When it comes to the U.S. Open, few are more accomplished than Serena Williams.
Indeed, the 32-year-old native of Saginaw, Mich., has taken home singles titles from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., five times since 1999, including each of the past two years, a total exceeded by only Molla Bjurstedt Mallory (eight in the pre-Open era) and Chris Evert (six). Her 17 titles in Grand Slam play speak to her ability to get up for the big tennis stages.
But this year has been different. While she has managed to hold onto the top ranking on the WTA Tour, Serena's performances in majors in 2014 have been uncharacteristically lackluster as she's taken fourth-, second- and third-round exits in the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon.
Which Serena will show up at the tennis year's final Slam, which gets going Monday, Aug. 25, on ESPN and ESPN2?
ESPN analyst Cliff Drysdale says it all depends on her state of mind.
"My own sense," he tells Zap2it, "is that her personal situation is the most challenging for her because it's widely recognized that she was, like, an item with her coach and that seems to be a tenuous relationship now. So I think depending on where that is at at a given time, I think that is going to affect her mood, and that is probably a big issue. I think we'll find that out in the warm-up tournaments to the Open. ... I mean, she's obviously the standout."
One who could give Williams trouble is Eugenie Bouchard. The 20-year-old Canadian is ranked No. 7 in the world, having recorded semifinal appearances in Melbourne and Paris, and made the finals at Wimbledon in her breakthrough year.
"I think she's the story of the women's tour for this year," Drysdale says. "There's no doubt about it, in fact. Semifinal in Australia, semifinal in France, and then the final at Wimbledon. She's by far the biggest story and becoming the biggest star on the tour at the same time."
Over on the men's side, Drysdale expects to see three of the Big Four -- Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray (defending champion Rafael Nadal had to withdraw due to a wrist injury) -- in the mix for finals berths, with honorable mention to the 27-year-old Serb known as "the Djoker."
"Djokovic, to me, is the favorite," he says, "not just because he won Wimbledon. I think he's the best hard-court player and I think he's the best overall player, frankly. Depending on his condition and his mood and if things work out, I think he's the best prospect to win."
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