US OPEN '17: Sharapova plays first major in nearly 2 years

Women to watch at the U.S. Open, where play begins Monday:

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KAROLINA PLISKOVA

Ranked: 1

Age: 25

Country: Czech Republic

2017 Match Record: 42-12

2017 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 9

Major Titles: 0 - Best: Runner-Up, U.S. Open ('16)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: `16-Runner-Up, `15-Lost in 1st Round, `14-3rd, `13-1st, `12-Did Not Play

Aces: Rose to No. 1 after Wimbledon despite second-round loss there and zero Grand Slam titles. ... Leads WTA Tour in aces this season.

Topspin: Could make a case as most talented woman without a major title. ... Showed just how good she can be in upset of Serena Williams in semifinals a year ago at Flushing Meadows.

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SIMONA HALEP

Ranked: 2

Age: 25

Country: Romania

2017 Match Record: 39-12

2017 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 15

Major Titles: 0 - Best: RU, French Open ('14, `17)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: `16-QF, `15-SF, `14-3rd, `13-4th, `12-2nd

Aces: Entered three matches this season with a chance to move to No. 1 for the first time with a victory - and lost each time.

Topspin: A smart, versatile player who still seems to freeze up at key moments. ... Hard courts are not her best surface but no reason she shouldn't go far these two weeks.

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GARBINE MUGURUZA

Ranked: 3

Age: 23

Country: Spain

2017 Match Record: 39-15

2017 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 5

Major Titles: 2 - Wimbledon ('17), French Open ('16)

Last 5 U.S. Open: `16-2nd, `15-2nd, `14-1st, `13-DNP, `12-1st

Aces: Only won two of six career matches at Flushing Meadows. ... The most in-form player on tour at the moment, winning 16 of past 18 matches, including Wimbledon title.

Topspin: When she's relaxed and confident, she is as good as it gets right now in women's tennis.

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ANGELIQUE KERBER

Ranked: 6

Age: 29

Country: Germany

2017 Match Record: 25-17

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 10

Major Titles: 2 - Australian Open ('16), U.S. Open ('16)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: `16-Won Championship, `15-3rd, `14-3rd, `13-4th, `12-4th

Aces: Still trying to find her way in 2017 after reaching her first three major finals last season, including winning the U.S. Open to move up to No. 1. ... Became first woman seeded No. 1 to lose in the French Open's first round in the professional era, emblematic of a real step back this season.

Topspin: Just 1-2 on hard courts since Wimbledon, showing little signs of being ready to mount a strong defense of her title in New York.

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VENUS WILLIAMS

Ranked: 9

Age: 37

Country: United States

2017 Match Record: 29-10

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 49

Major Titles: 7 - Wimbledon ('00, `01, `05, `07, `08), U.S. Open ('00, `01)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: `16-4th, `15-QF, `14-3rd, `13-2nd, `12-2nd

Aces: Making her 19th U.S. Open appearance. ... Only woman to reach at least the fourth round at past six Grand Slam tournaments.

Topspin: Appearances in finals at Australian Open and Wimbledon this year proved she can still play at a high level.

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MARIA SHARAPOVA

Ranked: 147

Age: 30

Country: Russia

2017 Match Record: 6-3

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 35

Major Titles: 5 - U.S. Open ('06), Australian Open ('08), French Open ('12, `14), Wimbledon ('04)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: `16-DNP, `15-DNP, `14-4th, `13-DNP, `12-SF

Aces: Wild-card entry. ... Missed three of the past four U.S. Opens, including last year because of a doping suspension. ... This will be her first Grand Slam tournament appearance since the Australian Open in January 2016, when she tested positive for a newly banned drug.

Topspin: Dealt with injuries to her left leg and left forearm since coming back from her ban in April, so no way to know what sort of level she'll be able to play at in New York.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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