Serena Williams has added the Western & Southern Open to her upcoming hard-court schedule in a clear indication that she’ll be playing at the US Open.
The 40-year-old made her singles return at Wimbledon earlier this month after a 12-month absence from the tour following an injury she suffered at the All England Club in 2021.
Speaking after her first-round loss to Harmony Tan, the 23-time grand slam champion said she wasn’t sure what her future in tennis looked like.
“Who knows where I’ll pop up,” she told reporters.
Speaking about her hopes of playing at the US Open she said: “When you’re at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I’ve won a grand slam, is something that’s always super special.
“There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”
Williams has since been confirmed to play at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and the Canadian Open in Toronto – two WTA 1000 events that serve as key lead-up tournaments for the US Open.
It will be the first time since 2015 that Williams will play both events – a clear sign that she’ll be playing at Flushing Meadows for the final grand slam of the year.
The 40-year-old won the title in Cincinnati in 2014 and 2015.
Along with Williams, former champions Victoria Azarenka (2013 and 2020), Madison Keys (2019), Garbiñe Muguruza (2017) and Karolina Pliskova (2016) are also set to play in Cincinnati.
World No.1 Iga Swiatek, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu are also featured in a star-studded field that includes Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Jelena Ostapenko, Barbora Krejcikova, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova.
Fans and commentators were delighted to see Williams’ name on the entry list on Tuesday.
Serena Williams running out of time to match Margaret Court
Williams is still one grand slam title away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time women’s record of 24.
However the American star hasn’t won a major since claiming her 23rd at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia.
Since then she’s played in four grand slam finals but finished runner-up in every one.
She lost to Kerber and Halep in consecutive Wimbledon finals in 2018 and 2019, and to Osaka and Andreescu at the US Open in the same years.
Speaking after her loss to Tan at Wimbledon, Williams admitted her lack of match practice came back to bite her.
She only returned to the WTA tour in Eastbourne at the start of July after 12 months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Even then she didn’t play singles, instead teaming up with Ons Jabeur for two doubles matches before her partner had to withdraw with injury.
“Physically I was fine, the last couple of points I was starting to feel it,” Williams said in her post-match press conference after squandering a 4-0 lead in the final set super tiebreak.
“I didn’t practice for a three hour match, so…”
Asked whether it might have been her last match, Williams replied: “That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. … Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up?”
Williams has spent more than 300 weeks at World No.1 throughout her career, but is currently down at 399 after her lengthy absence.
“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” she said at Wimbledon.
“But with that being said, I felt like I played pretty OK on some of them. Not all of them. Maybe some key ones I definitely could have played better.
“You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points.”