It’s already been a massive year for American women in sports.
The U.S. women’s soccer team was honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City after winning a third FIFA World Cup. Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey rose to the top of UFC, becoming the first woman and first MMA athlete to win the Best Fighter ESPY Award. The San Antonio Spurs’ Becky Hammon became the first female head coach in the NBA’s Summer League. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as the first female coach of any kind in the NFL.
And now, it’s Serena Williams’ turn.
At the U.S. Open, all eyes will be on world No. 1 Williams as she tries to become the first player to compete a calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did so in 1988. Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, will also be going for her 22nd Grand Slam career title, which would tie Graf for the Open Era record.
The women’s singles final being held on Sept. 12 and the men’s final on Sept. 13.
Here’s a closer look at Williams and the other U.S. prospects in the event.
Serena Goes For The Slam
Williams’ Grand Slam quest will undeniably dominate the headlines at Flushing Meadows, where she is the three-time defending champion. Only Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Graf (1988) have successfully completed a calendar-year Grand Slam.
A seventh U.S. Open win would also push Williams past Chris Evert for the most U.S. Open singles titles ever.
In addition to victories at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, Williams has won five WTA titles. Her only losses this year have come against Petra Kvitova in the Madrid semifinals and Belinda Bencic in the Toronto semifinals, and she enters the U.S. Open with a 28-match winning streak at the majors.
The 33-year-old Williams, who graces this cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, is also a perfect 43-0 on U.S. hard courts since losing to Victoria Azarenka in the Cincinnati final two years ago.
That’s enough to make anyone nervous.
“I’m trying to stay away from stress,” Williams told the WTA. “I’m trying to minimize what I do, because I just want to play tennis. I don’t necessarily want to hear about, ‘Oh, this history and that history,’ because I just want to do the best I can. I want to be able to win, and I don’t want any distractions.”
Despite Williams’ dominance at the Grand Slam events this year, nine of her 21 matches have gone to three sets, and she was forced to come back from being a set down in seven of those.
Her biggest challengers at the U.S. Open are expected to be second-seeded Simona Halep and two-time finalist Caroline Wozniacki.
Williams could potentially face fellow Americans Sloane Stephens in the third round and Madison Keys in the fourth round, and her sister Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.
Those three are seeded 29th, 19th and 23rd in the event, respectively, and Stephens is coming off her first WTA title earlier this month at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Men Seeking To End Grand Slam Drought
An American man has not captured a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick’s 2003 U.S. Open victory, a drought of 47 events.
In the men’s draw, big server John Isner is the top-seeded American player, falling in at No. 13. The furthest Isner has made it in the U.S. Open is to the quarterfinal round in 2011 — his deepest run in any Grand Slam.
Rising 22-year-old Jack Sock is seeded 28th and has already shown a lot of promise this season, winning his first ATP tournament and becoming the youngest American to reach the round of 16 at the French Open since Pete Sampras in 1993. He’s had previous success at Flushing Meadows, having won the boys’ junior U.S. Open title in 2010 and the mixed doubles event with Melanie Oudin in 2011.
Former top-10 player Mardy Fish will make a return to the U.S. Open for the first time since 2011, when he withdrew from the tournament due to a severe anxiety disorder. Fish, a silver medalist at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, told the media this would be the last time he participates in a professional tennis tournament.
Dominant Doubles Twins Going For First Grand Slam Win In ‘15
2012 Olympic champions Bob and Mike Bryan are the top seeds in the men’s doubles draw at the U.S. Open. The 37-year-old twins have won at least one Grand Slam title every year from 2005-14, and 16 in total, but they have yet to claim one this year. They have won five U.S. Open tournaments, including last year’s.
Three Americans Vying For Wheelchair Titles
The wheelchair tennis portion of the U.S. Open takes place from Sept. 10-13 and will include three Americans.
In the quads division, world No. 1 David Wagner will partner with wild-card Nick Taylor to try to retain their unbeaten record in quad doubles at Flushing Meadows. The pair has won the event the last six times it was contested.
Kaitlyn Verfuerth, who won silver at August’s Parapan American Games, was announced as a wild-card selection for the women’s singles event.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.