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Serena, Venus Williams could have earliest Grand Slam meeting in 20 years at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Serena and Venus Williams could be headed toward their earliest Grand Slam meeting in 20 years, facing a potential third-round matchup at the U.S. Open.

If the sisters do play each other, the winner might face No. 1-ranked Simona Halep in the fourth round.

That is certainly the most intriguing section of the women’s and men’s brackets revealed at Thursday’s draw for the last major of the year.

This marks Serena’s return to Flushing Meadows after missing the hard-court tournament in 2017 — she gave birth to her daughter last Sept. 1.

The 36-year-old American has won six of her 23 Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open and was given the No. 17 seed by the U.S. Tennis Association — nine places above her current ranking.

Venus, who won five of her seven Grand Slam singles trophies in New York, is ranked and seeded 16th. She faces a tricky first-round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, whose two major championships include the 2004 U.S. Open.

Kuznetsova was given a wild-card entry for the tournament, where main-draw play begins Monday.

Serena’s opener comes against 60th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland. Should the Williams siblings both make it to the third round, they would play each other at a Grand Slam tournament sooner than they have since Venus beat Serena in the second round at the 1998 Australian Open — their very first head-to-head match on tour.

They’ve gone on to play a total of 29 times — Serena leads 17-12 — and that includes nine all-in-the-family Grand Slam finals, most recently at the 2017 Australian Open.

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

In the men’s field, No. 1-ranked and defending champion Rafael Nadal opens against David Ferrer in an all-Spanish rematch of their 2013 French Open final. No. 2 Roger Federer plays Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round.

Federer faces a potential quarterfinal against No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic, the Wimbledon champion who beat him two weeks ago in a tuneup and is considered the tournament favorite. No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev and seventh-seeded Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, are also in Federer’s half of the draw along with No. 30 seed Nick Kyrgios, the Australian whom Federer could meet in the third round.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 U.S. Open champion who missed last year’s tournament because of injury and was given a wild card into this year’s field, faces No. 8 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in one of the headline matches of the first round. Wawrinka, a three-time major titlist, eliminated Dimitrov in the first round at Wimbledon in June.

Nadal’s half of the draw includes No. 3 seed and 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro — who could face another former U.S. Open champion in Andy Murray in the third round — and fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open runner-up.

Besides Federer-Djokovic, the other possible men’s quarterfinals are Nadal-Anderson, Del Potro-Dimitrov and Zverev-Cilic.

Women’s No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki faces 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the first round. Sloane Stephens, the defending champion, is the No. 3 seed and could face former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the third round.

Potential women’s quarterfinals include Halep vs. No. 8 Karolina Pliskova, Wozniacki vs. No. 5 Petra Kvitova, Stephens vs. No. 7 Elina Svitolina, and No. 4 Angelique Kerber vs. No. 6 Carolina Garcia.

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Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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