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Serena and Sharapova set for blockbuster first-round clash at US Open

In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic may have to see off Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to defend his crown.

Serena Williams.
Serena Williams.
Image: Julian Avram

SERENA WILLIAMS WILL begin her quest for a seventh US Open title and record-tying 24th Grand Slam victory against long-time rival Maria Sharapova, following today’s draw.

It’s a blockbuster opening tie for Williams, and she holds a dominant head-to-head record against Sharapova. 

Williams has won 19 times and lost just twice, although Sharapova advanced by walkover against Williams in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.

Eighth-ranked Williams is looking to match the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court when the year’s final major championship gets under way Monday.

The 37-year-old American has lost her last three Grand Slam finals appearances, including last month to Simona Halep at Wimbledon and last year to Japan’s Naomi Osaka at the US Open after a controversial game penalty for her tirade at umpire Carlos Ramos.

Tournament officials have said Ramos will not work any matches involving Serena or Venus Williams, who could not face her sister until the semi-finals, being in the same draw quarter as Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova.

Tennis - 2015 Wimbledon Championships - Day Ten - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Serena Williams celebrates beating Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2015. Source: Dominic Lipinski

Serena was placed into the same quarter as Australian second seed Ashleigh Barty, the reigning French Open champion whose first match is against 77th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Top-seeded Osaka opens against Russia’s 93rd-ranked Anna Blinkova and could face a third-round date against 15-year-old American Coco Gauff, who eliminated Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon in a run to the last 16 in her Grand Slam debut.

Romania’s fourth-seeded Halep, coming off her second Grand Slam title, opens against a qualifier and could face a semi-final against Osaka, who defends a Slam crown for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Osaka said. “Everyone knows I love it here.”

Osaka retired in the third set of a quarter-final match at Cincinnati with a left knee injury but said Thursday she expects no problems with playing at the US Open.

“It’s geting better. I’m a fast healer,” Osaka said. “I’m here and I feel like I’ll be able to play.”

Osaka said while she might watch players who are unfamiliar, she isn’t one to analyze the draw beyond her next opponent.

“I like to know what that one person I’m playing is,” she said. “I like to focus my attention on that one.”

Pliskova, who lost her only Grand Slam final to Germany’s Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open, plays her first match against a qualifier.

Venus Williams, 39, won the 2000 and 2001 US Opens but hasn’t won a Slam since her fifth Wimbledon title in 2008. She opens against China’s Zheng Saisai and could meet fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round.

Elsewhere, in the men’s singles’ draw, top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic could face Roger Federer in the semi-finals and Rafael Nadal in the final under the US Open draw unveiled Thursday at Flushing Meadows.

TENNIS: AUG 17 Western & Southern Open Djokovic serves during the Cincinnati Masters last week. Source: Adam Lacy

Djokovic, who defeated Federer last month in an epic Wimbledon final for his 16th Grand Slam crown, had the 20-time Grand Slam champion and third seed dropped into his half of the draw.

Second seed Nadal, who won his 18th Grand Slam title at this year’s French Open, has Austrian fourth seed Dominic Thiem on his side of the bracket.

Djokovic will play his first round match against Spain’s 76th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena.

Federer will open against a qualifier as will Japan’s seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori, also in his quarter of the draw.

Nadal’s first US Open match will be against Australia’s 61st-ranked John Millman, who shocked Federer at the tournament in 2018, while fourth-seeded Thiem’s opener will be against Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano.

© AFP 2019

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