US Open 2017 women’s draw preview: Favorites, dark horses, threats

Inspired by Women’s Tennis Blog, our long-time reader and frequent commenter Sru he has started his own Sam’s Tennis Blog and now he’d like to share his preview of the ladies’ draw at the 2017 US Open as a guest post. Enjoy!

GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE 2017 SEASON

Serena Williams‘ pregnancy has made the biggest impact on the women’s tour this year. Then we’ve had Maria Sharapova‘s comeback from the doping ban, which has been hampered by a number of injuries, preventing the Russian from pulling off a steady comeback. Victoria Azarenka has also returned after giving birth to son Leo, but she had to withdraw from the US Open because of an ongoing custody battle with her ex. This year we’ve also seen a great champ like Venus Williams returning to Grand Slam finals and young players like Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina making it big. Moreover, we have a new world number one, Karolina Pliskova (a slamless one, though, taking us back to the 2008/2009 era).

What’s stunning at this year’s US Open is that EIGHT women have a chance to grab the number one ranking at the tournament! I sometime wonder if we have so many high-quality top players or if our real top players are unable to find a next gear when they face an inspired opponent.

Without any further due, let’s see who my FAVORITES are for the title.

GARBINE MUGURUZA [3]

The Spaniard is coming to the US Open fresh off her second Grand Slam title in as many years, having defeated Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final in straight sets, and a subsequent dominant run to the Cincinnati champion’s trophy which included straight-set victories over the world’s two highest ranked WTA players. Muguruza has the experience and knows what it takes to win majors, but she’s yet to go deep at the US Open and this time she has one of the toughest draws among top seeds.

Muguruza opens against Varvara Lepchenko and could face Kristyna Pliskova or Magdalena Rybarikova in the third round. The 23-year-old’s potential fourth-round opponent could be either Petra Kvitova or Carolina Garcia and if she gets through them, she could face one of in-form players of the year, Venus Williams or Caroline Wozniacki.

ELINA SVITOLINA [4]

For some odd reason, despite all her success this year, which includes the fact that she’s the only player to have won three WTA Premier 5 tournaments in a single season, and a career high ranking of No.4, the Ukrainian is still not considered a major threat for titles at Grand Slams. This might have something to do with her in ability to make a huge impact at majors, her best results being two quarterfinals at the French Open. This year in Paris she lost to Simona Halep despite leading their quarterfinal by a set and 5-1. She also reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, but lost to Ostapenko in straight sets.

Svitolina does has some very impressive victories over Muguruza, Halep and Pliskova, though, and if any of the top seeds have a relatively easy draw, it’s Svitolina. She’ll open against Katerina Siniakova and a potential mouthwatering second-round match against Genie Bouchard awaits her. Svitolina has struggled with fast surfaces and it’d be interesting to see how she adapts to New York’s high bounce courts. Other major threats in Svitolina’s quarter of the draw include defending champ and completely-out-of-form Angelique Kerber, reigning French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko and in-form Madison Keys.

VENUS WILLIAMS [9]

This has been a year of resurgence for the seven-time major champion. She reached two Grand Slam finals this season, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, losing to her younger sister Serena and Garbine Muguruza, respectively. With her home crowd behind her, the two-time US Open champ will be very eager to get hands on the trophy for the third time, but is in the same quarter of the draw as Muguruza and Wozniacki.

SERENA WILLIAMS

I mean, let’s be real! She’s a favorite even when she’s not playing. 🙂 Here is Serena slaying while fully pregnant for Vogue magazine.

Now let’s move on to the players I consider DARK HORSES for the title.

KAROLINA PLISKOVA [1]

While Pliskova has obtained the world number one ranking after Wimbledon, the only reason I consider her a dark horse instead of a title favorite is because of her inability to go past semis at major WTA tournaments. While she has won Premier titles like Doha and Eastbourne, she couldn’t go past semifinals at Indian Wells, Miami, the French Open, Cincinnati and reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and Toronto.

Having reached the US Open finals last year after beating both the Williams sisters, Pliskova is very comfortable at Flushing Meadows and will look to make another deep run to consolidate her No.1 ranking. Standing in her way are players like Agnieszka Radwanska (whom she has never beaten), 2004 US Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Kristina Mladenovic.

SIMONA HALEP [2]

Halep has a fairly doable draw if she moves past the first round. But that’s a very big if! At the very start of the tournament, she’ll face the 2006 champion and wildcard entry Maria Sharapova, who leads their head-to-head record 6-0. However, Sharapova is playing her first tournament since withdrawing from Stanford and we still don’t know how fit she is, so Halep has a fair chance of beating her. If she does get past Sharapova, other dangerous players in her quarters include Johanna Konta, who had stopped her at Wimbledon, Dominika Cibulkova, Donna Vekic, Peng Shuai, young American Lauren Davis and Timea Babos.

