US Open Won't Keep Us Waiting For Drama

Let's just leave it at this: There won't be many dull moments at the 2014 US Open.

The draw for the year's final major was released on Thursday, and it features plenty of intrigue from the first round on -- especially for headliners Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams.

With the first matches starting on Monday, here's a look at how the tournament breaks down -- at least on paper.

Best first-round match

You can NOT be serious! No. 1 Serena Williams drew former junior No. 1 Taylor Townsend, now ranked 103rd in the world, in the first round. Townsend is an American wild card who made it to the third round of the French Open this year, but she faces the most difficult challenge imaginable in New York. The 32-year-old Williams comes in one major away from tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth place on the all-time list with 18. You can bet she'll be on high alert against the 18-year-old Townsend, who has a throwback style that has confounded some of the game's top players. Another opener to circle is Ivanovic vs. Alison Riske. The American Riske made a run to the fourth round in New York a year ago, and the eighth-seeded Ivanovic has been playing well on the hard courts. It could be a competitive and high-quality match.

Favorite most ripe for the picking

Since winning Wimbledon, third-seeded Petra Kvitova has managed just a 1-2 record. She opens against Kristina Mladenovic, who beat Kvitova the last time they played. If she can power through to the Round of 16, Kvitova could possibly encounter two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who is seeded 16th. The quarterfinals could be a rematch of the Wimbledon final, against seventh-seeded Eugenie Bouchard.

Favorite best positioned for sailing

With all due respect to Serena Williams, who has the tricky and talented Townsend in the first round, we're going with the fifth-seeded Sharapova. For starters, the reigning French Open champion is on the opposite side of the draw from arch nemesis Serena. Further, she's got a friendly first-round matchup against former doubles partner Maria Kirilenko, who is ranked 113th. If the draw follows form, Sharapova would play Simona Halep in the quarters, and she boasts a 5-0 record against the No. 2 seed, including a victory in the finals in Paris.

Best Cinderella candidate

A year ago, many thought the clock was about to strike midnight on Venus Williams' career, but the 34-year-old American brings a 24-11 record and the aura of a contender to the Open after winning one title and making it to the final in Montreal. Even more astounding, the No. 19 seed plays somebody older in the first round in the 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm. In the second round, Venus would play either Kiki Bertens or Timea Bacsinszky. Third round? Possibly Sara Errani.We may be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves considering Venus hasn't seen the fourth round of a major since 2011, but Venus could face Halep in the Round of 16 and Sharapova in the quarterfinals.

American with friendliest path

Just when she needed it most, the slumping Sloane Stephens caught a break with her Open draw. The No. 21 seed faces Annika Beck, a German ranked 57th in the world, in the first round. After that, Stephens would be favored against either Virginie Razzano or Johanna Larsson in Round 2. From there, it could be Jelena Jankovic, whom she has lost to twice this year. But Stephens has a history of bringing out her best at majors, so a Round of 16 matchup against Angelique Kerber isn't out of the question, right?