Singles draw preview: Serena’s to take?

Can top seed and world No. 1 Serena Williams win Miami and Charleston back-to-back for the third time in her career?

That question – along with many others – will be answered at the 2014 Volvo Car Open, which sees main draw play get underway on Monday on Daniel Island.

MORE: Women’s singles drawQualifying draw

Williams tops that draw once again as she looks to win her fifth career title in Lowcountry, including her third in a row. After a first-round bye, she could face American Melanie Oudin in the second round, who’s making a comeback from a prolonged period off.

Who are Serena’s biggest challengers? Five other former champions pack an enthralling draw in Charleston, including the No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the 2007 winner here who faced Serena in last year’s final.

Other past winners include No. 7 seed Sam Stosur (2010) of Australia, the No. 4 seed Sabine Lisicki of Germany (2009), Russian wildcard Nadia Petrova (2006) and No. 11 Venus Williams (2004), the American veteran.

A host of young, up-and-coming Americans are part of the draw, as well, including local talent Shelby Rogers, a wildcard who will face former world No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova in a first-round match. The line-up of American youngsters also includes Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Christina McHale and Alison Riske, who all look to make strong runs at the Family Circle Tennis Center. McHale, making her fifth appearance here, was a quarterfinalist in 2011.

Down the Road
Potential quarterfinal match-ups (to be played on Friday), include top seed Serena vs. No. 8 Sorana Cirstea of Romania and Stephens, the fifth seed, vs. No. 3 Sara Errani on the top half of the draw. The bottom half could see Stosur and Lisicki square off in the final eight while Jankovic might meet up-and-coming Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the No. 6 seed who was a semifinalist at the Australian Open.

First-Round Gems
There is plenty of lip-smacking tennis to take in over the next two days in Charleston, though the Hantuchova-Rogers match might be the most fun to watch. The young American Keys gets veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a former Wimbledon semifinalist, while Venus Williams opens against the always-pesky Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Meanwhile, the No. 10 seed Maria Kirilenko plays a qualifier. It’s Kirilenko’s first match of the season after a long battle with injury.

And Maybe…
Fan-favorite Andrea Petkovic, the No. 14 seed, could square off against German compatriot Lisicki in round three in what would be their first-ever meeting on the WTA Tour. Bouchard and Venus are on a collision course in the same round. Williams won their only encounter: a dramatic three-setter last fall.

Worldclass Tennis
Regardless of who walks away the winner in Charleston on Sunday, the week of tennis to come is simply unmatched; an experience fans will remember for a lifetime.