Thursday, August 22, 2019

Serena, Sharapova to meet in first round of U.S. Open

Serena Williams, shown last year, is scheduled to play Maria Sharapova in the
U.S. Open for the first time. Photo by Mal Taam
   Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have met in four Grand Slam singles finals, with Williams winning three.
   Not only will the former world No. 1s and U.S. Open champions square off in the first round in Flushing Meadows, they will face each other there for the first time.
   The draw for the year's last Grand Slam tournament, Monday through Sept. 8, was held today.
   The eighth-seeded Williams, a 37-year-old part-time resident of Silicon Valley, and Sharapova, 32, are among six women to have achieved a career Grand Slam in the Open era (since 1968), joining Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. 
   However, Williams has dropped to eighth in the world and Sharapova to 87th. Williams had her first child in September 2017, Sharapova returned from a 15-month doping ban in April 2017, and both have been hampered by physical problems. Williams retired from the Toronto final two weeks ago with an upper-back injury.
Former world No. 1s Maria Sharapova, shown in 2017, and Serena Williams
 have struggled in recent years. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Williams, who won the last of her six U.S. Open singles titles five years ago, is 19-2 against Sharapova, the 2006 champion at Flushing Meadows. Not counting Williams' injury withdrawal in the fourth round of last year's French Open, she owns an 18-match winning streak in the head-to-head series.
   Fresno product Sloane Stephens, the 11th seed and 2017 U.S. Open champion, will play a qualifier in the first round. The winner will meet either 34-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion and runner-up last week in Cincinnati, or wild card Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate.
   Katie Volynets, a 17-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, will make her Grand Slam women's debut against 15th-seeded Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old who became the first Canadian woman to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 50 years.
   In the men's draw, San Francisco native Sam Querrey, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 2017, will play Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero, who reached the fourth round of the French Open in June. The survivor likely will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won his third U.S. Open singles title last year, in the second round. Querrey ousted Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016.
   Bradley Klahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate who won his first Challenger title in Aptos, Calif., in 2013, will play Thiago Monteiro, 25, of Brazil in a clash of left-handers. The winner probably will face seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori, the U.S. Open runner-up five years ago, in the second round. 
   Steve Johnson, who won his second Aptos title two weeks ago, will meet 28th-seeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia. Kyrgios incurred eight fines totaling $113,000 after his second-round loss to Karen Khachanov in Cincinnati last week. Kyrgios was cited for violations including unsportsmanlike conduct, verbal abuse and audible obscenity.
   U.S. Open qualifying – Nicole Gibbs, who played with Ahn on Stanford's 2013 NCAA championship team, advanced to the last round of U.S. Open qualifying by walkover against former Pacific-12 Conference rival Robin Anderson, who starred at UCLA, in a matchup of 26-year-olds.
   Gibbs will seek her eighth consecutive berth in the main draw against 33-year-old Peng Shuai, formerly ranked as high as No. 14 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, from China. They will meet for the first time.
   Fifth-seeded Kirsten Flipkens, a 33-year-old Belgian who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013, trounced Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serb living in Sacramento, 6-2, 6-0 in 58 minutes.


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