Breanna Stewart’s signature Puma shoe line with made a surprise appearance at the 2023 US Open.

Leylah Fernandez, a former US Open singles finalist, made a run to the quarterfinals in the doubles bracket with partner Taylor Townsend. During the run, she played in Stewart’s Stewie 2 sneakers.

The 21-year-old Canadian previously wore Asics in 2021, then switched to Swiss athletic shoe company On’s Roger Federer sneakers in 2022. She became the first player other than Federer, who is an investor in the brand, to wear the shoes on the court.

During the 2023 US Open, Fernandez made the switch to Puma’s Stewie 2, a basketball shoe. Stewart responded to Fernandez’s choice Thursday, writing on social media: “Be like water,” a reference to the blue-patterned “Water” colorway sported by the tennis star.

Stewart and the New York Liberty are gearing up for the start of their WNBA playoff run. The second-seeded Liberty are facing the seventh-seeded Washington Mystics in the first round, with the first game set for 7:30 p.m. ET Friday.

The US Open final is set, with Coco Gauff set to face off against Aryna Sabalenka for the final major title of the year.

It’s the teenage sensation against the impending world No. 1, as Sabalenka will take the top spot when the new rankings come out next week. Gauff, for her part, will move up in the rankings as well — and the 19-year-old American could even attain a career-high ranking of No. 3 with her first Grand Slam win.

Based on their head-to-head history, Gauff comes out on top, having won three matches over Sabalenka and losing just two. But their only matchup this year – at Indian Wells in March – went Sabalenka’s way, with the 25-year-old Belarusian claiming a straight-sets win.

Sabalenka and Gauff will face off for the title at 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

Why Coco Gauff will win

When Gauff was just 15 years old and breaking onto the scene at Wimbledon, Venus Williams looked at her and declared: “The sky’s the limit.” Now, Gauff has finally, seemingly, put it all together.

Watching the 19-year-old at this year’s US Open has been like watching someone come into their own right before your eyes. You’ve seen it with Carlos Alcaraz. With Gauff, it felt inevitable. And while a coaching change has aided in Gauff’s journey, she’s been knocking on this door for a while. Last summer, she made her first Grand Slam final at the French Open but admittedly felt overwhelmed by the moment. She just hasn’t had all of the pieces snap into place – until now.

We have been spoiled by the dominance of players like Serena and Venus, Roger and Rafa. So with Gauff, there has been a sense of impatience, of wanting to see what we know Gauff is capable of – what Gauff knows what she is capable of. So: Has she finally done it? Has she finally broken through?

That’s a lot of pressure for a teenager. Many 19-year-olds are spending their Saturdays in fraternity basements or studying for midterms. Gauff will spend hers on one of tennis’ biggest stages.

This US Open final will not make or break Gauff’s career. The reality is, she has a long one ahead of her, one which likely will include a stint at the top of the world rankings. This run is only the beginning. We can’t expect her to attain the greatness of Serena Williams — but that’s because she’s Coco Gauff. She’s writing her own story, her own journey, and this, right here, is one of the chapters.

Gauff will win Saturday because she’s finally unlocked her potential. She’s been playing her opponents in a way that she hasn’t before – at times allowing them to beat themselves and knowing exactly when to apply the pressure needed. (Even if Jelena Ostapenko somehow expected more out of Gauff after a 6-0, 6-2 beatdown). She’s shown impeccable poise and wisdom throughout the tournament, a level of maturity that some 19-year-olds can only dream of. There’s never been a moment where she’s gotten too far ahead of herself.

A first round exit at Wimbledon may have been a stumbling block for others, but it pushed Gauff to be better. Since then, she’s won 17 of her last 18 matches and has taken home two WTA titles. Everything, it seems, has fallen into place, and the game is clicking. It’s one of those things that you can just see when watching her play: The way that she seems to have total control of the game, no matter what the score is. She’s everywhere on the court, all at once.

Why Aryna Sabalenka will win

Sabalenka knows she faces a tough test in the US Open final. But she’s ready for the fight.

“Going into this final, I think I just have to focus on myself and prepare myself for another fight,” she said Thursday. “You just have to be there and you have to fight for it.”

She knows the crowd will be behind Coco Gauff. But she’s not about to be the world No. 1 for no reason. On Thursday, she was blanked in the first set – the first 6-0 win in a US Open semifinal since 2013 – and down 5-3 in the second set to Madison Keys. But she never gave up the fight. She’s just the third woman in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam semifinal after losing the first set 6-0, joining Steffi Graf (1992 Roland Garros) and Ana Ivanovic (2008 Australian Open).

“I was all over the place,” Sabalenka said after the match. “I was just, like, ‘What can I do?’ Like, she’s playing unbelievable, just, like, crushing everything. I’m not able to do anything; I had zero control in the match.

