Emma Raducanu: Playing Serena Williams is “great gift” ahead of legend’s retirement

Serena Williams vs Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu has revealed her feelings on being drawn against the legendary Serena Williams for the first time in her career.

The two will face each other in the first round of the Western and Southern Open on Tuesday as they both prepare for the US Open.

For Williams, Flushing Meadows will be her final on court appearance after she recently told the world it was time to step back from tennis to focus on “other things that are important to me.”

The 23-time Grand Slam champion penned an emotional letter for Vogue, announcing she will be “evolving away” from the sport.

Her upcoming run in Cincinnati is likely the penultimate event on her farewell tour.

With the weeks now counting down towards the end of an astonishing career, Raducanu has been given an opportunity many young players will be envious of — the chance to compete against one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.

Serena Williams vs Emma Raducanu: Everything to know about Cincinnati clash

“I think it’s going to be an exciting match,” the world number 13 said during a recent press conference. “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 going [to] be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of [my] life.”

MASON, OHIO – AUGUST 14: Emma Raducanu of Great Britain fields questions from the media during the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 14, 2022 in Mason, Ohio. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Indeed, many other young players have come out and admitted they would love the opportunity to play Williams before she calls time on her glittering career.

Coco Gauff, who became the new women’s doubles number one after winning the National Bank Open title with Jessica Pegula, admitted Williams was the reason she got into tennis.

The 19-year-old also said she was hoping she would get the chance to play her icon before she retires, however with just two tournaments left, time is running out.

Emma Raducanu vs Serena Williams

Ever since Raducanu won the 2021 US Open, a lot of pressure has been on the teenager’s shoulders to perform.

The British number one was catapulted into the limelight after becoming the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam title, but her performances since last September have been a shadow of her fairytale in New York.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada during their Women’s Singles final match on Day Thirteen of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

But despite the many watching and critiquing her recent performances, Raducanu is not adding unnecessary pressure to herself.

“Expectations, I don’t really know, I don’t really care,” she said of her upcoming clash against Williams. “I just want to go out there and 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.”

Tennis legend Serena Williams
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 28: Serena Williams of United States plays a forehand against Harmony Tan of France during their Women’s Singles First Round Match on day two of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Raducanu also revealed she enjoyed a milestone memory involving the 23-time major champion when she was just a little girl.

“I remember the highlight of my year was when I was young, at a tennis club, my first coach would take me and one other boy to Wimbledon on my day out. We’d take the tram there.

“We got on to Centre Court somehow and we watched her annihilate someone one and one. 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.”

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