Serena and Sharapova to clash in US Open first round blockbuster - GulfToday

Serena and Sharapova to clash in US Open first round blockbuster

Serana and Sharapova to clash in US Open first round blockbuster

Serena Williams (right) will begin her quest for a seventh US Open title and record-tying 24th Grand Slam victory against Maria Sharapova (left).

New York: 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 in the US Open women’s singles draw unveiled on Thursday.

Williams has dominated the Russian star in their head-to-head rivalry, winning 19 times with only two defeats, including their past 18 meetings, most recently at the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals, 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 dropped her past 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.

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.

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.

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.

Meanwhile,  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.

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.

The other match cited by the 32-year-old Serbian star was his five-set victory over Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open final. Djokovic is 26-22 all-time against Federer and 28-26 for his career against Nadal in matches among the Big Three.

Federer and Nadal, who have never played at the US Open, could only meet in the final.

Djokovic, who beat Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s US Open final, will play his first-round match against Spain’s 76th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena.

He could be tested by South African Kevin Anderson or Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round and face in-form Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev in a quarter-final.

Djokovic defended his title at Wimbledon, the fifth time he has managed the feat at a Grand Slam but one he has not achieved at Flushing Meadows after wins in 2011, 2015 and last year.

“You have that additional pressure and expectations,” Djokovic said. “Over time I guess you get more used to it.

“It’s a paramount challenge, to defend a Grand Slam title. These are the tournaments you want to win the most. This is where you want to shine.”

Agence France-Presse