“I just [kept] telling myself, I mean, ‘OK, there is going to be days like this [where] somebody’s going to just play their best tennis. You just have to keep trying, keep staying there and keep pushing it. Maybe you’ll be able to turn around this game.'”

Sabalenka’s biggest opponent has always been herself. And on Thursday, she won that battle, winning a tiebreak in the second set and again in the third to reach her first US Open final. Already a Grand Slam champion after winning the Australian Open title earlier this year, Sabalenka has been on a roll. Semifinal appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon were both career bests. She’s the first player since Serena Williams in 2016 to reach the semifinals in all four majors in the same season.

There’s not been anyone better on the tour this year than Sabalenka, not even current No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

On paper, Sabalenka is the better player. She’s weathered the biggest tests of her career and come out ahead. By no means will Saturday’s final be easy, and in fact it might prove to be one of the best major finals of the year, but Sabalenka has what it takes to weather whatever Gauff may throw at her and take home her second title of the year.

Coco Gauff has one regret that she may never be able to get over.

The 19-year-old made her first US Open final with a straight-sets win over Karolina Muchova, becoming the youngest American to reach the final at the Grand Slam since Serena Williams did it in 1999 at age 17. Williams went on to win the first of her 23 major singles titles.

So it seems a little bit like fate that, one year after Williams retired at the US Open, another American is following in her footsteps. Gauff became the first American teenager to reach the US Open semifinals since Williams in 2001.

And both Gauff and U.S. men’s player Ben Shelton, 20, have made more history. This year marked the first time multiple Americans aged 20 or younger have made it to the semifinals of the same Grand Slam since Venus and Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2000.

Yet while some might see Gauff as the face and the future of American tennis, she is in excellent company. At this year’s US Open, multiple Americans have made deep runs — including 28-year-old Madison Keys, who lost to Aryna Sabalenka in the other semifinal.

“I don’t think I’m carrying American tennis. I don’t think I will,” Gauff told ESPN. “We have so many compatriots who are doing well.

“Serena is Serena. She’s the GOAT. I’d hope to do half of what she did. But I’m not gonna compare myself to her. She’s someone I look up to. Being in the same stat line as her means a lot to me. She’s my idol.”

Still, Gauff – who never once played against Williams professionally – has just one regret.

“The only regret I’ll have for the rest of my life is not being able to play her,” she said. “There were so many tournaments where if we won an extra round and didn’t lose, I would’ve played her. I’m still happy to just be a product of her legacy.”

Caroline Wozniacki is back playing tennis – and she’s back to winning.

In just her third event since coming out of retirement, Wozniacki downed world No. 11 Petra Kvitova at the US Open. It’s her first top-20 win as a mom, and her first win over a top-20 opponent since beating Kvitova in 2018.

“This couldn’t be better,” Wozniacki said after the match. “It’s a dream come true. If you had asked me three years ago, I would have said I’ll never be back here, playing on this court. To be back and to beat the world No. 11 feels very, very special.”

She’s now into the third round at Flushing Meadows, a place where she’s found success throughout her career. She finished as the runner-up at the US Open in 2009, when she lost to Kim Clijsters, and again in 2014, when she lost to good friend Serena Williams.

Her 122 major match wins in her career is the fourth-most among active women, behind Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Kvitova, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Wozniacki plans to hang out with her kids Thursday before preparing to face Jennifer Brady in the third round Friday.

“I love New York. I love this court. I love everything about this city and playing here,” Wozniacki said. “Absolutely, as soon as I came here over a week ago, I already — instantly — felt so comfortable on these courts and knew that I could play some great tennis and I would be dangerous in the draw.”

She also noted that she was “thrilled” to once again have the opportunity to play in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to play on one of those courts again in the US Open, especially a night session,” she said. “It just feels pretty incredible to be out there and winning a match like that.”

Coco Gauff cracked jokes Monday night following her tense win in the first round of the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

When asked how she would describe the match, Gauff responded with one word: “Slow.” Then she broke into a smile.

No. 6 seed Gauff and qualifier Laura Siegemund butted heads over the pace of play throughout the entirety of the nearly three-hour match. Tempers boiled over in the third set, when Gauff approached the umpire to express her frustrations over Siegemund dawdling both on and off the serve.

“She’s never ready when I’m serving,” Gauff protested. “She went over to talk like four times. You gave her a time violation once. How is this fair? … I’m going a normal speed. Ask any ref here. … I’ve been quiet the whole match. … Now it’s ridiculous. I don’t care what she’s doing on her serve, but [on] my serve, she has to be ready.”

While Gauff wound up dropping that game, Siegemund later was docked a point for delaying the game by going to her towel – a penalty that she then protested. Still, the penalty helped widen Gauff’s lead in the third set, and the 19-year-old would go on to win the third set and take the match, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Afterward, Gauff explained her frustrations, noting that while Siegemund had been going over time “since the first set,” Gauff remained patient despite the umpire not taking action. Eventually, though, it reached to the point where the crowd started to chime in and yell “time” whenever Siegemund ran over.

