US Open 2018: Serena Williams faces tough draw, Federer-Djokovic quarterfinal match looms

Serena Williams will have a gauntlet to run through at the 2018 US Open as she pursues a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. Williams will be playing in her third Grand Slam since coming back from a difficult pregnancy last year. In just her second attempt, she made it to the Wimbledon final, only to be swept by Angelique Kerber.

If she's to get back to a final, it won't be for lack of competition. In Williams' section alone, the No. 17 seed could be facing off against WTA No. 1 Simona Halep (who won her first career major at the French Open earlier this year) and sister Venus Williams, who is seeded 16th. Even if Venus doesn't get to the third round, Serena could find herself up against Camila Giorgi, who took Williams to three sets in a quarterfinal match-up in Wimbledon. If she makes it out of her section, 2017 Wimbledon winner Garbine Muguruza and No. 8 Karolina Pliskova headline the second section. Kerber, ranked No. 4, is on the other side of the bracket from Williams, who seems determined heading into this year's Open to win her seventh US Open title.

No. 3 Sloane Stephens is the headliner in Section 3, as she finds herself against Evgeniya Rodina in her opening match. Stephens is looking to bounce back from a first-round exit at Wimbledon at the hands of Donna Vekic and get back to her French Open form, when she made the final and lost to Halep. No. 14 Madison Keys and No. 24 CoCo Vandeweghe round out the 2017 all-USA semifinalists, though they ended up in the same section this year.

Daria Kasatkina will look to move past the quarterfinals after being eliminated there in her past two efforts, though the 21-year-old Russian shares a section with No. 5 Petra Kvitova. No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, meanwhile, appears to be on the path of relatively little resistance after a second-round exit at Wimbledon, so she'll try to put that disappointing showing behind her. Maria Sharapova could also go deep, as she shares a section bookended by Caroline Garcia and Jelena Ostapenko. Garcia is coming off of a first-round elimination at Wimbledon, while Ostapenko lost to Kerber in the semifinals.

On the men's side of things, there really isn't an easy section to be found. No. 1 Rafael Nadal will open up against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, with Kyle Edmund at the bottom of his section. He could also find himself up against the incredibly stubborn Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals. Anderson started this year slow, losing to Edmund in the first round of the Australian Open, but his tenacity earned him a spot in the Wimbledon final. One of the matches he had to win to get there was a marathon against John Isner that took 50 games in the final set to decide a winner.

Roger Federer finds himself sharing a quarter with Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic, who played a phenomenal tournament at Wimbledon in his second major since getting elbow surgery and parting ways with Andre Agassi. Djokovic has a few challenging names in his section, however, including Pablo Careno Busta, Lucas Pouille and the streaky Richard Gasquet.  Isner could barrel his way into his second straight semifinal if he plays his cards right, as he shares a section with Grigor Dimitrov. Other names in his quarter include Juan Martin del Potro and the returning Andy Murray, who will play in his first major since Wimbledon last year.

Expectations aren't high for Murray, given that he hasn't played a Grand Slam in over a year, but this bracket does offer the exciting possibility of three of the Big 4 playing in a quarterfinal again. It may be unlikely given that there's no way Murray is up to form yet, but a quarterfinal of Nadal, Murray and Federer/Djokovic would definitely draw a lot of eyes.

While Williams potentially tying Margaret Court's Grand Slam record will undoubtedly dominate the conversation, there's plenty to look forward to in this tournament. Some of the questions cropping up include which Sloane Stephens we'll end up with and if Federer or Nadal can capture their second Grand Slam this season. As always, the field is ridiculously deep, so it will only take one bad day to get some big names out of the tournament.

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