The first time Kim Clijsters entered the US Open, all the way back in 1999, she faced a certain someone by the name of Serena Williams.
All these years later, with play at Flushing Meadows set to begin Monday, three-time US Open champion Clijsters is back on the scene, out of retirement at age 37 and entered in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2012.
And Williams, less than a month from turning 39, is still at the top of tennis, the runner-up in New York each of the past two years and at four of the past seven major championships.
Novak Djokovic is 23-0 in 2020, the best opening to a season for a man since he went 41-0 in 2011. He's also the only member of the Big Three in New York: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are not in the draw.That trio has collected the past 13 Grand Slam trophies in a row; that includes five of the last seven for Djokovic alone. "Whether I have a bigger chance to win it because Roger and Rafa are not here, I really don't know," Djokovic said."I think it's unfair for me to talk about. That, in a way, is kind of disrespectful towards other players who are here."
Ramping up to top-flight competition after so many months away because of the pandemic could lead to injuries. During the Western & Southern Open, for example, Djokovic dealt with a neck issue and two-time major champion Naomi Osaka pulled out of that tournament's final because of a left hamstring problem.
Players testing the Billie Jean King Nationals Tennis Center courts in practice or during competition at the Western & Southern Open - normally held in Ohio, it shifted to Flushing Meadows as part of a "controlled environment" - seemed pretty much in agreement: The speed is faster everywhere except maybe Ashe and Louis Amstrong Stadium.
There will be line judges only on the two largest courts. Everywhere else, a chair umpire will be assisted by electronic line-calling - removing the human element in the name of social distancing.