The other Grand Slams weren't too kind to her this year, but the US Open has always been her stronghold. Could Serena Williams strike 18 in Flushing Meadows?
WTA Staff

NEW YORK, NY, USA - There isn't a bigger contender at this year's US Open than Serena Williams. She's got more Grand Slams than anyone else at the moment, and more US Opens as well, she's the clear-cut No.1, she dominated the lead-up - but can she shake off early exits at the other majors?

Williams lost far earlier than expected at those first three majors - fourth round at the Australian Open to Ana Ivanovic, second round at the French Open to Garbiñe Muguruza, and third round at Wimbledon to Alizé Cornet. But while she was ranked No.1 in the world during all of those losses, she never really built the kind of momentum going into those Grand Slams as she has going into this Grand Slam.

Williams has dominated the summer hardcourt season, winning two of the three Premier-level events she entered - the Bank Of The West Classic in Stanford and Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati - and she reached the semifinals of the other one, the Rogers Cup in Montréal, narrowly losing to sister and fellow WTA legend Venus Williams. She has gone 12-1 since the tour switched back to hardcourts.

She won the Emirates Airline US Open Series for the third time in the last four years, and she'll go for a record $4 million payout at the US Open - $3 million for winning the title plus a $1 million bonus.

But perhaps most importantly, she's playing better and better, and she's been sounding more and more confident about her game too. She talked about that after winning the Cincinnati title on Sunday.

"I won Stanford but I definitely didn't play as well there. Then Montréal, I got to the semis, but I didn't play as well there either. My first day of practice in Cincinnati, something just clicked - I was playing better, and I was serving better too. I really don't know - I think all the hard work was just paying off.

"This is definitely a level that could take me to the US Open title," Williams continued. "I still have a lot of work to do, but I think my serve is doing a lot better, and not just in the final today, just the whole week I've served pretty solid. I hit more aces than I have been hitting during the year.

"It's definitely a better level than I've played all year, to be honest."

Williams is trying to win her sixth US Open title, which would tie her for most US Open titles in the Open Era with Chris Evert. She's also going for her 18th Grand Slam title, which would tie her with Evert and Martina Navratilova for second-most in the Open Era - Steffi Graf has the most with 22.

Have a look back at highlights from Williams' US Open triumph last year...