When Serena Williams begins her run toward a fourth straight U.S. Open title next week, she will have to negotiate the American Quarter during the first five rounds.
In the draw ceremony held on Thursday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Serena and sister Venus are two of nine Americans in the top quarter of the women's draw that includes Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.
Serena will face Russian Vitalia Diatchenko in her opening match and could meet Venus in the quarterfinals. Serena also could face Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Stephens and Keys along the way.InfographicSerena and the Slams
For Serena Williams, the No. 1 seed, the No. 1 ranked player in the world and the No. 1 choice to complete a calendar year Grand Slam with the Open title, the draw is of little consequence.
"I don't look at the draw," she said on Thursday after practice. "You have Sloane; I seem to play her every tournament. Madison is playing really well. So is Sloane actually, she's playing excellent. So it's not anything simple or easy to go through."
The No. 2 seed Simona Halep, who Williams recently beat for the title on the hard courts at Cincinnati, drew Marina Erakovic of New Zealand in the first round. The third seed, Maria Sharapova, hasn't played since Wimbledon because of a leg injury. She drew promising Australian Daria Gavrilova. Fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki drew NCAA champion Jamie Loeb of the University of North Carolina, who is a top pupil at John McEnroe's Tennis Academy on Randalls Island.
When asked what players in Serena's quarter of the draw should do, ESPN television commentator Patrick McEnroe said: "Don't look at it. Win each match at a time."
On the men's side, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon this season, drew Joao Souza of Brazil for his opening match. Roger Federer, No. 2, gets Leonardo Mayer of Argentina. No. 3 seed Andy Murray has a very interesting opener against the talented but volatile Nick Kyrgios of Australia. No. 4 Kei Nishikori drew Benoit Paire of France. John Isner, the highest American men's seed at 13, drew Malek Jaziri of Tunisia.
Djokovic likely can look forward to some pretty clear sailing to the quarterfinals. Who he meets there is up for grabs. Rafael Nadal is in his quarter, but Nadal's season has been hampered by injury and he hasn't looked sharp. Federer doesn't appear to be seriously threatened before the quarterfinals.
In her typically nonchalant way, Serena Williams doesn't seem seriously threatened by anyone or anything as she goes for her seventh U.S. Open title, which would be a record for a man or woman. She wasn't aware of the potential for that record, but she does keep the numbers in her head.
Asked if she considers herself the greatest player ever, she responded: "No, I can't sit here and say that. But I can sit here and say that I'm the greatest player that I've been able to be.
"I do read numbers and I do see numbers. I believe in those numbers." which are 21 total Grand Slam singles victories, including the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this season.Williams said she has yet to walk on to Arthur Ashe Stadium court this week, not even to take a look at the truss work for the new roof that goes operational next year. But as soon as she does, either Monday or Tuesday, there will be both excitement and comfort.
"It's the biggest stadium for tennis players in the world," she said. "It's the biggest stage in the world. It doesn't get any bigger or better than this. I think that kind of speaks to itself."