Reem Abulleil takes a closer look at the women's draw at the US Open, where Serena Williams could face her sister Venus early in the competition.
The fourth and final Grand Slam of the season is upon us and with the first three won by three different players (Caroline Wozniacki – Australian Open, Simona Halep – French Open, Angelique Kerber – Wimbledon) many are wondering if the trend will continue and we get a fourth woman triumphing in New York.
The US Open women’s draw was unveiled on Thursday with Halep headlining the field as the world No. 1.
Serena Williams had her seeding bumped from 26 to 17, while former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, and two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka were given wildcards into the main draw.
Here are the main takeaways from Thursday’s ceremony.
SISTERS ON COLLISION COURSE
Serena seeded No. 17 means she could face a 9-16 seed in the third round. Thursday’s draw placed 16th-seeded Venus Williams as Serena’s possible round three opponent but before the older Williams sister can think about that potential match-cup, she will have to get past Kuznetsova, in a battle of former US Open champions.
Kuznetsova, who had wrist surgery end of last year, missed the first two months of 2018 and has finally started to find her form a few weeks ago as she stormed to take the title in Washington DC.
THE LOADED QUARTER
Besides the fact that Serena, Venus and Kuznetsova are all sharing the same section, they’ve landed in a quarter of the draw that includes top-seeded Halep, two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza, 2016 US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova and dangerous floaters Ashleigh Barty and Maria Sakkari. It feels impossible to predict who will make it out of that quarter alive.
NO LUCK FOR VIKA
Azarenka is no stranger to getting unlucky draws and since she’s unseeded and is still ranked a lowly 80, she’ll have to navigate some tricky paths if she wants to make it far at tournaments. She managed to do that successfully in Miami earlier this year, making the semis by taking out the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys but hasn’t been able to do that consistently ever since.
Azarenka could take on 25th-seeded Daria Gavrilova in the second round before a possible last-32 showdown with familiar foe, defending champion Sloane Stephens, who beat the Belarusian in both Miami and Indian Wells earlier this year.
This will be Azarenka’s first US Open since 2015. She missed the 2016 edition due to pregnancy and was unable to play last year due to a custody issue with the father of her child. The ex- world No. 1 is still going through personal issues and admitted in Cincinnati last week that things continue to be difficult for her.
“I think I’m struggling a little bit with finding the joy on the court because it’s been such a tough time and it’s still a tough time for me,” said Azarenka.
PRESSURE ON SHARAPOVA
Maria Sharapova has played just three matches since her Wimbledon first-round exit, and pulled out of San Jose and Cincinnati with right shoulder problems. She has 240 points to defend, from her fourth round appearance in New York last year and has landed in another stacked quarter of the draw.
The Russian could face Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, Garcia in the fourth, and Kerber or Keys in the quarters.
THE YOUTH SECTION
Indian Wells finalists, the 20-year-old Naomi Osaka and 21-year-old Daria Kasatkina could face in the third round but the latter might first have to take on Belinda Bencic (also 21) in round two. Bencic recently hired Vladimir Platenik, Kasatkina’s ex-coach, which would only add spice to an already intriguing match-up.
After losing to Kiki Bertens in both Montreal and Cincinnati already this month, Petra Kvitova could face the Dutchwoman for a third time this hard-court season if they both reach the quarter-finals. Bertens’ path is a bit clearer than Kvitova’s though with the Czech possibly facing Cincinnati semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka in the third round.
FIRST ROUNDS TO WATCH
Garbine Muguruza v Zhang Shuai
Elina Svitolina v Saschia Vickery
Anastasija Sevastova v Donna Vekic
Venus Williams v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Caroline Garcia v Johanna Konta
Aryna Sabalenka v Danielle Collins
Caroline Wozniacki v Sam Stosur
Daria Kasatkina v Timea Babos
Jelena Ostapenko v Andrea Petkovic