While Gauff said she doesn’t “like confrontation all that much,” in the third set the situation became too much to ignore. If she could do the match over again, she “would’ve said something earlier,” but she doesn’t regret talking to the ref the way that she did.

“I wasn’t sure if I was in the right or not until it, like, happened multiple times,” Gauff said, referring to Siegemund’s delay tactics between points. “Then I was like, OK, I know I’m in the right. … For me, I try my best not to let my emotions take over myself. I wanted to express my frustration but also being censored. … I was trying to best communicate how I was feeling to the referee. … I’d still say everything I said in that moment again.”

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is making her return to professional tennis three years after retiring, she announced Thursday.

In a first-person essay for Vogue, the 32-year-old said she began hitting again following the birth of her second child in October, and she realized how much she missed playing. Her father and longtime coach Piotr Wozniacki told her as she was practicing that she looked like she was “enjoying it more,” she said.

“That was exactly how I felt: I was relaxed and having fun, and somehow that let me see everything more clearly,” Wozniacki said.

She aims to return ahead of the US Open, where she’s been a finalist twice. She plans to play in the Canadian Open in Montreal in August “just to get back into the groove” and then to take the court in Flushing Meadows later that month.

“After that, I’ll have a couple of months to prepare for Australia, and we’ll take it from there,” she said. “The Paris Olympics are definitely a goal too.

“Am I nervous? Not really. I’m coming back to something I love. Yes, I’ll be nervous before a match; I’m okay with that. I’m great with that. Can I win the US Open? I think so. Can I win the Australian Open? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.”

The 2018 Australian Open winner retired after the 2020 edition of the same tournament. At the time of her retirement, Wozniacki said that she had achieved “almost everything I’d ever set out to do.”

Since then, Wozniacki has given birth to a daughter and a son. When she returns, she’ll join an elite and growing group of mothers competing on the WTA Tour, including Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Taylor Townsend. Fellow former No. 1 players Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka both are expected to return from maternity leave next year.

Wozniacki told Serena Williams about her plans a few weeks ago, she said, and Williams expressed her support. Williams, who retired after the 2022 US Open, is currently pregnant with her second child.

“I think that Serena doesn’t get nearly enough credit for getting to so many Grand Slam finals after having Olympia,” Wozniacki said. “Her retirement will always be bittersweet, both for me and for so many other players, because she’s meant so much to women’s tennis. She paved the way for so many of us—she showed us that anything is possible.”

Admittedly, Wozniacki doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to play at her highest level. In 2018, Wozniacki announced her diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis. While at the time she said it didn’t play into her retirement, she tells Vogue about the pain she experienced as a result of the disease.

The time off has been good, however, and she notes that everything is “so far, so good.”

“The long break seems to have done wonders in terms of recovery, and mentally, I’m fresh,” she said. “I’m not putting as much pressure on myself, but at the same time I know when I’m out there, I’m going to be fighting.”

The US Open will celebrate 50 years of equal prize money this summer. The theme art for this year’s tournament commemorates the accomplishment.

As the first Grand Slam to implement equal pay in the Open era, the US Open did so in 1973. The change was sparked by tennis great Billie Jean King, who continues to fight for equal pay across women’s sports. It took decades for the other Slams to follow suit, with the Australian Open implementing equal prize money in 2001 and the French Open and Wimbledon waiting until 2006 and 2007, respectively.

“The USTA is incredibly proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of awarding equal prize money at this year’s US Open, and to honor Billie Jean King’s efforts to make this a reality,” USTA president Brian Hainline said in a statement.  “No individual has done more to secure equality for female athletes than Billie Jean King. Her impact goes far beyond the tennis court, and there is no better time to celebrate her legacy than on the anniversary of this historic milestone.”

“It was a lot of hard work,” King told USA Today. She says she remembers being “exhausted all the time” during what was a pivotal year for tennis and “women in general.”

“In 1972, I won and got $10,000, while the men’s champion, Ilie Nastase, won and got $25,000,” she continued. “This was ridiculous so I said, ‘I don’t think the women are going to be back next year, we’re not going to be back in 1973 unless we get equal prize money.’ I’m saying this but just hoping and trusting the other players would go along with it at that point.”

Yet King knew that they wouldn’t accomplish anything through complaints alone. Instead, she helped to come up with solutions.

“I knew I had to not just complain, but to come up with solutions,” she said. “So I talked to different sponsors and asked them if they’d make up the difference in total prize money. I was a business woman and this was a business decision, so I knew if I got some sponsors to pay more money, I was hoping that would make the difference, and it did.”

Iga Swiatek held off a surging Ons Jabeur Saturday, downing the No. 5 seed 6-2, 7-6 (5) to claim her first career US Open championship.

