U.S. Open: 5 women to watch this year at Flushing Meadows

Ask the average tennis fan who’s the greatest women’s player ever, and odds are pretty good Serena Williams’ name comes up first.

She certainly earned such reverence. Her open-era record 23 Grand Slam titles speak for themselves, and she’ll be chasing No. 24 and a seventh U.S. Open crown as the tournament begins Monday in Queens. She’s been seeded No. 17 despite a limited schedule since the birth of her daughter last September.

As great as she is, time catches up to every athlete, and Williams turns 37 on Sept. 26. Sooner or later, the next generation will assert itself on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows.

Ahead of this year’s tournament, here’s a look at the top young threats — players 28 or younger — in this year’s field to become the next queen of Queens and win the 2018 U.S. Open.

Caroline Wozniacki

After years in the spotlight — including a time as the No. 1 player in the world — the Dane finally broke through with her first Grand Slam victory at this year’s Australian Open. She’s a two-time finalist at Flushing Meadows, as well, so the No. 2 has a great chance to add a second major this season.

Sloane Stephens

The defending champion took care of business last September to win her first major. At 25, expectations are high for the No. 3 seed’s future. A run to the finals at the French Open earlier this year — bowing to top U.S. Open seed Simona Halep — showed she native hasn’t fallen off since her big win last year.

Karolina Pliskova

The No. 8 seed from the Czech Republic has yet to win a major, but she’s back to the scene of her best Grand Slam run. Pliskova advanced to the final in 2016, putting up a valiant effort in a three-set defeat to reigning Wimbledon champ Angelique Kerber. She’ll look to improve upon last year’s quarterfinals finish in Queens.

Madison Keys

The youngest of this group at just 23 years old, the No. 14 seed appears on the cusp of a breakout. Her run to the U.S. Open final a year ago opened the eyes of those who hadn’t already noticed her steady rise. She’s 11-3 in Grand Slam matches this year, including a berth in the semifinals at Roland Garros in Paris.

CoCo Vandeweghe

Knicks fans may be more familiar with her grandfather Ernie or uncle Kiki, but the No. 24 seed is a successful pro athlete in her own right. She advanced to the semifinals of both the U.S. and Aussie Opens last year and clearly is at her best on hard courts. This year hasn’t yielded the same success, but don’t count out this dark horse.