US Open 2018: Mixed chances for quartet of major winners

Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Victoria Azarenka will not be expected to win in New York, but the same cannot be said of Serena Williams.

Serena Williams and Andy Murray   -  Getty Images

There was a time when Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka and Stan Wawrinka would all head into a grand slam as major contenders, but they will have mixed expectations at the US Open.

A year after giving birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia, Williams will get another opportunity to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

The iconic 36-year-old is the favourite to become the first woman to be crowned champion seven times at Flushing Meadows, despite being seeded 17th following a shortage of competitive action this year.

Murray is languishing in 378th in the rankings as he eases his way back following hip surgery at the start of the year and will be unseeded for his first major since Wimbledon last year.

Wawrinka, who like Murray has three grand slam titles to his name, is also unseeded as he strives to return to the peak of his powers after being plagued by knee troubles which left him considering retirement.

Azarenka is another multiple major-winner who is not seeded for the final major of the year, which she missed last year due to off-court issues. We look at the high-profile quartet's chances of mounting a challenge in New York.

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Williams has had mixed success since returning this year, but showed she remains a force with a magnificent run to the final at Wimbledon.

Angelique Kerber consigned the American to a straight-sets victory at the All England Club and she suffered the most emphatic defeat of her illustrious career at the hands of Johanna Konta in San Jose last month.

Williams revealed that there were extenuating circumstances for her drubbing at the hands of Konta, having only found out that her half-sister's killer had been released from prison, just before she went out on court. 

The legendary former world number one, who was gathering momentum on her major comeback at the French Open, before pulling out with a pectoral injury, should be a strong contender on the hard courts in her homeland.

Magda Linette awaits Williams in the first round and she could face a mouthwatering meeting with her sister, Venus, in round three. A lack of tournament action leaves some questions marks, but the 26-ranked superstar could take some stopping.

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Six years after claiming his first major at Flushing Meadows, Murray might be content with a run to the second week. The 31-year-old withdrew from Wimbledon on the eve of his home major after deciding that he was not ready for the demands of five-set matches.

Murray also pulled out in Washington after reaching the quarterfinals and lost to Lucas Poullie in the first round in Cincinnati this month.

It is hard to envisage the Brit making a long run in his first grand slam for over a year and he should still be looking at the bigger picture.

Murray ought to get past James Duckworth in the first round and a potential third-round showdown with Juan Martin del Potro could demonstrate how far he has come with his recovery.

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Wawrinka was two points away from beating Roger Federer at the quarterfinal stage in Cincinnati and feels that he is making strides on a daily basis.

The Swiss has beaten the likes of Diego Schwartzman, Nick Kyrgios and Kei Nishikori since defeating Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Wimbledon. There will be a sense of deja vu when Wawrinka comes up against Dimitrov again in the opening round in New York.

Although the draw has not been kind to the classy 33-year-old, it would be no surprise to see him make further progress after bowing out in round two following his win over Dimitrov at SW19.

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Azarenka is another mother on a mission in New York, but it would be a turn up if she claims a first US Open title. The former world number one withdrew from the tournament 12 months ago due to a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend over their son Leo.

Azarenka, a two-time finalist at Flushing Meadows, was given a wildcard to the main draw after slipping down the rankings.

The 29-year-old showed what she is capable of in a defeat of Caroline Garcia in Cincinnati, but still remains a work in progress following such a difficult time. 

That said, defending champion Sloane Stephens will certainly not relish facing Azarenka if they both advance to round three.

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