Wiedmer: Can tennis’s next generation continue Serena’s most important legacy?

AP Photo/John Minchillo / Frances Tiafoe reacts after winning the fourth set against Carlos Alcaraz during the men’s finals of the U.S. Open.

A Black girl beginning her senior year at predominantly white Girls Preparatory School, Santana Etchison and her mom watched what figures to be Serena Williams' final professional tennis match ever with both excitement and sadness during what became her third-round U.S. Open loss earlier this month.

"We were hoping she would go out with a bang," Etchison said. "All of our emotions were tied together, the highs and the lows. We were really emotional when she lost."

At that moment, the final Grand Slam tourney of the year figured to be all but devoid of emotion or surprise from that point forward. Without Serena, an Eastern European figured to win the women's side, which Poland's Iga Swiatek did. On the men's side, the ageless Spanish wonder Rafa Nadal -- the most decorated men's player ever with 22 Slams on his resume -- was at least as likely to win the Open as then-No.