The USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center was covered in rainbows as Pride Day was celebrated on Thursday.
A now-annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community that started in 2019, the day featured fans, ballkids and officials sporting rainbow-colored sweatbands. Arthur Ashe Stadium was also lit in rainbow lights as Serena and Venus Williams took on the doubles court at 7 p.m.
Speaking of the sisterly duo, the pair highlighted the first time a first-round doubles match was held at the world’s largest tennis stadium.
As we conclude Day 4 of play at the U.S. Open, here are a few takeaways and what to look out for in tomorrow’s action:
Aryna Sabalenka has the comeback of the tournament
No. 6 seed Aryna Sabalenka was one point away from facing an early tournament elimination, saving two match points on Thursday night.
The 24-year-old from Belarus was down 6-2, 5-1 against veteran Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi but battled back to take the victory 2-6, 7-6, 6-4. In the second set, Sabalenka won the intense tiebreaker 10-8 to keep her in the match.
What makes Kanepi’s tennis career so interesting is that she turned pro in 1999, the year Serena Williams won her first U.S. Open. It is very rare for players that turned pro in the ‘90s to still be competing on the tour.
Sabalenka, who made it to the semifinals of the 2021 U.S. Open, will face France’s Clara Burel on Saturday.
Venus-Serena Williams, Jessica Pegula-Coco Gauff lose in women’s doubles action
If Serena Williams knew she would win her first two rounds of the U.S. Open in singles, do you think she would have still chosen to play doubles with her big sister?
The dynamic duo fell on Arthur Ashe Stadium to Czech Republic’s Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká on Thursday night 7-6, 6-4 and my only hope right now is that Serena has enough in the tank for a big day of singles tomorrow.
Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff, who were the No. 2 seeds of the tournament, took a first-round loss in doubles to Canadian Leylah Fernandez and Australian Daria Gavrilova 3-6, 7-5, 7-6.
The home crowd was rooting for the Americans from point one, but it wasn’t enough to get the favorites through to the second round.
In the third set tiebreaker, Pegula and Gauff accused the umpire of “stealing points” away from them when two calls did not work in their favor.
The New York crowd was outraged by these actions and is hoping the ladies can bounce back in singles.
Karolina Pliskova is a dark horse in singles
The No. 22 seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic is playing unbelievably well.
The former world No. 1 in 2017 took on fellow countrywoman Marie Bouzkova, taking the victory on Thursday night 6-3, 6-2.
Standing at 6-foot-1, Pliskova won an impressive 91% of her first serve points and 53% of second serve points, a severely underrated stat.
Her effortless power is second to none, and while Bouzkova was mixing in a lot of slices, drop shots and short angles, Pliskova handled those low balls well considering her height.
Something I found interesting was the diamonds she was sporting on the court during her match. She was wearing a tennis bracelet, tennis necklace and a beautiful rock on her finger. It might just be me but whenever I wore fancy jewelry on the court, I managed to wreck every single piece.
The 30-year-old has had deep runs in Grand Slams, making it to the finals of the U.S. Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2021). She has also reached the semifinals of the French Open (2017) and Australian Open (2019).
Next, Pliskova is set to face No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who is also having a strong start to the U.S. Open. The two will battle it out for a spot in the fourth round.
What’s next at the U.S. Open?
Day 5 of the U.S. Open will feature a lot of great matches.
Play is starting off strong on Arthur Ashe Stadium at noon with England’s Andy Murray taking on No. 13 Italy’s Matteo Berrettini followed by Americans No. 12 Coco Gauff against No. 20 Madison Keys.
These two are must-see matchups as all four players have had great success at the Grand Slam level and these matchups are undoubtedly going to be close.
Over on Louis Armstrong, No. 17 France’s Caroline Garcia, who is playing some of her best tennis after winning the Western & Southern Open last month, will be taking on 2019 U.S. Open champion Canada’s Bianca Andreescu.
Another must-see match at 7 p.m. on Arthur Ashe Stadium of course will be Serena Williams taking on Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, followed by top-seeded Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Yibing Wu. Wu is the first Chinese player to qualify for the main draw of a U.S. Open. Talk about history!