Will Serena Williams three-peat? Who will come out of the Simona Halep-Maria Sharapova quarter? Ravi Ubha gives us his expert predictions for the US Open...
WTA Staff

NEW YORK, NY, USA - She may have won in Stanford and Cincinnati, but in terms of Grand Slams in 2014, it's the last-chance saloon for Serena Williams.

Winning the US Open would go a long way, you'd think, towards easing the pain of premature exits at the first three majors this season. Williams is, to remind, the two-time defending champion at Flushing Meadows.

But... not since Chris Evert in 1977 has a female player won the US Open three years in a row.

Here's a look at the draw.

First Quarter: Serena, Sam & Ana
The top players always say they have some jitters entering a first round match at a Slam, and given what's happened to Williams this year at the majors, she could be slightly more anxious than usual.

That's a positive for her first round foe, for one. Also, 18-year-old Taylor Townsend is highly promising, and the big-hitting lefty has already beaten some good, established players in 2014, including Alizé Cornet at the French Open - and we all know who Cornet defeated at Wimbledon.

Assuming Williams passes the initial test, a fourth round match against Sam Stosur - which would be a repeat of the 2011 US Open final the Aussie won - would be interesting.

Why? Well, apart from their history at Flushing Meadows, Stosur took Williams to two tie-breaks in Cincinnati - after getting crushed a week earlier by the World No.1. Stosur, too, is having a positive week in New Haven.

Note, though, that Stosur needs to be sharp from the outset. Lauren Davis is the type to get every ball back, so if Stosur is misfiring, the diminutive American will engineer the upset.

Alison Riske upended Petra Kvitova last year at the US Open, so Ana Ivanovic better be alert in the first round. If Ivanovic progresses over the aggressive Riske, she should comfortably get to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Ivanovic (def. Stosur)

Second Quarter: Will We Get That Wimbledon Rematch This Time?
Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard, combatants in the Wimbledon final, were in the same quarter in Cincinnati, but a rematch failed to materialize.

They're in the same quarter at the US Open, and if they advance to the last eight, they'd probably consider it job done. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

In her up-and-down relationship with North American hardcourts in the summer (mostly down), Kvitova lost early in Montréal and Cincinnati. She is, though, prospering in New Haven.

Injuries and fatigue (mental and physical) slowed down the Bouchard express in the past few weeks, and New York tells us whether the Canadian can, not for the first time, overcome her difficulties and thrive at a major.

Kvitova's start figures to be difficult, against Kristina Mladenovic - the same player who eliminated Kvitova's pal, Li Na, in Paris. Not far away is 19-year-old Madison Keys.

Victoria Azarenka, a finalist in 2012 and 2013, would do well to get to a third final, since in this bumpy campaign she's now nursing a knee injury.

Prediction: Bouchard (def. Keys)

Third Quarter: You, Again?
For fans of extended rallies, there won't be much better tussles than the probable third round meeting between Jelena Jankovic and Sloane Stephens.

They're used to each other by now, butting heads in Montréal and Cincinnati.

Jankovic triumphed on both occasions, in straight sets in Cincinnati and three sets in Montréal. The average set time was more than an hour.

Her six Slam streak of reaching at least the fourth round snapped at Wimbledon thanks to Maria Kirilenko, this is a pivotal major for Stephens, playing at home and with a relatively new coach in Thomas Hogstedt.

It's an important tournament for Jankovic, too. Despite still being in the Top 10, the 2008 finalist hasn't reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 2014.

If Jankovic and Stephens do tangle and it's another marathon, sixth seed Angelique Kerber could be the beneficiary in the fourth round.

En route to the round of 16, Kerber - who made her breakthrough with a semifinal showing in New York in 2011 - would play a qualifier, another qualifier and perhaps Kurumi Nara. Nara, speaking of breakthroughs, played in the Washington final to add to her maiden title in Rio.

In the bottom part of the quarter, Montréal champ Agnieszka Radwanska rests comfortably, and the Pole's path to the fourth round is gentle. At that stage, Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova is a likely opponent.

Prediction: Radwanska (def. Kerber)

Fourth Quarter: Plenty Of Contenders
We did have a rematch of a 2014 Grand Slam final in Cincinnati, when Maria Sharapova confronted Simona Halep.

At the French Open, Sharapova outlasted Halep in a three set thriller, and their follow up in Ohio was almost as good.

Halep led by a set and break, but after the Romanian prevailed in one of the rallies of the tournament, switching from defense to offense in a flash, Sharapova fully awoke.

Being so close to downing Sharapova but ultimately seeing her record fall to 0-5 against the five-time Grand Slam champion probably took its toll on Halep in New Haven.

Halep thus has some extra days to prepare for the US Open, not such a bad thing. Her first real challenge figures to come from Garbiñe Muguruza in the third round; Venus Williams looms in the fourth.

Venus' first round match will have even more spectators than normal, because Kimiko Date-Krumm lines up on the other side of the net. Venus is 34, but Date-Krumm turns ... 44 in late September.

In a battle - and that's the right word based on how competitive they are - in the first round, Sharapova plays friend Kirilenko ahead of a potential fourth round clash against Caroline Wozniacki.

Like Halep, losing earlier than forecast in New Haven wasn't terrible for Wozniacki, who has had a busy - and mostly productive - stretch this summer.

Wozniacki is a threat, but anything other than Sharapova Vs Halep, Part III this year, would come as a surprise.

Sharapova is trying to win a Grand Slam outside Roland Garros for the first time since 2008.

Prediction: Halep (def. Sharapova)

Winner: Halep (def. Ivanovic)

~ Ravi Ubha (@raviubha) has written for ESPN.com, CNN.com, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and is also a tennis broadcaster. He is based in London.