Halep has had a tough time dealing with pressure in the most important matches of her career, having wasted multiple opportunities. It will be interesting to see how she will deal with all of this, but at this point in time, she can’t think much further than her first match.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI [5]

One of the most consistent players this year, Wozniacki is defending her semifinal points from last year, but there’s something about the US hardcourt swing that brings the best out of the Dane. Wozniacki has reached the finals here twice and semis three more times. But the draw hasn’t been very kind to her this year, as she’s a part of a very loaded quarter. While she’ll open against a qualifier, she could face Ekaterina Makarova in the second round and then in the third round either former Top 10 player Carla Suarez Navarro or Mirjana Lucic-Barroni (who loves to absolutely destroy top players). Moreover, Wozniacki could face Venus in the fourth round and either Muguruza or Kvitova in quarterfinals. One more very worrying aspect for Caroline is her finals record this season, as she has reached the finals six times, while she’s yet to win a title in 2017!

PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR

ANGELIQUE KERBER [6]

Kerber is the defending champion., but no longer a world No 1, so she has no pressure and no expectations to fulfill, making her a big threat. She opens against a very dangerous Naomi Osaka, who’s struggling at the moment, but who could give a really tough resistance to the German, which could be a launching pad for another deep run by her. Kerber could potentially face the French Open champ Ostapenko in the fourth round, who’s also having a dip in form, and could meet red hot Svitolina in the quarterfinals. If Kerber starts swinging freely and starts chasing down the balls, her opponents will be in real trouble no matter who they are!

MARIA SHARAPOVA (WC)

Masha is returning from an injury layoff and will be playing her first match since Stanford. She’ll be facing No.2 seed Simona Halep in the first round and if she gets past her, she has comparatively easier draw, which shouldn’t trouble a player of her caliber. Masha’s level of fitness is unknown, but she’ll be wearing a very glamorous outfit for the US Open, which she’ll be eager to show off as long as she can, and if fit, she’s a very dangerous floater for every top player in the draw.

PETRA KVITOVA (13)

After tragically being injured in a home robbery gone wrong, we are very happy to see Petra recover completely and play tennis again. Petra showed us what she’s capable of by winning Birmingham, but hasn’t done much since. The Czech will open against out-of-form former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic and is in the same quarter as Muguruza, Venus and Wozniacki. My guess is that Kvitova will try to enjoy the moment and if she finds her form again, no one would be really surprised if she makes it out of this packed quarter.

JELENA OSTAPENKO [12]

Ostapenko won the French Open this year out of nowhere! Not many people were familiar with her, but she put everyone on notice by marching into the Roland Garros finals and outplaying Simona Halep from the brink of defeat. The Latvian loves big stages and big matches and believes she belongs there. She also reached quarterfinals at Wimbledon, where she lost to eventual runner-up Venus Williams, but hasn’t been able to do much ever since. She’d be looking to turn this around in New York.

In addition, it will be interesting to see what American players like Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe will be capable of doing in front of their home crowd. Will another youngster or a late bloomer win the US Open out of the blue? Do you think someone from this list will win or do you have other favorites in mind? Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “US Open 2017 women’s draw preview: Favorites, dark horses, threats

  1. Nathan C

    I thinks it’s gonna be a good tournament to watch especially with 8 players vying for number one. My pick to win is Karolina Pliskova and the finalist will be Halep. I think Muguruza will FINALLY pass the second round but will be eliminated around the quarters or fourth round. My dark horse pics are Sharapova who once won the title and is back to win it all and another dark horse in my opinion is Ana Konjuh, she may not be able to win the trophy but she can cause some damage to her side of the draw and predict she can at least make the quarters.

  2. CLT

    Why do you say a potential match between Svitolina and Bouchard is “mouthwatering”? Everyone is so focussed on Bouchard when her play for the last few years has been quite ordinary and her ranking shows it. It seems like people are only interested in her because she is blond and goodlooking and courts publicity. Why give it to her?

  3. sru

    @CLT bouchard is a big match player and she turns up for those matches like she did in her matches against maria and kerber. So i am very excited about that match. It has nothing to do with hair color or face. 🙂

  4. Jim

    Simona Halep is so unlucky to have drawn “Wild Card” Maria Sharapova in the first round. Sharapova is 6-0 head to head versus Halep and 17 -0 in night matches over the years at the USO. Not a winning proposition if you ask me for Simona.

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