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U.S. Open women's seed report

Photo: Mike Groll/AP

Serena Williams, the defending champion and No. 1 seed, is the woman to beat in New York this year.

SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the U.S. Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions. Click here for the men's report.

Top 16 seeds

1. Serena Williams: After winning the French Open, Williams has regressed a bit this summer, losing -- with uncharacteristic passivity -- in the fourth round of Wimbledon and the final of the Western & Southern Open. Still, the defending champion is the player to beat.

2. Victoria Azarenka: She's really the only other A-list contender after Williams. Azarenka ought to come in brimming with confidence after beating Williams in Cincinnati. Can she replicate it on a bigger stage? Say this: If she doesn't win, she will be disappointed.

3. Agnieszka Radwanska: She earned a top-three seed after Maria Sharapova's withdrawal, but after an uneven summer, it's still, lamentably, unclear as to whether she can overcome her shortage of power and win a Grand Slam title.

4. Sara Errani: It's somewhat shocking to see her as the fourth seed -- she's the prime beneficiary of Sharapova's withdrawal. Honestly, it will be an achievement for her if she survives the middle weekend in singles. She has a better chance of winning the doubles title with Roberta Vinci.

5. Li Na: Always a wild card. She's capable of making a deep run (especially after a solid showing in Cincinnati), but equally capable of blowing out early.

6. Caroline Wozniacki: For all that has been written about the dismal state of her game -- and we won't dignify comments that pertain to her alleged impact on golf -- she deserves credit for sustaining her ranking. She could sorely use a deep run and the draw is favorable.

7. Petra Kvitova: Like Li (above) and Sam Stosur (below), she has won a major but doesn't always act like it. Kvitova's surfeit of talent gives her a chance to win every Grand Slam she enters, but the deficit of an X factor gives her a chance to lose early (especially in the heat).

8. Angelique Kerber: Solid player whose meteoric rise started in New York two years ago, when she made the semifinals. Can she make that last jump?

9. Jelena Jankovic: A nice summer run for one of the WTA's more charismatic and dramatic players. The 2008 U.S. Open finalist plays well on the U.S. hard courts. However, she drew a difficult first-round match against Madison Keys.

10. Roberta Vinci: Can we have a 10th-seeded dark horse? Despite the comparisons, Vinci has more power and aggression than her doubles partner and countrywoman Errani. A quarterfinalist in New York last year, she could be tough.

11. Samantha Stosur: On the plus side, she is a former champion. On the other side of the ledger, lapses in confidence still plague her game. It will be interesting to see how she performs without coach David Taylor in her camp for the first time in six years.

12. Kirsten Flipkens: A qualifier last year, Flipkens has made a remarkable mid-career rise. She opens against Venus Williams.

13. Ana Ivanovic: The former No.1 still tantalizes with some nice results now and then, but the lack of bulk really inhibits her power.

14. Maria Kirilenko: I admire the all-court game and athleticism, but Kirilenko has yet to figure out a way to make the Errani-like jump.

15. Sloane Stephens: I am interested to see how she copes with the pressure. She has a lot of extra obligations in New York, but her best results have come at the biggest events. More bests: She is the best U.S. hope -- male of female -- not named Williams. And she could get Serena in the fourth round.

16. Sabine Lisicki: Let's see what she can do after playing her first major final, at Wimbledon. I love her serve, but I don't love the durability or the lack of hard-court match play.

Seeds 17-32 to watch

17. Dominika Cibulkova: She has had an up-and-down summer, winning the Bank of the West Classic but then losing in the first round of the Southern California Open, Western & Southern Open and New Haven Open. She's definitely a player to watch.

18. Carla Suarez Navarro: We call her an off-brand Justine Henin. But remember, Henin won the U.S. Open multiple times.

19. Sorana Cirstea: With Darren Cahill in her corner, she's been playing well of late.

23. Jamie Hampton: Let's pause and give props to Hampton on her ascent.

25. Kaia Kanepi: She tends to play some of her best tennis at the majors. She's made the quarterfinals of three different Slams, including the U.S. Open in 2010 and Wimbledon last month.

26. Alize Cornet: She's had a nice return to the upper reaches, and if drama is your thing, you never go wrong here.

27. Svetlana Kuznetsova: She's capable of losing in her first match, but she is a former champion.

28. Mona Barthel: We remain bullish.

30. Laura Robson: The Brit dazzled in New York last year, beating Kim Clijsters and Li. While she's had her sophomore bumps, she isn't afraid of the big stage.

Dark horse stable

Madison Keys: A young American on the upswing. She drew a big step-up first-round match against Jankovic.

Monica Puig: See above, except she's Puerto Rican.

Eugenie Bouchard: See above, except she's Canadian.

Andrea Petkovic: Slowly shedding the rust.

Heather Watson: The 21-year-old Brit, who was diagnosed with mono earlier this year, has a lot of game.

Venus Williams: In deference to her track record, not her 2013 record.

First-round matches to watch

Serena Williams vs. Francesca Schiavone: It's not often that two Grand Slam winners draw each other in the first round.

Venus Williams vs. Kirsten Flipkens: Who would have thought that almost 50 spots would divide them in the rankings, and Williams would be lower?

Madison Keys vs. Jelena Jankovic: This matches poses a big opportunity for Keys, who is my blue-plate upset-special pick.

Doubles winner

Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik: Just to be different.

Singles picks

Semifinals: Serena Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska; Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Kirilenko (my surprise pick)

Finals: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka

Winner: Serena Williams

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