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US OPEN ’18: Serena Williams makes her return to New York

August 26, 2018
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FILE - In this June 9, 2018, file photo, Romania's Simona Halep holds the trophy as she celebrates winning the final in the French Open tennis tournament against Sloane Stephens of the United States, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, at Roland Garros stadium in Paris. Halep is the women's No. 1 seed in the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, Aug. 27. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Women to watch at the U.S. Open, where play begins Monday:

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SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 1

Ranked: 1

Age: 26

Country: Romania

2018 Match Record: 46-8

2018 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 18

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — French Open (’18)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-Lost in 1st Round, ’16-QF, ’15-SF, ’14-3rd, ’13-4th

Aces: Won two hard-court titles this season. ... Claimed her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in June. ... Wins nearly half of all return games, WTA’s best rate.

Topspin: A year ago, exited in the first round against Maria Sharapova. This year, could face a Williams sister in the fourth round. ... If she’s healthy, could make a deep run.

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CAROLINE WOZNIACKI

Seeded: 2

Ranked: 2

Age: 28

Country: Denmark

2018 Match Record: 32-12

2018 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 29

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — Australian Open (’18)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-2nd, ’16-SF, ’15-2nd, ’14-F, ’13-3rd

Aces: Third among active women with 21 career hard-court titles, trailing only the Williams sisters. ... Converts 52.1 percent of break-point chances, No. 2 on tour in 2018.

Topspin: Loves that she no longer has to hear questions about why she hasn’t won a major tournament. ... Her counter-punching clearly can succeed in New York, where she’s twice reached the final.

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SLOANE STEPHENS

Seeded: 3

Ranked: 3

Age: 25

Country: United States

2018 Match Record: 27-13

2018 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 6

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (’17)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-Won Championship, ’16-Did Not Play, ’15-1st, ’14-2nd, ’13-4th

Aces: First attempt to defend a Grand Slam title. ... Last year’s triumph capped a comeback after foot surgery.

Topspin: Boom-or-bust streak in Grand Slam tournaments continues: She has either reached the final (twice) or lost in the opening round (three times) at her past five majors.

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ANGELIQUE KERBER

Seeded: 4

Ranked: 4

Age: 30

Country: Germany

2018 Match Record: 40-14

2018 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 12

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 — U.S. Open (’16), Australian Open (’16), Wimbledon (’18)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-4th, ’16-W, ’15-3rd, ’14-3rd, ’13-4th

Aces: Reached at least the fourth round at 12 of 14 tournaments she entered this year, the best rate among top-10 players.

Topspin: Returned to the height of her powers with a Wimbledon title last month; one-third of her career trophies came at majors.

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MADISON KEYS

Seeded: 14

Ranked: 14

Age: 23

Country: United States

2018 Match Record: 21-11

2018 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 3

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: Runner-Up, U.S. Open (’17)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-Runner-Up, ’16-4th, ’15-4th, ’14-2nd, ’13-1st

Aces: Winning 61.6 percent of service points this season, ranking third on tour.

Topspin: Run to French Open semifinals showed overall development of her game. No reason she couldn’t have another long stay in New York.

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SERENA WILLIAMS

Seeded: 17

Ranked: 26

Age: 36

Country: United States

2018 Match Record: 12-5

2018 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 72

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 23 — U.S. Open (’99, ’02, ’08, ’12, ’13, ’14), Wimbledon (’02, ’03, ’09, ’10, ’12, ’15, ’16), Australian Open (’03, ’05, ’07, ’09, ’10, ’15, ’17), French Open (’02, ’13, ’15)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-DNP, ’16-SF, ’15-SF, ’14-W, ’13-W

Aces: Trying to win her first U.S. Open title since claiming a third in a row in 2014. ... Missed the tournament last year because she gave birth on Sept. 1.

Topspin: Never count out Williams, no matter what her form appears to be entering a tournament.

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MARIA SHARAPOVA

Seeded: 22

Ranked: 21

Age: 31

Country: Russia

2018 Match Record: 17-10

2018 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 36

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 5 — U.S. Open (’06), Wimbledon (’04), Australian Open (’08), French Open (’12, ’14)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: ’17-4th, ’16-DNP, ’15-DNP, ’14-4th, ’13-DNP

Aces: 11-0 in first-round matches at Flushing Meadows. ... Hasn’t been past the fourth round since 2012; missed the U.S. Open three of the past five years.

Topspin: Made Grand Slam return in New York in 2017 after absence of more than 1½ years because of a doping ban.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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