The 21-year-old kept her cool in critical moments, remaining steady despite Jabeur’s improving form in the second set. The match came down to a tight second-set tiebreak, with Swiatek showcasing her mental toughness as she charged to victory in front of a boisterous Flushing Meadows crowd.

“I needed to stay composed and focus on the goals,” Swiatek said during the on-court trophy ceremony. “It’s New York. it’s so loud, it’s so crazy. It’s really mind-blowing for me. I’m really proud I could handle it mentally.”

Swiatek was dominant through the opening set, making 90 percent of first serves while dictating play behind a solid return game. As Jabeur found her way into the match, Swiatek’s performance dipped, but she remained calm, sticking with every point and hanging tough before gritting out a straight-set win.

Jabeur told reporters Swiatek simply knew how to play “better at the right moment, at the important points,” adding, “She knows exactly what to do. I feel like she improved a lot from last year until the beginning of this year again.”

The Polish star’s Us Open trophy joins her French Open title, making Swiatek the first player to win two Grand Slams in a single season since Angelique Kerber in 2016.

Known for her play-making ability on clay, Swiatek’s victory on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows indicates a new variety to her game. Swiatek joins Serena Williams and Justine Henin as just the third woman in the last 15 years to claim multiple majors on different surfaces in the same season.

With her US Open victory, Swiatek is the ninth player of the Open Era to win her third major before turning 22.

The 21-year-old has had a landmark year, highlighted by a historic 37-match win streak, a prolonged stint as the World No. 1, and now, a major win in New York.

“It’s something that I wasn’t expecting for sure. It’s also like a confirmation for me that sky is the limit,” Swiatek told reporters. “I’m proud, also surprised a little bit, just happy that I was able to do that.”

On Monday, Swiatek and Jabeur will be ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Iga Swiatek reached her second Grand Slam final of the year Thursday, as she rallied to take down No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the US Open semifinals.

While the 21-year-old never had made a US Open quarterfinal before this season, she is now the first world No. 1 to reach the final at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 2014. That drought was tied for the longest of any major in the Open era.

“I felt a huge difference between the first set and the last two,” Swiatek said after her semifinal win. “I’m pretty happy that I got my level of energy up a little bit.

“Aryna made it difficult today, for sure. I felt like she was serving pretty solid. It was hard to come back in the third, but I’m pretty happy that I did.”

The world No. 1 fired off the last four games, and 16 of the last 20 points, to beat Sabalenka. Before that, the Belarusian had led by 2-0 and 4-2 in the third set.

“I just went all in, you know. This time it actually gave me a lot, and the balls that I played went in,” Swiatek said. “I’m pretty happy because I feel like we were both kind of sometimes risking, because the pace was really, really high.”

Sabalenka gave kudos to the Polish star after the match.

“She was just going for it,” said Sabalenka, the sixth-ranked player in the world. “She was hitting every ball and putting me under pressure and playing really aggressively.”

The match was Sabalenka’s third loss in a Grand Slam semifinal. The 24-year-old also lost in the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open in 2021.

In Saturday’s final, Swiatek will face off against Ons Jabeur.

Jabeur, the No. 5 seed, became the first African woman to reach a final at the US Open in the professional era with her 6-1, 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia. The 28-year-old from Tunisia will be appearing in her second-straight major final, after she also reached the final at Wimbledon.

“Feels more real, to be honest with you, just to be in the final again. At Wimbledon, I was kind of just living the dream, and I couldn’t believe it,” Jabeur said. “Now just, I hope, I’m getting used to it…Now maybe I know what to do.

“After Wimbledon, [there was] a lot of pressure on me and I’m really relieved that I can back up my results.”

Jessica Pegula played in her third Grand Slam quarterfinal match of the year Wednesday, but the top-ranked American found herself on the losing side yet again.

After a straight-set loss to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), Pegula described the frustration of yet another major tournament run ending in the quarterfinals. The 28-year-old opened the year with two straight Grand Slam quarterfinal trips at the Australian and French Opens before losing in the third round at Wimbledon.

“I go back and forth,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I should be positive.’ But at the same time, I’m like, ‘F–k, three quarterfinals,’ sorry, but it just sucks. It sucks. I wish I could’ve done it here at my home slam but I guess not.

“I wish I didn’t have to play Iga [Swiatek] every quarterfinal or Ash Barty, which seem to be the people that don’t really lose often,” she continued.

Pegula and Swiatek faced off in the French Open quarterfinals, with world No. 1 Swiatek winning that match and eventually the tournament. Her loss in the Australian Open came against then-world No. 1 Ash Barty, who won her home tournament and then retired.

Pegula answered questions while sipping a Heineken, which she explained was meant to help with “trying to pee for doping.”

“Although it does help ease the loss,” she added.