WTA: Danka Kovinic hoping U.S. Open stage vs. Serena Williams isn’t too big

Arthur Ashe Stadium, the venerable home court of the U.S. Open in New York — which is set to open its main draw with the first round on Monday — is no small stage.

In point of order, it boasts the largest seating capacity of any tennis facility in the world at 23,771.

Into that environment, and against no less an opponent than 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, walks 27-year-old Danka Kovinic, a Montenegrin tennis player who ranks No. 80 in the world but who has never before competed at Ashe.

Williams is set to retire after the U.S. Open to cap a brilliant career, therefore giving Kovinic an opportunity to be the person who ends Williams’ career in their primetime match Monday evening.

Questions about the moment perhaps being too large for Kovinic seemed more than justified in that context as the player spoke with reporters this weekend.

“Serena is an icon. If I wasn’t playing her on Monday, I wouldn’t have all this attention,” Kovinic said. “I’m aware of that. So, it’ll be a very nice experience and, at the same moment, maybe a little bit stressful. Of course I will feel pressure. But I will try to turn it into something positive.”

And of the surroundings? Kovinic has been to the gigantic venue before, taking in a match as a teen and watching from up near the rafters. She’s just never hit a ball on the court before.

“It was spectacular,” she said. “From up above, the court looks so tiny. I assume it will be a completely different feeling when I step on the ground down there.”

Beyond the enormity of the task in front of her and the moment itself, Kovinic also has motivation to close her season strongly, as she pursues a fourth straight season finishing in the Top 100.

This matchup between a 73-time WTA singles champion and a three-time finalist isn’t the only event of interest Monday.

Second-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia will open serve in the match just before that one as she faces Romanian Jaqueline Cristian. Third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece begins the day with her matchup against Germany’s Tatjana Maria.

–Field Level Media

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