New York - Five women to watch at the US Open tennis tournament that begins Monday at Flushing Meadows:
Top-ranked defending champion Osaka, a 21-year-old from Japan, defeated Serena Williams in last year's US Open final but dubbed the experience "bittersweet" after Williams received a game penalty in a dispute with the umpire and Osaka was booed during the match and award ceremony. Osaka went on the win this year's Australian Open title, becoming the first player since Williams in 2015 to win back-to-back Slam singles crowns.
Second-ranked Barty, a 23-year-old Australian, captured her first Grand Slam title at this year's French Open. She became the first Australian to lift the trophy at Roland Garros since Margaret Court in 1973. Barty won two other titles this year, taking the Miami hardcourt crown and Birmingham trophy on grass. She made a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last month after having become only the second Aussie world number one after Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
The 27-year-old Romanian defeated Serena Williams in last month's Wimbledon final, dominating the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion after having dropped nine of their 10 prior meetings. It was the second Grand Slam title for Halep, who won the 2018 French Open. Her best US Open result came in a 2015 semi-final run. She arrives in New York ranked fourth in the world.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion makes another bid to match Australian Margaret Court's all-time record. The 37-year-old American is ranked eighth in the world. Williams shares the Open Era-record of six US Open singles crowns with Chris Evert. She has also won seven Australian Opens, seven Wimbledon crowns and three French Open titles. Williams has not won any Grand Slam singles crown since the 2017 Australian Open and since becoming a mother during the 2017 US Open. Her longest singles title drought at any Slam is at the US Open, which she last won in 2014. She was upset by Italy's Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open semi-finals and by Karolina Pliskova in the 2016 US Open semis. She missed the 2017 US Open giving birth to baby daughter Alexis but returned in 2018 and reached the final, only to fall to Osaka after being penalized a game by umpire Carlos Ramos.
The 24-year-old American won last week's WTA Cincinnati title, jumping eight spots to 10th in the world rankings, three shy of her career high and back in the top 10 for the first time since June 2018. Keys defeated Slam winners Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Halep on the way to the Cincy crown. She reached her only Grand Slam singles final at the 2017 US Open, losing to Sloane Stephens, and last year lost a US Open semi-final to eventual champion Osaka.