Ser­ena to face 20-year-old Amer­i­can Kenin in Paris

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS — When Ser­ena Williams saw a young U.S. tennis player dis­traught af­ter a loss at a tour­na­ment ear­lier this sea­son, she did what just felt right.

Williams, 37, went over to con­sole 17-year-old Amanda Anisi­mova, even if that sort of thing doesn’t usu­ally hap­pen on tour.

“I re­ally take to all the young girls out there that are do­ing well. I was heart­bro­ken when she walked into that locker room, and I wanted to be there for her, be­cause I have been there. And it’s an in­ter­est­ing po­si­tion, be­cause it’s just, like, no one ever says any­thing, even though I feel like a lot of peo­ple want to,” said Williams, who will meet Sofia Kenin, an­other up-and­com­ing Amer­i­can, in the French Open’s third round Satur­day.

“I’m just go­ing to go for it now and do what my emo­tions want me to do and not do the ‘pro­fes­sional thing’ — be­cause maybe that’s not pro­fes­sional,” she con­tin­ued. “I’ve just got to do what I feel and act how I feel.”

Here is how Anisi­mova re­called the post-match en­counter with Williams at the Mi­ami Open: “It was a re­ally long match and I was su­per up­set in the locker room. Ser­ena ac­tu­ally came up to me and we shared a lit­tle bit of a chat. That was re­ally nice of her, and I’ll re­mem­ber it for­ever.”

Anisi­mova reached the third round in Paris for the first time with a 6-4, 6-2 vic­tory over No. 11 seed Aryna Sa­balenka on Thurs­day. When the New Jersey na­tive got to the fourth round at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, she was the youngest Amer­i­can to get that far at any ma­jor tour­na­ment since — guess who! — the 16-year-old Williams at the 1998 French Open.

The fol­low­ing year, Williams played St­effi Graf twice, their only meet­ings. Graf re­tired in 1999 with 22 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles, then a record in the Open era; Williams eclipsed that to­tal in 2017.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘Thank God I had a chance just to play her, be­cause I grew up watch­ing her,’ ” Williams said.

Now Williams is the one fac­ing op­po­nents who grew up watch­ing her.

“I re­ally love all the new young play­ers. Like, it’s just so ex­cit­ing. I feel like tennis has done so much for me,” Williams said, “and to see a new gen­er­a­tion come through is great.”

Kenin, a 20-year-old who is ranked 35th and based in Florida, is a big hit­ter who has yet to get to the fourth round at a ma­jor tour­na­ment in eight pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances.

Christophe Ena / As­so­ci­ated Press

Amanda Anisi­mova clenches her fist af­ter scor­ing a point against Aryna Sa­balenka dur­ing their sec­ond-round match Thurs­day at the French Open.

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