Naomi Osaka returns a shot from Karolina Muchova during the second...

Naomi Osaka returns a shot from Karolina Muchova during the second round at the Western & Southern Open on Monday in Flusing Meadows Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

The U.S. Open conducted its draw without the usual fanfare on Thursday, and the most interesting matchup looks to be the possibility of Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff meeting in the third round. Osaka beat Gauff, the 15-year-old sensation last year, 6-3, 6-0, in an emotional Ashe Stadium match.

Gauff became the youngest player in the professional era to eliminate the reigning women's champion at the Australian Open, beating Osaka 6-3, 6-4 in the third round this year.

The top two players in the world, Ash Barty of Australia and Simona Halep of Romania, chose not to travel to the Open during the COVID-19 pandemic, as did defending champion Bianca Andreescu and three other top 10 players. Karolina Pliskova is the top seed and American Sofia Kenin, the Australian Open winner at the start of the season, is No. 2.

With the top of the women’s field diluted, that might make for an easier road for six-time champion Serena Williams, who lost lost to Andreescu in the final last year and to Osaka in 2018.

The 38-year-old Williams, going for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title, is seeded third and is in what looks to be a favorable quarter of the draw that includes Madison Keys and Garbine Muguruza. She plays American Kristie Ahn in her opening match.

Novak Djokovic, undefeated in 2020 at 21-0 and winner of the Australian Open for his 17th Grand Slam title, is the No. 1 seed and No. 1 ranked men’s player. He won’t have to contend with Rafael Nadal, who chose not to defend his title during the pandemic. Roger Federer announced early in the summer he was sitting out the rest of the year after knee surgery.

Djokovic plays Damir Dzhumhur in the first round. John Isner is in Djokovic’s quarter and opens up against fellow American Steve Johnson. Dominic Thiem is the No. 2 seed. 

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