Dear readers, as you noticed, I was on a two-week summer vacation and Women's Tennis Blog was at a standstill. Just in time of the US Open I'm turning my engines on again and my friend Omair is here to help me with his analysis of the women's draw for the last Grand Slam of the season.
The year has flown by pretty quickly, seems just like yesterday when we were all talking about the Australian Open and now we are here talking about which player might be laying her hands on the last Grand Slam of the season.
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, the top two WTA players at the moment, have each won one Grand Slam title this year. Both must be hungry to win the US Open to make a statement. The plot for this year’s US Open has thickened a little with Williams’ defeat at the hands of Azarenka in the final of Cincinnati.
Let us have a look at the draw and break it down.
Serena Williams is the favorite to make the quarterfinal, however, she has a tough opener in the former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone. Nevertheless, given Serena’s form, she should not be troubled.
Everyone’s talking about the potential fourth-round match of Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens. Sloane Stephens defeated Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year in three sets, after which things got a little messy between the two.
Angelique Kerber is sitting at the bottom of the quarter and has been in a slump, going 4-3 in the US Open Series. She needs to step it up if she is to make noise, especially given her draw.
Youngsters to watch:
Eugenie Bouchard – She has a potential second-round encounter with slumping Kerber and couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity for a breakthrough.
Urszula Radwanska – The younger Radwanska plays Irina-Camelia Begu in her opener, with a potential second-round encounter with Sloane Stephens.
Americans in the quarter:
Serena Williams – She has lost only four matches this year. Serena’s conqueror at the Australian Open Sloane Stephens is in for a potential fourth-round encounter with the defending champion.
Jamie Hampton – She pushed Azarenka to three sets at the Australian Open. A potential third-round encounter with Sloane Stephens awaits.
Sloane Stephens – She has a good draw and should be favored to make the third round at the very least. She has been performing well at majors this year and should be motivated enough to make noise at her home Grand Slam.
Venus Williams – The two-time US Open champion (2000-01) plays Kirsten Flipkens in her opener and is well motivated to go deep in the draw. The biggest question will be if her body holds up or not.
Lauren Davis – She plays Spanish crafty player Carla Suarez Navarro, who made the quarterfinals at New Heaven, in the first round.
Vania King – The diminutive American is former doubles US Open winner and plays Kaia Kanepi in the first round.
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Serena Williams to beat Carla Suarez Navarro (I had originally picked Kanepi, another brave pick out of nowhere, but I guess Navarro or Flipkens will make the quarterfinals).
Agnieszka Radwanska is the top seed in this quarter and opens against Silvia Soler-Espinosa. The first seeded player she could play is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in what could be a tough potential third round for her. Radwanska is the only player to make the quarterfinals or better at all the Grand Slams of the year so far. However, she has never progressed beyond the fourth round of the US Open. Will this be the year?
Current Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki has a potential fourth-round encounter against former Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska. Radwanska will be keen on taking revenge of her loss at the hands of Lisicki in the semifinals of Wimbledon this year, should the two meet in the fourth round.
Li Na, this year’s Australian Open runner-up, is sitting at the bottom of the quarter and opens against Olga Govortsova. An interesting potential third-round clash awaits Li Na in the form of Laura Robson. Robson stole the spotlight last year when she sent Kim Clijsters into retirement in the second round of the US Open and then defeated Li in the third round to make the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Youngsters to watch:
Ashleigh Barty – The talented Aussie plays Estrella Cabeza Candela in the first round, a winnable match. A second-round potential meeting with Pavlyuchenkova awaits.
Monica Puig – She made the fourth round at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon this year. She makes her US Open debut against the comeback player, Alisa Kleybanova.
Laura Robson – The British player has been making some noise at Grand Slams lately. It will be interesting to see what she has in store for this year’s US Open.
Americans in the quarter:
Bethanie Mattek-Sands – She opens against Mathilde Johansson and has a potential second-round encounter with Ekaterina Makarova. She should make the third round.
Madison Keys – She has a powerful game and she has the potential to beat anyone on a given day. She plays former No.1 and former US Open finalist Jelena Jankovic in the first round.
Shelby Rogers – She opens against talented French youngster Caroline Garcia.
Kimiko Date-Krumm – She is the oldest player in the draw and opens against Paula Ormaechea in what should be a winnable match for Kimiko.
