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

By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer
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: You’ve heard it here before and you’ll hear it again: 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:
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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More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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