The U.S. Open might have been kind to Serena Williams, boosting the tournament’s six-time champion from her current No. 26 world ranking to a No. 17 seed. The Open draw, not so much.
With the bracket announced on Thursday, Williams landed in the same quarter of the 128-player field as top seed Simona Halep, the reigning French Open champ, and two-time Slam titlist Garbine Muguruza, as well as Williams’ older sister Venus, who has won seven majors—though the last of those was a decade ago at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams will begin play in the two-week event, which commences on Monday, against Poland’s Magda Linette, ranked 60th, and may have to deal with her sister in the third round. Should Serena, whose 23 major-tournament titles are an open-era record, reach the semifinals, the odds are fairly high that she would face defending champion Sloane Stephens, seeded third.
Since winning her first Slam title, Stephens claimed with some exaggeration Thursday, her life has changed. “Before, no one wanted to talk to me,” she said. “Now everyone wants to be my friend.”
The other half of the women’s bracket appears less intimidating for No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 4 Angelique Kerber, respective winners of this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon. Except that Wozniacki has been dealing with a leg injury and has a daunting first-round match against Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champ now ranked 64th. And Kerber has won only one match since raising the Wimbledon trophy.
Among the men, top seed Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, and last year’s runner-up, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, could face each other in a semifinal. And Nadal could face No. 2 Roger Federer in the final_which, remarkably, would be the first time those two ever have played each other at the Open.
In the meantime, Federer’s quarter of the draw features reigning Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic, seeded sixth, and the unpredictable Australian Nick Kyrgios, seeded 30th. Long Island’s Noah Rubin, ranked 135th, also is in that quarter, matched against Kazakhstan’s No. 84 Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round.
No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. champ, is in the same quarter as three-time Slam winner Andy Murray, currently stuck with a ranking of 378th on the comeback from hip surgery; top American John Isner; rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas; and three-time Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, ranked 101st as he works his way back from injury as a wild card.