Sorana Cristea – She made the final of Toronto beating three Top 10 players and two former world No. 1s starting with Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova and Li Na. She has a potential third-round encounter with Jankovic and a potential fourth-round clash against Li Na, both players she beat in her run to the final at Toronto.
Jelena Jankovic – The former world No.1 made the semifinals of Cincinnati, falling at the hands of eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in three hard-fought sets. She should make the fourth round.
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Li Na to beat Agnieszka Radwanska
This is the most open quarter of the draw with Sara Errani sitting at the bottom as the No.4 seed and Caroline Wozniacki sitting at the top as the No.6 seed. Caroline Wozniacki is one of the two players among the Top 8 seeds who is yet to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal this year, the other player being Angelique Kerber. Wozniacki opens against a qualifier and could not have asked for a better draw.
Sara Errani made the semifinals last year before bowing out to eventual champion Serena Williams. She opens against Ayumi Morita in what could be a tricky opener for her. A potential second round meeting with countrywoman Flavia Pennetta awaits and as if this was not enough, a potential third-round encounter against former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova could also be in store.
There is a big question mark over Kuznetsova. She has gone 2-3 since her quarterfinal run at Roland Garros. However, the good news for Kuznetsova fans is that she has performed well at majors this year, making the quarterfinals of both majors she has played and losing to the eventual champion at each (Azarenka at the Australian Open and Serena at Roland Garros). If Kuznetsova steps it up, this could be the ideal draw for her to make the semifinals, but if she does not, she might be going home in the first round.
Youngsters under the radar:
Annika Beck – She opens against Russian Elena Vesnina.
Donna Vekic – She opens against Mariana Duque-Marino, in what should be a winnable match for the teenager.
Heather Watson – She has a tough first-round assignment in the form of red hot Simona Halep.
Americans in this quarter:
Mallory Burdette – She opens against Svetlana Kuznetsova whose outcome depends a lot on which Kuznetsova shows up.
Nicole Gibbs – The teenager opens against former Top 10 player Flavia Pennetta.
QUARTERFINAL PREDITION: Simona Halep to beat Caroline Wozniacki (I originally picked Kuznetsova to beat Wozniacki, but watching Halep play against Kvitova, I could not help but pick her).
Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka round off the last quarter. Kvitova opens against Misaki Doi and has tricky potential second and third-round encounters with Andrea Petkovic and Mona Barthel respectively, and judging by her play in the final of New Heaven, it will be a tough task for the talented Czech.
Azarenka opens against Dinah Pfizenmaier and has a potential third-round encounter against Alize Cornet, the woman who pushed her to three sets at Roland Garros. Azarenka comes on the heels of her win over Serena Williams in the final of Cincinnati. Williams has lost only four matches this year, with two of them coming at the hands of Azarenka.
Youngsters under the radar:
Anna Tatishvili - She made the fourth round here last year, but has been unable to win matches this year. She opens against Ana Ivanovic.
Elina Svitolina – She opens against Dominika Cibulkova and will try to win her first match at the US Open in her second attempt.
Americans in this quarter:
Alison Riske – She opens against the unpredictable Tsvetana Pironkova, which reminds me Pironkova is defending R4 points at the US Open.
Sachia Vickery – She opens against a qualifier.
Maria Sanchez – She opens against former world No.4 Daniela Hantuchova.
Varvara Lepchenko – She opens against Alexendra Dulgheru and has a potential second-round meeting with Ana Ivanovic.
Christina McHale – She has a winnable first round match against slumping Julia Goerges and a tricky second-round against the hard-hitting diminutive Dominka Cibulkova.
Samantha Stosur, the 2011 champion, opens against a qualifier. She has a potential fourth-round meeting with Petra Kvitova. An interesting fact to note is that Stosur has not lost before the quarterfinals of the US Open for the last three years.
Ana Ivanovic – The former world No.1 and former Roland Garros champion has a potential fourth-round encounter with Azarenka. She made the quarterfinals here last year in what was her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since her Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros in 2008.
QUARTERFINAL PREDITION: Victoria Azarenka to beat Samantha Stosur
SEMIFINAL PREDICTION: Serena Williams to beat Li Na and Victoria Azarenka to beat Simona Halep
PREDICTION FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIPS MATCH: Serena Williams to beat Victoria Azarenka
(photos: © Neal Trousdale)