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US Open '19: No. 1 Osaka defends; Serena Williams eyes 24th

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

NAOMI OSAKA

Seeded: 1

Country: Japan

Age: 21

2019 Match Record: 26-10

2019 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 3

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — U.S. Open (2018), Australian Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-Won Championship, 2017-3rd, 2016-3rd, 2015-Did Not Play, 2014-DNP

Aces: Defends Slam title for first time. ... 2 of 3 tour-level titles came at hard-court majors. ... 4th this season in total aces; averages 7.2 per match.

Topspin: After winning two major titles in a row, has lost two Grand Slam matches in a row. If her head is in the right place, certainly capable of a deep run, given how good her serve, strokes and movement are.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 15-year-old Coco Gauff in 3rd round.

ASH BARTY

Seeded: 2

Country: Australia

Age: 23

2019 Match Record: 42-8

2019 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 6

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — French Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-Lost in 4th Rd, 2017-3rd, 2016-Did Not Play, 2015-DNP, 2014-1st

Aces: Made second week of last 4 majors, including first Slam title in Paris. ... 27-5 on hard courts in 2019. ... Played professional cricket while away from the tennis tour for about 1½ years after 1st-round exit at 2014 U.S. Open.

Topspin: Really came into her own this season, but renaissance started with fourth-round showing at Flushing Meadows last year. A title threat on all surfaces.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play two-time major champ Angelique Kerber in 4th round.

KAROLINA PLISKOVA

Seeded: 3

Country: Czech Republic

Age: 27

2019 Match Record: 42-12

2019 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 14

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: Runner-Up, U.S. Open (2016)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-QF, 2017-QF, 2016-Runner-Up, 2015-1st, 2014-3rd

Aces: Might be best server not named Williams — leads tour in total aces (averages 7.4), service games won (80.6. ... Tied with Ash Barty for most match wins this year.

Topspin: 14-3 U.S. Open record over past three years shows what she's capable of when her serve is clicking and the rest of her game helps support that skill.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Daria Kasatkina or 2011 U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur in 4th round.

SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 4

Country: Romania

Age: 27

2019 Match Record: 39-12

2019 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 19

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — French Open (2018), Wimbledon (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-1st, 2017-1st, 2016-QF, 2015-SF, 2014-3rd

Aces: Winning 44.4% of return games, second on tour in 2019. ... Hasn't won a match in New York since 2016.

Topspin: Tends to play better with less pressure and outside expectations — see results at French Open vs. Wimbledon this year — so maybe will show her best at Flushing Meadows.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova in 3rd round.

SERENA WILLIAMS

Seeded: 8

Country: United States

Age: 37

2019 Match Record: 19-5

2019 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 72

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 23 — U.S. Open (6: 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), Australian Open (7: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), French Open (3: 2002, 2013, 2015), Wimbledon (7: 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-RU, 2017-DNP, 2016-SF, 2015-SF, 2014-W

Aces: Winning 74.3% of first-serve points this season, No. 1 on tour. ... Runner-up at 3 of past 5 Slams, including last year in New York. ... Trying for 24th major singles trophy to equal Margaret Court for most in history.

Topspin: Ankle, knee, back issues in 2019. Health could be key for her at U.S. Open, where she has been to the final in 7 of last 9 appearances.

Matchup to Watch For: Plays five-time major champ Maria Sharapova in 1st round.

SLOANE STEPHENS

Seeded: 11

Country: United States

Age: 26

2019 Match Record: 21-15

2019 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 6

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (1: 2017)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-QF, 2017-W, 2016-DNP, 2015-1st, 2014-2nd

Aces: 11-2 in tiebreakers this season. ... Reunited with coach Kamau Murray after splitting with Sven Groeneveld.

Topspin: Will be interesting to see how returning to work with Murray, her coach when she won her title at Flushing Meadows two years ago, sparks Stephens.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play two-time major champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2nd round.

BIANCA ANDREESCU

Seeded: 15

Country: Canada

Age: 19

2019 Match Record: 38-4

2019 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 2

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: 2nd Round, Australian Open and French Open (2019)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: 2018-DNP, 2017-DNP, 2016-DNP, 2015-DNP, 2014-DNP

Aces: 7-0 against top-10 opponents, including 4-0 against top 5, during breakout season.

Topspin: Biggest impediment is injuries, including to her right shoulder, but if she feels well, should be able to make a run in her U.S. Open debut.

Matchup to Watch For: Could play 2018 Australian Open champ Caroline Wozniacki in 3rd round.

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