Tricky US Open draw for Serena Williams

Serena Williams could meet Sloane Stephens as early as the third round at the US Open

Serena Williams

Serena Williams, who is aiming for a record-equalling 24th singles major, has been handed a tough draw at the US Open, which begins in New York on Monday, August 31, behind closed doors.

According to the draw made on Thursday, third seed Williams will play compatriot Krtistie Ahn in the opening round. But she could face 2017 champion Sloane Stephens in as early as the third round – provided both the players get that far.

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The 38-year-old, who has won the US Open six times, has not been able to get over the final hurdle since returning to the tour after childbirth. ‘Supermom’ Williams has reached four major final since staging a comeback in 2018, but has not been able to win a single set.

She is one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 singles majors.

With six of the women’s top 10 skipping the Slam, Karolina Pliskova is top seed and begins her quest for her first Grand Slam title against Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina.

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Venus Williams, oldest player in the draw at 40, will begin her 22nd US Open against Karolina Muchova while 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin faces tricky Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

Naomi Osaka, the 2018 champion, plays fellow Japanese Misaki Doi.

Smoother path for Djokovic?

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic appears to have drawn an easier path as he bids for his 18th Grand Slam title.

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The World No 1 will open against Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur and the highest seed he could face before the quarterfinals is number 16 John Isner in round four.

Djokovic, who will close the gap in the majors tally with Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) if he wins the Open, is undefeated in 2020 so far. He has a perfect 21-0 record, going into the semi-final of the Western & Southern Open.

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With both Federer and Nadal skipping the tournament, Djokovic is an overwhelming favourite.

Dominic Thiem, seeded two, opens against Spaniard Jaume Munar while 2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev and plays Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in round one.

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The struggling Alexander Zverev has been handed a tough opener. He takes on the big-serving Kevin Anderson, who reached the 2017 US Open finals and 2018 Wimbledon final, in the first round.

Former champion Andy Murray will face Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in his first Grand Slam singles match since the 2019 Australian Open.

Interesting first-round clashes:

Alexander Bublik v Kyle Edmund
Jannik Sinner v (11) Karen Khachanov
(5) Alexander Zverev v Kevin Anderson
Steve Johnson v (16) John Isner
Reilly Opelka v (7) David Goffin
Tommy Paul v (14) Grigor Dimitrov

Coco Gauff v (31) Anastasija Sevastova
Venus Wiilliams v (20) Karolina Muchova
Timea Babos v (7) Madison Keys
Kim Clijsters v (21) Ekaterina Alexandrova