Eurosport tennis expert Barbara Rittner believes Serena Williams can “fight her way into the tournament” at the US Open, which begins on Monday.
Williams is expected to retire after Flushing Meadows, after stating she was “evolving away from tennis” earlier this month.
She plays Danka Kovinic on Monday night in the first round in what could be her last ever singles match.
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“Each round that Serena wins is a success,” Rittner told Eurosport. “But she got a good draw, and with Danka Kovinic, she has an opponent who doesn't have the confidence to compete in this atmosphere at the moment.
“In addition, she [Kovinic] is by far not as highly-rated on hard courts as she is on her favourite surface, clay. Serena, on the other hand, I think she can fight her way into the tournament and maybe reach the third or fourth round, and I would definitely like to see her do that."
Kovinic, who has not gone beyond the second round in New York, is 80th in the WTA rankings and has never played Williams before.
Asked whether the Montenegro player will feel like it’s a dream or nightmare to play Williams, Rittner said: "That's very much related to the current level of self-confidence of the opponent.
"A player who is in good shape and self-confident experiences such a match as a dream.
“There are many on the tour who would love to be on the court with Serena again. For Kovinic, that might not be the case at the moment. I can't imagine her looking forward to the match and probably becoming a small part of Serena's farewell story."
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Rittner’s US Open prediction
The women’s draw is set to be another wide open affair at the final Grand Slam of the year with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek struggling for form in the build-up to the tournament.
Rittner thinks there is no clear favourite, but she did pick Simona Halep, who won the Canadian Open, as a leading contender.
“If you want to single someone out, it's Simona Halep,” added Ritner. “She won a major competition in Toronto in the preparation.
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"In Cincinnati, Halep dropped out of the tournament but seems to be fit again. I see her at the top of the pyramid of title contenders.
“Behind her, there is a whole list of names that are possible contenders. The two former US Open champions, Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, are always capable of a lot, Karolina Pliskova or Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina should also be on the list.
“I also have an outsider tip: Zheng Qinwen from China. At 19, she is already playing great tennis, was in the round of 16 at the French Open and was also strong on hard courts in Toronto. I think she can achieve quite a lot."
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