Tricky Path for Serena in Search of 24th Grand Slam

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Serena Williams

US OPEN

Serena Williams could see plenty of fellow Americans in her US Open quest for a 24th career Grand Slam title, including Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in a semifinal 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 quarterfinal 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 tuneup 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 No 1, is the highest-rated rival in Keys’s 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 semifinal.

In the men’s section, Australian Open finalists Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are on a collision course to meet again in the US Open final after they were placed at opposite ends of the draw on Thursday.

World No 1 and top seed Djokovic clinched the year’s first Grand Slam when he beat Austrian Thiem in five sets and the Serbian is unbeaten with a 21-0 record in a season upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With five-time winner Roger Federer and defending champion Rafael Nadal skipping the tournament due to injury and Covid-19 concerns respectively, Thiem was named the second seed.

Djokovic opens his campaign for an 18th Grand Slam victory and fourth title at Flushing Meadows against Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur while Thiem plays Spaniard Jaume Munar.

Last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev is seeded third and Stefanos Tsitsipas fourth. Alexander Zverev, seeded fifth, has a potentially tough first-round match against big-serving Kevin Anderson who reached the final in 2017.