NEW YORK (AFP) – Serena Williams could see plenty of fellow Americans in her United States (US) Open quest for a 24th career Grand Slam title, including Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in a semi-final match.
The women’s draw unveiled on Thursday ahead of Monday’s start of the Flushing Meadows fortnight in a spectator-less COVID-19 quarantine bubble offers some challenges for the 38-year-old third seed.
Williams, one Slam singles crown shy of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record, could meet 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the third round and 2017 US Open runner-up and seventh seed Madison Keys in a quarter-final before a chance at Kenin in the semis and potentially Czech top seed Karolina Pliskova in the final.
And that’s not even counting a possible fourth-round matchup against Greek 15th seed Maria Sakkari, who ousted Williams from this week’s US Open tune-up event in New York.
Williams lost in the US Open and Wimbledon finals each of the past two years, and with the England grass event wiped off the schedule by the pandemic, the US Open marks a chance to break through and claim a seventh title on the same courts where she captured her first Slam crown in 1999.
Williams will open against 97th-ranked American Kristie Ahn with Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig or Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan awaiting if she advances.
Spanish 10th seed Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, is the highest-rated rival in Keys’ section of the draw.
Kenin, who opens against Belgium’s Yanina Wickmeyer, could face another Belgian in the fourth round, either 16th seed Elise Mertens or Kim Clijsters, a three-time US Open champion making a comeback at age 37.
Clijsters, who also owns an Australian Open title, will open against Russian 21st seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion and twice a US Open winner, plays her first match against Czech 20th-seed Karolina Muchova. The 40-year-old sister of Serena could face British ninth seed Johanna Konta in the third round. Konta will open against fellow Briton Heather Watson.
The Williams sisters could meet in a semi-final.
Top seed Pliskova will open against Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina with France’s Caroline Garcia or Italy’s Jasmine Paolini awaiting if she makes the second round. Croatian eighth seed Petra Martic could await in the quarter-finals.
Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka, the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open champion, could face Czech sixth seed Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals and Pliskova in a semi-final.
Osaka opens against Japan’s Misaki Doi and faces a potential third-round matchup against US teen Coco Gauff.