NEW YORK: Defending champion Naomi Osaka seeks her third US Open title in four tries as the year’s final Grand Slam begins Monday with top-ranked Wimbledon winner Ashleigh Barty leading a host of rivals.What’s uncertain is whether New York will see Osaka rediscover the dominant form that saw her win the past two Grand Slam events she played to the finish.The 23-year-old Japanese star lit the flame in the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games, but has played only two matches since Japan ahead of the Open.”I know I haven’t played that many matches. I know that I haven’t even gotten to a quarter-final,” Osaka said.Osaka pulled out of the French Open after being fined for not talking to reporters after her first match, saying it hurt her mental health. She then skipped Wimbledon but spoke with the media after matches in her US Open tuneup at Cincinnati.Osaka captured last year’s US Open title by defeating Victoria Azarenka in the final, becoming the first woman since 1994 to rally from a set down to win the US Open final. At this year’s Australian Open, Osaka saved match points against Spain’s GarbineMuguruza in the fourth round and beat 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the semi-finals before defeating Jen Brady in the final.Osaka, ranked third, has won her first four Grand Slam finals, trailing only Roger Federer’s run of seven and six by Monica Seles for the best Slam final start in the Open Era (since 1968).She will open this year in New York against Czech Marie Bouzkova. Osaka could meet Coco Gauff in the fourth round, Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals and Belarus second seed ArynaSabalenka in the semi-finals.Barty, in her 83rd consecutive week atop the world rankings, has rolled to wins at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, putting her on best form entering the Flushing Meadows fortnight.The 25-year-old Australian’s 2021 titles also include Miami, Melbourne and Stuttgart and boosted her career total to 13.Barty won her first major title at the 2019 French Open and her second trophy in London put her halfway to a career Grand Slam. Williams, who hasn’t played a competitive hardcourt match since losing to Osaka in February, will not play in New York due to a torn right hamstring suffered in a first-round match at Wimbledon.Williams, who turns 40 next month, remains one shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.An impressive collection of 20-something rivals among the world’s top 10 will take aim at the trophy.The group includes Czech BarboraKrejcikova, the French Open champion; second-ranked Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabalenka; Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic; Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open winner; Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open winner who skipped last year’s event; 2020 French Open champion IgaSwiatek of Poland and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Svitolina.