Serena’s major concern: Serena Williams could become the first woman in nearly 40 years to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, but she has not been past the fourth round at a major in 2014. After a third-round loss in singles 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 championships include the 2006 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 injury. Del Potro has a wrist injury. Tommy Haas is out after shoulder surgery. There are plenty of players in the draw with various problems, including two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka, who missed time with a foot injury and more recently had a bad right knee.
Roof on the way: After all the rain in recent years, the first significant steps have been taken toward putting a retractable roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The project is expected to cost more than $100 million and be ready for the 2016 U.S. Open. It got underway in earnest over the past six months, when steel rods were driven 125 to 180 feet into the ground outside the octagon-shaped arena. What’s visible now are concrete pedestals, some covered with plants and one housing a bar, for this year’s tournament.