Serena Williams showdown "a privilege" for player who could end her career
New York, New York - Serena Williams begins her final US Open singles mission at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday – with opponent Danka Kovinic describing her own opportunity as "a privilege and an honor."
Kovinic, the world number 80 from Montenegro, essentially serves as the support act to headliner Williams, who will draw a full house for the opening match of the evening session.
If Kovinic has her way, she will be the player who ends Williams' singles career. The 27-year-old has reached the third round of both the Australian Open and French Open this year.
However, Kovinic is on a five-match losing streak that began with a loss to eventual champion Iga Swiatek in round three of the French Open.
Such a dismal run has prompted some, including American tennis great Chris Evert, to suggest Williams has been handed a favorable draw. Williams has scored just one win in four matches since launching a tour comeback at Wimbledon.
"I was warming up for practice [on Thursday] and my coach told me, 'You play Serena,' and I was like, 'That's great,' because honestly I felt that," Kovinic said of her draw.
"It's such a privilege and honor. It is a special moment for me as well. I never had an opportunity to practice with Serena. Hopefully I won't feel too much pressure on Ashe Stadium."
Danka Kovinic is preparing for a tough battle
Kovinic, who beat reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in round two of the Australian Open, said she and her coaching team would devise a plan to take on 23-time grand slam singles winner Williams.
She said she also intended to sound out former world number one Jelena Jankovic, a personal friend, for advice on how to tackle a player many regard as the greatest of all time.
"Hopefully she will have some good tips to give me," Kovinic told ESPN.
Jankovic won four of her 14 matches against a prime-era Williams.
Williams, who turns 41 next month, is assured of passionate support from the New York crowd. She is a six-time US Open singles winner, first taking the title as a 17-year-old in 1999, when she beat Martina Hingis.
"I had some experience on the big stages this year, with Swiatek and with Emma Raducanu," said Kovinic, "but I think this is something special."
She said she had not given particular thought to the prospect of beating Williams, and it could be an overwhelming experience, given the heightened sense of occasion.
"I think maybe 30 minutes before the match I will have nerves because I couldn't wait to step on court," Kovinic said. "Hopefully I can show a great game."
If Williams is beaten in round one at Flushing Meadows, her career will not quite be over. She will still have doubles competition to look forward to after she and sister Venus decided to have one last dash at glory together.
Cover photo: Collage: Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP