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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
SAN JUAN/LAVENTILLE REGIONAL CORPORATION
NEW YORK---Serena Williams
stopped hiding from history and
started making more of it.
Up until a couple of years ago,
she practically plugged her ears at
any mention of records or firsts.
Now she says it out loud: Coming
into the US Open, her next goal is
matching two tennis greats for the
second-most major titles in the
Open era with 18.
"Obviously just getting closer to
tying with Chris (Evert) and Martina
(Navratilova)," she said.
Then she added: "But been doing
that all year and still hasn t hap-
pened. Not going to stress out about
Williams has been stuck on 17
since winning the US Open a year
ago. When she started working with
coach Patrick Mouratoglou in mid-
2012, he urged her to embrace the
record chase. Williams went on to
capture four of the next six Grand
Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal
and two straight WTA Champi-
onships in a scintillating 16-month
run. But in the first three major
tournaments of 2014, she didn t
even make the quarterfinals. Her
last appearance on the Grand Slam
stage took a bizarre turn when an
out-of-sorts Williams pulled out
of a Wimbledon doubles match,
blaming a viral illness. Evert, for
one, figured she d be looking up at
Williams by now. Or that maybe
Williams would be chasing Steffi Graf s
Open-era record of 22 major titles.
Evert won her 18th and final major
title at 31, the same age Williams was
when she played at Flushing Meadows
in 2013. Motivation gets harder with
time because of the mental fatigue sea-
son after season.
"You just are not as fresh," Evert said.
"Some days you just don t want to get
out of bed." For all that, Williams still
has to rate as the heavy favorite at Flush-
ing Meadows when the year s last major
tournament starts Monday. She s seeking
to join Evert as the only women to win
three straight titles here in the Open
era, which began in 1968.
Williams is seeded No 1 in New York
for just the third time, a surprisingly
low number for someone who has been
the world s top-ranked player for 204
weeks in her career. The two previous
times, she won the championship.
Williams five titles in 2014 are the
most on the WTA tour; nobody else has
more than three. Over the last seven
Grand Slam events, the five titles not
won by Williams went to five different
players, and two of them won t be at
Flushing Meadows: the retired Marion
Bartoli and the injured Li Na.
Five-time major champ Maria Shara-
pova makes by far the best case to fill
the void, but she hasn t looked that
sharp since winning her second French
Open title in June. Petra Kvitova is com-
ing off her victory at Wimbledon, but
she s always struggled at Flushing Mead-
ows---never even reaching the quarter-
finals. After her first Wimbledon title
in 2011, she promptly lost in the first
round at the US Open. And Victoria
Azarenka, the runner-up to Williams
the last two years, has been stymied by
injuries all season. This state of affairs
isn t too uncommon on the women s
side in recent years. What s unusual is
that the men s draw looks a bit similar.
With Rafael Nadal unable to defend his
title because of a wrist injury, the top
players come in uncharacteristically
After winning Wimbledon and getting
married, top-seeded Novak Djokovic
was, in his own words, "emotionally a
little bit flat" in losing early in two hard-
into the competition mode," Djokovic
said. "It was a very unique five, six weeks
that I had with the wedding and winning
Wimbledon and getting back to No. 1
in the world. I couldn t ask for more.
I was extremely fulfilled and happy with
where I am in my life."
Meanwhile, Andy Murray has yet to
rediscover his championship form after
back surgery. Perhaps this is 33-year-
old Roger Federer s last, best chance to
win another major title.
For more than two years, he s been
stuck on No 17---a number Williams is
also all too familiar with. (AP)
Serena chasing major title No 18
Heading into the US Open, Roger
Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic
and Andy Murray have won 36 of the
past 38 Grand Slam titles, a stretch
dating to the 2005 French Open.
Nowadays, there seems to be a grow-
ing sense---or hope, maybe---among the
best of the rest on the men s tennis
tour that the quartet might be more
vulnerable than ever. Nadal, the 2013
champion at Flushing Meadows, is side-
lined by an injured right wrist. Federer
is 33 and hasn t won a major cham-
pionship in more than two years. The
No. 1-ranked Djokovic is coming off a
triumph at Wimbledon, yes, but he
also has a .500 record since. Murray
had back surgery and hasn t reached a
final anywhere since winning Wim-
bledon more than a year ago.
Others took note when Stan Wawrin-
ka won the Australian Open in January
(Juan Martin del Potro s victory at the
2009 US Open makes him the only
other interloper in this era). "Maybe
the gap has closed a little bit. That s in
large part due to other players believing.
That s the most important thing when
you re up against a guy like Rafa, Roger
or Novak. You just have to believe that
you can beat those guys," said John
Isner, the only seeded American man
in New York at No 13. Here are other
things to watch at the US Open, the
hard-court tournament in New York
that begins today.
New kids: If there is going to be a
first-time men s major champion, two
popular picks are Milos Raonic of Cana-
da and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Each is 23; each made his Slam semi-
final debut at Wimbledon. While Dim-
itrov has never won a US Open match,
Raonic reached the fourth round the
past two years. All six of Raonic s titles
came on hard courts, and some oppo-
nents consider his serve the sport s
best. So does he. "I have a lot of belief
in my serve," Raonic said. "I know how
hard it is to break me and how well I
can take care of my serve against any-
Serena's major concern: Serena
Williams could become the first woman
in nearly 40 years to win three con-
secutive US Opens, but she has not
been past the fourth round at a major
in 2014. After a third-round loss in sin-
gles at Wimbledon, Williams made a
bizarre exit from doubles, whiffing on
practice strokes, having trouble grabbing
tennis balls, and quitting after four
double-faults in a row.
Hard time on hard courts: Can t list
contenders without naming Maria
Sharapova, whose five major champi-
onships include the 2006 US Open. Or
Eugenie Bouchard, the only woman to
reach three Grand Slam semifinals in
2014. Neither, though, has looked great
on hard courts lately: Since Wimbledon,
Sharapova is 4-2, and was pushed to
three sets in three of those wins;
Bouchard is 1-3.
Injuries take a toll: In addition to
Nadal, who is skipping the US Open
for the second time in three years,
China s Li Na---the No 3-ranked woman
and one of this season s Grand Slam
champions---is absent with a knee
In this May 25 file photo, Serena Williams returns the ball during a
first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against
France's Alize Lim at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France.
What to watch at year's last major
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