WITH the US Open about to begin Sunday Serve this week takes a look at the contenders for women’s title – and wonders whether another surprise might be in store for tennis fans.

Emma Raducanu’s amazing run and triumph in New York a year ago has many pundits wondering if she can repeat again, or will another outsider come from nowhere?

World No.1 Iga Swiatek is there strong favourite, but she has slowed down. Since her extraordinary first half of the season.

She hasn’t won since Roland Garros, so will need to up her game if she is to capture a seventh title in 2022.

Świątek didn’t fair well on Wimbledon’s grass but New York’s hard court? Maybe.

Iga Swiatek celebrates her French Open triumph in June. Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Naomi Osaka is another name to ponder – because on her day she can be invincible – but her mental approach to the game lets her down.

The Japanese superstar has earned $120 million in the past two years, but has slipped outside the top 40 and did little in Toronto and Cincinnati to suggest she will make the last four.

Of course there is Serena Williams, on her farewell appearance.

Williams will be 41 soon and despite the crowds flocking to say goodbye, she’s not a finals contender anymore.

And so to defending champion Emma Raducanu. Can she win again?

Possibly, but probably not.

Raducanu has struggled to win consistently since winning the US Open last year, but in recent weeks she has sown some grit and determination on court that says show could make another deep run.

The new girl on the block, when it comes to Slam wins, is Elena Rybakina.

Rybakina has always been considered talented and dangerous, but her Wimbledon win over Ons Jabeur has elevated her to a possible winner.

Elena Rybakina receives the Venus Rosewater Trophy from the Duchess of Cambridge after winning the ladies singles final at Wimbledon in June. Photo:Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

She has had a mixed warmup in the Americas, erratic on San Jose and Toronto, but reached the quarters in Cincinnati.

Her power play should see through to the last eight, maybe four – and from there, who knows.

Coco Gauff is popular with fans and has a superb year, reaching her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros.

Gauff scored back-to-back quarterfinals in San Jose and Toronto and is another last four contender.

Canadian Leylah Fernandez, beaten by Raducanu last year, reached this year’s Roland Garros quarterfinals, but a foot stress fracture has stalled her progress.

Simona Halep is a two-time Slam winner and is back in the top 10 after winning in Toronto.

She has won 19 of her previous 22 matches – so there is form. Watch out.

Tunisian Ons Jabeur is a star in the making.

Jabeur was ranked as high as world No.2 in July, but losses in four of her past six matches has seen her drop away. Nevertheless, she has a playing style that will have New York fans cheering her on.

Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia is the darling of the Latin fanbase – and recently made there Toronto final.

Caroline Garcia is another possible outside chance.

A definite quarterfinal potential, especially after he impressive dismantling go Swiatek.

And another outside chance to consider is Caroline Garcia.

Garcia is in red-hot form, winning 26 of her past 30 matches, leaping from 75th to 17th in the rankings.

On the downside she has struggled at Flushing Meadows, but is playing her best tennis in many years.

A French Raducanu? Maybe, just maybe.

AND the men?

No Federer, no Djokovic and Nadal’s star on the wane.

Could it be the year of someone else – or could it be Daniil Medvedev again?

Nadal and Medvedev lead the field and with Alexander Zverev out with injury, where else could a winner come from?

Carlos Alcaraz is a possibility, seeded at No. 3, as is Srefanis Tsitsipas, just behind him at No.4.

Alcaraz is definitely one to watch – surely a new king in waiting, but he’s not quite there.

Nadal still wants it, but the 22-time Grand Slam champion didn’t have. Good return to the court last week in Cincinnati, beaten in the second round by Borna Coric.

The 36-year-old is still far from top form, but is training hard to get ready for New York.

Daniil Medvedev reacts to winning the Men’s Singles championship at the 2021 US Open. Photo: Garrett Ellwood/USTA

Andy Roddick thinks the safest bet is Medvedev.

“He’s proven that he likes the courts,” Roddick told the New York Post.

