Top seed Serena Williams is one of four major champions in the draw of the inaugural Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky. As her luck would have it, the other three landed in her quarter of the draw - Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Sloane Stephens - and she could face her sister in the second round in what would be the 31st meeting of their illustrious careers.
Here's how the main draw breaks down in Lexington:
Top Eight Seeds: 1. Serena Williams, 2. Aryna Sabalenka, 3. Johanna Konta, 4. Amanda Anisimova, 5. Yulia Putintseva, 6. Magda Linette, 7. Sloane Stephens, 8. Ons Jabeur.
Projected quarterfinals: Serena vs. Stephens, Anisimova vs. Putintseva, Linette vs. Konta, Jabeur vs. Sabalenka.
Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka lead first-round marquee showdowns
Serena opens her Lexington campaign against Bernarda Pera. If she wins, Serena will face the brunt of her "Quarter of Death", facing either her sister Venus or her toughest active rival not named Venus, Victoria Azarenka. While it would be the 31st meeting between the sisters, a Serena-Vika showdown would be the 23rd of their rivalry.
The winner of that match could face 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who opens against a qualifier.
While Venus and Vika will grab the first-round headlines, other openers that we immediately circled include Britain's Johanna Konta against 2019 Rogers Cup semifinalist Marie Bouzkova, the crafty Ons Jabeur against American teen Caty McNally, Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic against a fired-up Yulia Putintseva, and the battle of current and former American teen phenoms, as Amanda Anisimova takes on CiCi Bellis.
Aryna Sabalenka makes her return
The big-hitting Belarusian enjoyed a strong start to the season and captured the last Premier trophy before the shutdown, as she dominated the field at the Qatar Total Open and defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 to win her third Premier 5 title. Always a hard-court threat, Sabalenka returns to action in Lexington as the No.2 seed. She will face Madison Brengle in the first round and could face 16-year-old Coco Gauff in the second round.
One significant change for Sabalenka: she will be without Dmitry Tursunov in Lexington. The successful duo parted ways during the shutdown.
Keep an eye on Coco Gauff, Jennifer Brady, and Amanda Anisimova
It will be hard to steal the American spotlight at an event that includes both Williams Sisters and Sloane Stephens, but these three young Americans look primed for a statement this week. A second-round match between Gauff and Sabalenka would be an intriguing test for both players and an immediate must-watch affair.
Anisimova certainly has the game to navigate her quarter and potentially set up a semifinal rematch against Serena. The two faced off in January at the ASB Classic in Auckland and Serena dropped just two games.
25-year-old Pennsylvania native Brady is primed for a bracket-busting run. Brady had a great start to the season, notching wins over No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Maria Sharapova before her retirement, and a semifinal run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she defeated Elina Svitolina, Marketa Vondrousova, and Garbiñe Muguruza. In her exhibition play during the COVID-19 shutdown, Brady has continued to look strong.
Drawn into the third quarter anchored by Konta, Brady opens against Britain's Heather Watson and could face either Magda Linette or Lauren Davis in the second round.