Every time Serena Williams enters a Grand Slam, the reductionist take is that it's "Serena vs. The Field," that Williams is the only one with a legitimate shot at the title, and that beyond her it's anyone's guess.
While that's usually unfair to the other players, this US Open, the Serena-against-the-world outlook feels apt.
Following the fourth-round elimination of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, Williams is the only Grand Slam champion left. In fact, New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey points out, Serena's the only one remaining to have ever even made a major final—and she's made (and won) a whole lot of them.
Grand Slam singles FINALS— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 2, 2019
Serena Williams: 32
Rest of the remaining 2019 US Open women's field: 0 https://t.co/oKdZhuw2mm
That said, there are six other players still in the draw, and the championship match is guaranteed to feature at least one competitor not named Williams.
Here are the women standing between Serena and her 24th major, and what they've previously shown the world they can do:
Ranking: No. 12
Highlighted by her Premier 5 title win in Dubai—where she scored three straight Top 10 wins—and the grass-court final in Mallorca, 2019 has been Bencic's best season in a while. On Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday, she beat No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka for the third time this year, 7-5, 6-4.
Bencic's quarterfinal opponent will be Vekic, who beat 2019 Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova en route to the St. Petersburg final this January. She later made another final, on grass in Nottingham, and on Monday at the US Open she ousted No. 26 seed Julia Goerges, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3.
Andreescu has been hyped as much as almost any other player in 2019, and, truthfully, she's deserved it. The teenager won two of the biggest titles on tour, in Indian Wells and Toronto, and her season record is an astounding 42-4. Andreescu is undefeated at the US Open, this being her first main-draw appearance, which has included wins over Caroline Wozniacki and an on-fire Taylor Townsend.
Ranking: No. 26
The last woman on the non-Williams half of the draw is Mertens, who won the Doha Premier-level tournament in February with three consecutive Top 10 wins, versus Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep. She faced Serena in the second round of Toronto, falling short, 6-3, 6-3.
The highest seed left in the US Open, at No. 5, Svitolina is the reigning WTA Finals champion. She's often put in the same category as Alexander Zverev, for her tour results outperforming her Slam ones, but that hasn't been the case this year, where she's made the Australian Open quarterfinals and Wimbledon semifinals. In the last three rounds, Svitolina notched straight-set wins against three different seeds: Dayana Yastremska, Madison Keys and Johanna Konta. Svitolina will play Serena should the American beat Wang Qiang.
So far, Wang has seen her biggest success in Asia; last year she won the International-level events in Nanchang and Guangzhou, China, and made the finals in Hong Kong and at the WTA Elite Trophy. But the world No. 18 has delivered her best Slam result yet in Flushing Meadows, making the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of No. 2 seed Barty. On Tuesday night, she'll take on Serena for the first time.
Considering Serena's unbelievable advantage in big-match experience—and how close she's come to winning three recent majors—it's easy to say this is a golden opportunity for Williams to finally capture another Slam. But there's a reason they're playing out the second week of the tournament, and none of the women left should be counted out.
Wake up every morning with Tennis Channel Live at the US Open, starting at 8 a.m. ET. For three hours leading up to the start of play, Tennis Channel's team will break down upcoming matches, review tournament storylines and focus on everything Flushing Meadows.
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