“The big question mark is Nadal’s health. He’s only had one match since he pulled out of Wimbledon.”

Like the women’s event, the men’s is really up for grabs this year, with no real outstanding player an odds-on favourite.

Casper Ruud has had a solid year, but is yet to win a major, and there;s a stream of up-and-coming players ranked behind who could also challenge.

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is one, as is Pole Hubert Hurkacz. And don’t discount Brit Cameron Norrie, who has had a stellar season.

Or is the chance for a homegrown player to break through after many lean years for mens tennis in the USA?

Taylor Fritz is America’s big hope at this year’s US Open.

Enter Taylor Fritz, capable of winning. But will he? Probably not. Quarters would be seen as a success for Fritz, as it would for jannick Sinner and Matteo Berrettini.

Others in the mix include Andrey Rublev, Pablo Carreno Busta, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov. None really with chance of winning, but all can cause upsets along the way.

Angelique Kerber will not be in New York. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

THREE-TIME Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber has withdrawn from the US Open because she is pregnant.

Kerber, 34, announced the news on social media by joking that “two against one just isn’t a fair competition” and posting a string of emojis that included a baby bottle.

TWO-TIME Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova announced her engagement to coach Jiri Vanek last week.

Kvitova tweeted the news of her engagement to Vanek three days after finishing runner-up in Cincinnati.

“Happy news we wanted to share with you guys … I said ‘yes’ in my special place,” said Kvitova, 32, with a photo of the pair at the home of the major championship.

Kvitova, currently 21 in the world rankings, began working with Vanek in November 2016.

Rafa Nadal’s wife Xisca is expecting the couple’s first child. Photo:Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd/Alamy Live News

RAFA Nadal’s pregnant wife Xisca has been admitted to hospital and could have to undergo an operation just days before the start of the US Open.

Xisca, who is 31 weeks pregnant, has been admitted to a private clinic in Mallorca and won’t be travelling to the States to join her husband.

NEWS of a Ukrainian flag waver being asked to leave from the recent Cincinnati event has sparked former Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov into action: “To all the people who have admired my tennis and who plan to follow the US Open live, I ask that you carry and display a flag of Ukraine in all matches involving Russian and Belarusian tennis players.

Hopefully, Russian players or tournament officials won’t be insulted again and won’t call the FBI or Joe Biden.”

AND finally …

The fan accused by Nick Kyrgios of looking as if she’d had “about 700 drinks” during Wimbledon is suing the Aussie for defamation.

Kyrgios had complained to the umpire about the behaviour of Anna Palus in his four-set defeat by Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.

After receiving a code violation for swearing, Kyrgios asked umpire Renaud Lichtenstein to have the woman “who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks, bro” ejected.

Ms Palus did leave but then explained that she had only had two drinks.

In a statement released by her solicitors, Brett Wilson LLP, Ms Palus said: “On Sunday 10 July, 2022 I attended the final of the Wimbledon tennis Championships with my mother. It was an event we had been looking forward to for some time.

Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios before the start of the Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon. Photo:Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

“During the course of the final, Nick Kyrgios made a reckless and entirely baseless allegation against me. Not only did this cause considerable harm on the day, resulting in my temporary removal from the arena, but Mr Kyrgios’ false allegation was broadcast to, and read by, millions around the world, causing me and my family very substantial damage and distress.

“I am not litigious, but after much consideration, I have concluded that that I have no alternative but to instruct my solicitors Brett Wilson LLP to bring defamation proceedings against Mr Kyrgios in order to clear my name.

“The need to obtain vindication, and to prevent repetition of the allegation, are the only reasons for taking legal action. Any damages recovered will be donated to charity.

“Given the extant claim, I am unable to comment further on the events of the day in question. I hope that Mr Kyrgios will reflect on the harm he has caused me and my family and offer a prompt resolution to this matter. However, if he is unwilling to do this, I am committed to obtaining vindication in the High Court.”