With less than a week left for the commencement of the 2020 US Open, this is the perfect time to look at the prospects of some the big names that would feature in the women's singles draw.
While the field will not be as packed as usual, there's still plenty to look forward to. Defining finalist Serena Williams leads the way, with other Major champions Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin as well as big stars Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys also featuring.
Here, we rank the top eight contenders for the title based on the players' performances in the US Open series over the last couple of years.
8. Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova will be particularly eager to make the best of the somewhat depleted field at this year's US Open. The Czech, who suffers from asthma, has struggled in the past with the hot conditions in New York, and hasn't had the best results there.
That said, Kvitova does have a few good showings in the lead-up tournaments - including a quarterfinal in New Haven and a semifinal in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. Her game is well-suited for the surface, and this might just be her year.
2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens has struggled to find any sort of consistency over the past few months. But there's no denying her pedigree on the American hardcourts.
Stephens has frequently shown sparks of brilliance in the warm-up tournaments, only to end up with underwhelming results in New York. Her first round exits in 2020 do not inspire much confidence, but a favorable draw and a few strategic tweaks could help her get another deep run.
6. Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka has been highly successful at producing big results in the back half of the last few seasons, even winning the doubles title at the US Open last year.
A semifinal and a fourth round showing at Cincinnati and the US Open in 2018, and a runner-up finish in Connecticut last year, indicate bigger and better things for the Belarusian.
5. Karolina Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova will be under the pressure of living up to the top seed billing at this year's US Open. Her form coming into the tournament hasn't been the best, but she has always done well in New York.
Her best result at Flushing Meadows came in 2016, when she reached the finals. And while Pliskova hasn't quite managed to replicate that sort of success since, she has played consistently solid tennis.
A little extra inspiration could do wonders for the big-serving Czech this year.
4. Sofia Kenin
Sofia Kenin proved to the world just how dominant she can be over a fortnight at the Australian Open this year. But for the young American, it all began during the US Open series last year.
Kenin made back-to-back semifinals in Cincinnati and Toronto in 2019, and really got her form going. She could not get past compatriot Madison Keys in New York though, and will be looking for a better showing at this year's US Open.
3. Naomi Osaka
World No. 10 Naomi Osaka really comes into her own in New York. The young Japanese player went all the way to title here in 2018, announcing her arrival on the big stage.
Osaka returned to the continent's hardcourts again last year, looking for redemption after underwhelming grass and clay seasons. It took her very little time to find her stride again, and she will be a big contender this year as well.
2. Madison Keys
Madison Keys has had big results on all surfaces, but her fondest memories have to be her wins on the American hardcourts.
Her performances at the last US Open and the warm-up tournaments have been remarkable over the last two years. Keys won the title in Cincinnati in 2019 and made the last four at the US Open the year before.
Whatever her form coming into the series, you can never really count her out completely.
1. Serena Williams
Looking back at the last two US Opens, you can't help but wonder where things went wrong for Serena Williams. The American looked visibly flustered in both her finals, but big-match jitters are not something you are used to seeing from the seven-time former champion.
Nonetheless, Serena Williams remains a firm contender owing to her finals showings in New York and Toronto last year. The back-to-back losses would definitely be fueling the fire within Serena as she continues her quest for that elusive 24th Major title.
The likes of Venus Williams, Maria Sakkari, Elise Mertens, Anastasjia Sevastova and Donna Vekic have all done well during the American swing in the past. These women definitely warrant mention for an outside chance at staging a deep run in Flushing Meadows.Published 27 Aug 2020, 15:03 IST