US OPEN 2020: Serena seeks Slam No. 24; Pliskova top seed

Women to watch at the U.S. Open in New York, where play is scheduled to begin Monday:

KAROLINA PLISKOVA

Ranked: 3

Country: Czech Republic

Age: 28

Career Singles Titles: 16

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

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2019-Lost in 4th Round, 2018-QF, 2017-QF, 2016-Runner-Up, 2015-1st

Aces: 17-4 U.S. Open record over past four years, plus semifinal run at 2019 Australian Open, shows what she’s capable of on hard courts. … Opening-match loss at Western & Southern Open shows her inconsistency.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 28th-seeded American Jennifer Brady in the third round; Brady won her first WTA title at the hard-court tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, in August.

Words: “The most unpredictable of the top players. She hasn’t come through in the majors and she knows it. The longer that goes on, the more the pressure goes. In every interview she does, she’s getting that question. It’s really hard not to get down on yourself.” — Martina Navratilova on Pliskova.

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SOFIA KENIN

Ranked: 4

Country: United States

Age: 21

Career Singles Titles: 5

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — Australian Open (2020)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2019-3rd, 18-3rd, 2017-3rd, 2016-1st, 2015-1st

Aces: Never been past the third round at Flushing Meadows; also never played at a Grand Slam tournament as a Grand Slam champion, after her triumph in Australia this year. … Youngest American to make her top-10 rankings debut since Serena Williams was 20 in 2002.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur, whose slices and drop shots can be tricky to deal with, in the third round.

Words: “I’m really disappointed, so it’s I guess going to take me a few days to get back. I literally just feel like I’m out of confidence right now.” — Kenin, after opening-match loss at Western & Southern Open.

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SERENA WILLIAMS

Ranked: 9

Country: United States

Age: 38

Career Singles Titles: 73

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: 2019-RU, 2018-RU, 2017-Did Not Play, 2016-SF, 2015-SF

Aces: Trying to earn her 24th major singles trophy to equal Margaret Court for most in history. … Runner-up at four of past six Grand Slam tournaments, including each of the past two years in New York. … All five matches since tennis resumed have gone three sets; her record is 3-2.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face a fourth-rounder against 15th-seeded Maria Sakkari, who beat Williams at the Western & Southern Open in New York in August.

Words: “I put myself in a bad situation. You know, it’s like dating a guy that you know sucks. That’s literally what I keep doing out here. It’s like I have got to get rid of this guy. It just makes no sense. It’s frustrating.” — Williams, after her loss to Sakkari.

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NAOMI OSAKA

Ranked: 10

Country: Japan

Age: 22

Career Singles Titles: 5

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

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2019-4th; 2018-Won Championship, 2017-3rd, 2016-3rd, 2015-DNP

Aces: Withdrew from Western & Southern Open final Saturday because of an injured left hamstring. … Announced she would sit out her semifinal of that tournament to protest racial injustice, prompting the tournament to take a day off to support the cause. … According to Forbes in May, Osaka earned $37.4 million over the previous 12 months to set a one-year record for a female athlete. … Two of her five career tour-level titles came at Slams, both on hard courts.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face 16-year-old American Coco Gauff in the third round for the second year in a row at Flushing Meadows; Osaka won that 2019 meeting, but Gauff won a rematch at the 2020 Australian Open.

Words: “As long as I’m positive and calm, things usually flow together. I’m able to figure things out and apply different things as long as I’m mentally stable.” — Osaka on herself.

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SLOANE STEPHENS

Ranked: 37

Country: United States

Age: 27

Career Singles Titles: 6

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

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2019-1st, 2018-QF, 2017-W, 2016-DNP, 2015-1st

Aces: Carries a three-match Grand Slam losing streak into U.S. Open. … Just 1-6 match record this season, 7-16 dating to the end of last year’s French Open.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play Serena Williams in third round.

Words: “Not having played that many matches this year, it’s a little tough. Yeah, still got another week to try and improve on it and get better.” — Stephens after first-round loss at Western & Southern Open.

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KIM CLIJSTERS

Ranked: Unranked

Country: Belgium

Age: 37

Career Singles Titles: 41

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 — U.S. Open (3: 2005, 2009, 2010), Australian Open (1: 2011)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2019-DNP, 2018-DNP, 2017-DNP, 2016-DNP, 2015-DNP

Aces: Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who came out of retirement this year. … Received a wild-card invitation for what would be her first Grand Slam appearance since a second-round loss at the 2012 U.S. Open.

Matchup to Watch For: Plays 18-year-old Caty McNally of the U.S. in the first round; McNally plays doubles with Coco Gauff.

Words: “Knowing what she could do before, seeing her and her personality, if she is coming back, it’s because she’s really in the mood to. She wants to see what else is left to do. I think the age doesn’t matter, to be honest. I think it’s the fitness and the mind that matters.” — Roger Federer on Clijsters.

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