.

The buzz that had been off the charts just 12 hours earlier, when Williams lost a three-set battle to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in what was likely the last singles match of her glittering career, has dwindled to a buzzing Saturday as lost-looking fans strolled through the sprawling tennis complex drifting from court to court.

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Williams had signaled her intention to retire in a Vogue article in early August, saying she was “getting away from tennis” and although she never confirmed the US Open as her final event, the news sparked a frenzy with fans who didn’t want to miss a chance to see the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion in action one last time.

For nearly a week, matches featuring Williams, her older sister Venus, or both in doubles, were the focal point of the day around which everything revolved.

Each of Serena’s three singles matches drew record sell-out crowds to Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Such was demand for tickets to the sisters’ first doubles match in more than four years that the United States Tennis Association made the unprecedented decision to move the contest to the first round, a loss to Czech duo Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova, against Arthur Ashe. Stadium too.

Those who couldn’t get their hands on tickets watched in record numbers.

Serena’s second-round win over world number two Anett Kontaveit drew 5 million viewers, making it the most-watched US Open debut telecast ever on ESPN networks.

As the last Grand Slam of the season enters its second week, the question is who will fill the void.

“There is clearly going to be a void, a huge void that is going to be difficult to overcome in the short term,” said seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe. “We all know that life goes on and they keep playing.

“Hopefully there will be other superstars who come forward eventually.

“But at the moment it will be next to impossible, if not impossible, at the moment to be able to fill those shoes.”

World number one Iga Swiatek could take center stage, but the New York crowd is more likely to gravitate to 18-year-old Coco Gauff, the American who is expected to take over from the Williams sisters.

There are still plenty of big names in the men’s draw with world number one and defending champion Daniil Medvedev and the hugely popular Rafa Nadal.

But it’s the unpredictable Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios who is most likely to catch the eye.

Better known for his antics than his game, Kyrgios tapped into some of his immense potential in a run to the Wimbledon final in June, marking him as a real threat on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows if he is able. to keep his cool.

His form and composure will both be put to the test in a savory Arthur Ashe vs. Medvedev clash which is the highlight of Sunday’s programme.

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Reporting by Steve Keating in New York, editing by Toby Davis

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