US Open '19: No. 1 Osaka defends; Serena Williams eyes 24th

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 23, 2019 07:57 AM
US Open '19: No. 1 Osaka defends; Serena Williams eyes 24th
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2018, file photo, Naomi Osaka, of Japan, kisses the trophy after defeating Naomi Osaka, of Japan, in the women's final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Osaka is ranked No. 1 heading into the U.S. Open, where she will attempt to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

Women to watch at the U.S. Open, where play begins Monday:

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NAOMI OSAKA

Seeded: 1

Country: Japan

Age: 21

2019 Match Record: 26-10

2019 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 3

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — U.S. Open (2018), Australian Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-Won Championship, 2017-3rd, 2016-3rd, 2015-Did Not Play, 2014-DNP

Aces: Defends Slam title for first time. ... 2 of 3 tour-level titles came at hard-court majors. ... 4th this season in total aces; averages 7.2 per match.

Topspin: After winning two major titles in a row, has lost two Grand Slam matches in a row. If her head is in the right place, certainly capable of a deep run, given how good her serve, strokes and movement are.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 15-year-old Coco Gauff in 3rd round.

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ASH BARTY

Seeded: 2

Country: Australia

Age: 23

2019 Match Record: 42-8

2019 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 6

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — French Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-Lost in 4th Rd, 2017-3rd, 2016-Did Not Play, 2015-DNP, 2014-1st

Aces: Made second week of last 4 majors, including first Slam title in Paris. ... 27-5 on hard courts in 2019. ... Played professional cricket while away from the tennis tour for about 1½ years after 1st-round exit at 2014 U.S. Open.

Topspin: Really came into her own this season, but renaissance started with fourth-round showing at Flushing Meadows last year. A title threat on all surfaces.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play two-time major champ Angelique Kerber in 4th round.

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KAROLINA PLISKOVA

Seeded: 3

Country: Czech Republic

Age: 27

2019 Match Record: 42-12

2019 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 14

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: Runner-Up, U.S. Open (2016)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-QF, 2017-QF, 2016-Runner-Up, 2015-1st, 2014-3rd

Aces: Might be best server not named Williams — leads tour in total aces (averages 7.4), service games won (80.6. ... Tied with Ash Barty for most match wins this year.

Topspin: 14-3 U.S. Open record over past three years shows what she's capable of when her serve is clicking and the rest of her game helps support that skill.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Daria Kasatkina or 2011 U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur in 4th round.

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SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 4

Country: Romania

Age: 27

2019 Match Record: 39-12

2019 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 19

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — French Open (2018), Wimbledon (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-1st, 2017-1st, 2016-QF, 2015-SF, 2014-3rd

Aces: Winning 44.4% of return games, second on tour in 2019. ... Hasn't won a match in New York since 2016.

Topspin: Tends to play better with less pressure and outside expectations — see results at French Open vs. Wimbledon this year — so maybe will show her best at Flushing Meadows.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova in 3rd round.

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SERENA WILLIAMS

Seeded: 8

Country: United States

Age: 37

2019 Match Record: 19-5

2019 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 72

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 23 — U.S. Open (6: 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), Australian Open (7: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), French Open (3: 2002, 2013, 2015), Wimbledon (7: 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-RU, 2017-DNP, 2016-SF, 2015-SF, 2014-W

Aces: Winning 74.3% of first-serve points this season, No. 1 on tour. ... Runner-up at 3 of past 5 Slams, including last year in New York. ... Trying for 24th major singles trophy to equal Margaret Court for most in history.

Topspin: Ankle, knee, back issues in 2019. Health could be key for her at U.S. Open, where she has been to the final in 7 of last 9 appearances.

Matchup to Watch For: Plays five-time major champ Maria Sharapova in 1st round.

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SLOANE STEPHENS

Seeded: 11

Country: United States

Age: 26

2019 Match Record: 21-15

2019 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 6

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (1: 2017)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-QF, 2017-W, 2016-DNP, 2015-1st, 2014-2nd

Aces: 11-2 in tiebreakers this season. ... Reunited with coach Kamau Murray after splitting with Sven Groeneveld.

Topspin: Will be interesting to see how returning to work with Murray, her coach when she won her title at Flushing Meadows two years ago, sparks Stephens.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play two-time major champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2nd round.

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BIANCA ANDREESCU

Seeded: 15

Country: Canada

Age: 19

2019 Match Record: 38-4

2019 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 2

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: 2nd Round, Australian Open and French Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-DNP, 2017-DNP, 2016-DNP, 2015-DNP, 2014-DNP

Aces: 7-0 against top-10 opponents, including 4-0 against top 5, during breakout season.

Topspin: Biggest impediment is injuries, including to her right shoulder, but if she feels well, should be able to make a run in her U.S. Open debut.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 2018 Australian Open champ Caroline Wozniacki in 3rd round.

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