Serena Williams is searching for her first Grand Slam title of the year heading into the U.S. Open in New York, where she can’t face older sister Venus or Maria Sharapova until the women’s final.
The draws for the final major tennis tournament of 2014 were revealed today in Flushing Meadows, New York, where 2011 men’s champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia could face John Isner -- the highest-seeded American man -- in the fourth round. Isner, seeded 13th, has advanced past the fourth round only once at the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 25.
Williams, who won the past two U.S. Open women’s titles, is the top seed in her draw and will face American wild-card qualifier Taylor Townsend in the opening round. Williams, ousted before the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, could meet Australia’s Samantha Stosur -- the 2011 U.S. Open champion and No. 11 seed, in the fourth round.
“The way this year has been going, I’m worried about every single match, not just the ones down the line,” Williams, 32, told reporters at the National Tennis Center. “I feel good about my game, but anyone can surprise you at any time.”
Second-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, No. 5 Sharapova and No. 19 Venus Williams are all on the other side of the women’s draw and would have to reach the final to face Serena, who is coming off hard-court victories in Cincinnati and Stanford, California, the past two months.
“If she plays her A Game she should win it, and I think will win it,” ESPN tennis analyst John McEnroe said of Williams, who is listed by oddsmakers as the 7-4 favorite to claim a sixth U.S. Open title. “The thing is she hasn’t played her A Game at the majors. It gives you that pause that maybe she won’t again; you’re not sure.”
Sharapova, the 2006 U.S. Open champion who missed last year’s tournament, is the second choice at 6-1 odds, followed by Halep at 7-1, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s SuperBook. Halep advanced past the second round for the first time in four U.S. Open appearances last year, losing in the fourth round.
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic is the third seed in the women’s draw and could face Serena Williams in the semifinals if they both advance. Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland is the fourth seed and in the half of the draw with Halep, Sharapova and Venus Williams.
Djokovic, 27, faces Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in his first-round match at the U.S. Open, where he’s 45-8 all-time and has reached the final four straight years.
When the rest of the seeded players were picked to fill out the draw today, Djokovic’s potential fourth-round opponent was set to be a player seeded 13 to 16. Isner, who has a 3-3 record since winning a hard-court tournament in Atlanta last month, had his name drawn out of the championship trophy.
With defending champion Rafael Nadal unable to play in the tournament due to a wrist injury, five-time winner Roger Federer of Switzerland is the No. 2 seed and plays Marinko Matosevic of Australia in his opening match. Federer and Djokovic, on opposite sides of the 128-man bracket, can’t meet until the final.
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain, No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria are also in Federer’s half of the draw.
Eighth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain -- the 2012 U.S. Open champion -- looms as a potential quarterfinal opponent for Djokovic, while No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland or No. 5 Milos Raonic of Canada could meet him in the semifinals.
Djokovic is the even-money favorite, according to oddsmakers, followed by Federer at 3-1 and Murray at 4-1.