Serena Williams‘ big showdown at the 2018 U.S. Open came in a controversial final with Naomi Osaka. This year, her most anticipated match may be her first-round date with Maria Sharapova.
It’s one of potentially two first-week blockbusters. Osaka, the world No. 1 and defending champion, will play 15-year-old American phenom Coco Gauff in the third round should each win her first two matches.
Williams comes to New York in her seventh bid to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. She was runner-up at three of her last five Slams and is two years removed from life-threatening childbirth.
Sharapova, who like Williams has dealt with recent injuries, has seen her ranking fall to 87th. She has lost 18 straight matches to Williams but advanced from what would have been their last meeting when Williams withdrew injured minutes before a 2018 French Open fourth-round date.
Osaka has traded the No. 1 ranking with Australian Ash Barty this spring and summer. The Japanese megastar was bounced in the first week of the last two majors and withdrew from her last U.S. Open tune-up event with a knee injury.
Gauff, who qualified into Wimbledon and then became the youngest woman to reach the fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991, is playing her first U.S. Open main draw. She won the junior title.
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