The highly anticipated first-round match between Serena Williams and Emma Raducanu at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati was abruptly postponed from Monday to Tuesday, frustrating fans who had spent considerable money and travelled to the event to watch the match.
Cincinnati is likely to be the penultimate tournament of Williams’s career after she announced last week that her retirement is imminent. It will also be Williams’s first match on home soil in two years and, with expectations so high, the tournament had announced in advance that Williams and Raducanu would headline the Monday night session.
After the announcement tickets for the session quickly sold out, with some fans acquiring tickets at inflated prices in order to see Williams for possibly the last time. However, the tournament opted to move the match to Tuesday.
A tournament spokesperson later said that the decision was “on account of a number of factors related to scheduling”. Rather than announcing the switch outright and offering fans the option of a refund, on Sunday night the order of play for Monday simply omitted Williams and Raducanu from the schedule.
Lee Hagy, one of a number of fans to express their frustration on social media, tweeted: “This is really frustrating, traveled across country on your advertising Serena would play Monday night! Last minute you swap order of play?! And bought tickets in 200 sections just for it, now may have to cancel flight if want to see it??!”
Both Williams and Raducanu are already in Cincinnati after early exits in Toronto, with the former training for the first time on Sunday in front of packed crowds, while the latter trained a day earlier alongside Elena Rybakina. Raducanu spoke on Sunday about her glee of getting the opportunity to face Williams.
“I just want to go out there and enjoy the match that I’m going to play whenever I do play it. It’s a great gift to play the best on her way out from the sport. So I’m just looking forward to that,” Raducanu said.
Late on Monday morning, Williams practised without issue on Court 16 in the shadow of Center Court, where they had been scheduled to play. While fans have expressed their frustration, others were content with seeing Williams one last time.
“My husband and I bought tickets for today thinking that she was going to play today because I’ve got to get back to work tomorrow. Very disappointed but I was happy that I got to see her at the practice,” said Alicia Harris, who hoped to see Williams play for the first time after first supporting her in 1998. “I really just wanted to see her and I got what I came for.”
Rybakina reached the second round on Monday, recovering from a break down to defeat Mayar Sherif 6-3, 6-2 and set up a second-round match between Wimbledon champions as she faces Garbiñe Muguruza, the eighth seed, in round two.