2015 US Open Women’s Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
We have reached the Big Apple for the final grand slam of the year, the US Open. All the focus heading into Flushing Meadows is the potential of history being made. Serena Williams is chasing her 22nd grand slam title and is looking to complete the calendar year grand slam for the first time in her illustrious career.
But it would be foolish to think that this will be a one woman show. Expect the unexpected when it comes to women’s tennis as we will be treated to the drama and the upsets we have come to expect from the WTA.
Tier: Grand Slam
Location: New York, USA
Prize Money: $20,102,700
Date: August 31st- September 13th 2015
Top eight seeds (ranking):
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Simona Halep (2)
3. Maria Sharapova (3)
4. Caroline Wozniacki (4)
5. Petra Kvitova (5)
6. Lucie Safarova (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Karolina Pliskova (8)
All of the top players will be taking part in the final grand slam of the year.
First round matches to watch:
(3) Maria Sharapova vs Daria Gavrilova
Third seeded Maria Sharapova will open her bid for a second US Open title by facing compatriot and youngster Daria Gavrilova in round one.
The world number three’s preparation was cut to nothing due to injury, but one thing we know about Masha is that she will give it her best. We can question whether the injury will be a factor here, but even if she is healthy, Gavrilova is not the player you want to face in the opening round. The 21-year-old is a feisty player and could catch Sharapova off guard just like she did to Lucie Safarova in Toronto.
She holds a victory over the world number three, which came on the hard courts of Miami. Sharapova avenged it in Rome a few months later leaving their head to head 1-1 but in terms of hard courts Gavrilova holds the advantage. The third seed will be favourite, but there could be potential for an upset.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Dominika Cibulkova
The fifth meeting between Ana Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova is one of the round one matches that catches the immediate eye. With their head to head balanced at 2-2, who will get their third victory in this series?
Ivanovic is looking to sustain her top eight ranking by going deep in the only grand slam she hasn’t made the semi-finals of. The Serb’s best result came in 2012 where she made the quarter finals. Ivanovic has not hit her top form since making the semi-finals of the French Open earlier in the year, but he did push Serena in Cincinnati.
Former Australian Open finalist Cibulkova is still trying to re-climb the rankings after an injury kept her out for a few months earlier in the season. Now at 58, the Slovakian is one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Ivanovic won their previous two meetings and comes in to this one as the better player and the favourite. However, Cibulkova is certainly capable of an upset.
(29) Sloane Stephens vs Coco Vandeweghe
This battle of American youngsters will no doubt give the New York crowd plenty of action and excitement as Sloane Stephens faces Coco Vandeweghe.
After somewhat labouring through 2014 and the early part of 2015, Stephens has rediscovered some of the form that saw her break the top 20 in 2013. The 22 year old won her maiden title in Washington and made the round of 16 in Cincinnati.
Vandeweghe has struggled with her form since making the Quarter Finals of Wimbledon. In fact she has only won one singles match since that breakthrough grand slam performance at SW19. With her big serve and powerful ground strokes, the 23 year old’s game should suit the US Open hard courts.
Stephens won their most recent meeting in Strasbourg but overall the head to head reads 2-1 in favour of Vandeweghe, albeit them results are from 2012 and 2010. Sloane is a much better player now and will be the favourite, but either way should satisfy the home crowd.
(6) Lucie Safarova vs Lesia Tsurenko
In a rematch of their New Haven semi-final contest a few days prior to the event, sixth seed Lucie Safarova faces an in form Lesia Tsurenko in one of the picks of the opening round matches.
The Czech pulled through in straight sets that time around, making Tsurenko even keener to avenge that recent defeat. Safarova is not quite at French Open level just yet, but she is in decent form heading in to Flushing Meadows. Her run to the New Haven final was proceeded with a quarter final appearance in Cincinnati.
Tsurenko’s form has seen her not only win her first WTA title in Istanbul, but reach the top 50 with aims of going much further. The Ukrainian came through qualifying in Toronto to defeat Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza in straight sets and make the quarter finals. That run has been backed up by an impressive run to the semi-finals of New Haven. Certainly an unseeded player to avoid. Interestingly, these two have met before at the US Open. That came two years ago and Safarova ran out the victor in three sets. Expect a repeat in 2015 with a potential early exit for the French Open finalist.
(18) Andrea Petkovic vs Caroline Garcia
The final match of my round one picks sees 18th seed Andrea Petkovic face talented Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia. Both players’ form is hard to judge after having a rather up and down build up to the US Open. Petkovic may consider herself unlucky to draw Serena Williams and Simona Halep in consecutive weeks but her form has been quite iffy. It will be interesting to see what level she is at come the US Open.
With Garcia you never know what you are going to get. She put together impressive back to back wins against Sabine Lisicki and Petra Kvitova in Cincinnati before putting in a poor performance against Elina Svitolina. It was a repeat in New Haven, two good wins followed by an awful performance against Wozniacki. So who knows which Garcia we will see in New York.
With both players’ form hard to gage, it is a tough match to predict. Petkovic won their only previous meeting in Eastbourne, so this is their first meeting on a hard court. It will be a nice style clash which could go either way depending on which version of each player shows up.
Serena Williams will begin her quest to make history against Vitalia Diatchenko. It should not be a problem for the world number one, but round two could be very tricky if Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is on form. The Croatian defeated Simona Halep here last year and has a big game to trouble Williams. It might not get any easier in round three where she is projected to face Sloane Stephens. That is of course if she could make her way through the opening two rounds.
Another young American looking to make an impact is Madison Keys. The big hitting 19th seed has been drawn with Agnieszka Radwanska in this mini section. The 20 year old will open against Klara Koukalova who is not at her best but still dangerous. There is a potential Radwanska sibling clash in round two with Ula facing Magda Linette and Aga facing Katerina Siniakova in matches both should win. The more well-known Radwanska will be favourite for this one but strange things can happen in these sister battles. We could see an interesting round three between Keys and A.Radwanska which will provide an interesting style clash. The American will bring her big serve and power, whilst The Pole will bring her variety and counterpunching game.
Karolina Pliskova’s rise to the top 10 has been one of the stories of the season so far, but the Czech- for all her great play- has failed to make an impression at grand slam level. The 23 year old should be good enough to make the third round without much trouble- It will get more difficult from there. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the projected third round opponent but Magdalena Rybarikova is a difficult round one for the Russian. Casey Dellacqua or Saisai Zheng will await the winner in the second round, so you would expect Pavs or Rybarikova to make round three. Pliskova will be favourite to make it to round four but there is a potential banana skin in round three.
One player who captured the attention of the tennis world heading in to the US Open was Belinda Bencic. The Swiss put together a string of amazing wins on her way to taking the Toronto title putting herself amongst the outside contenders for the title. Can she respond positively to the pressure? We will get our first look when she faces Sesil Karatancheva in the opening round before meeting the winner of Daniela Hantuchova vs Misaki Doi. Bencic could potentially meet both Williams sisters, starting with Venus in round three. The 35-year-old will face struggling Monica Puig in round one and likely to face Irina Falconi in round two. Williams struggles to grind out victories when not playing well so she must watch her back in the first two rounds. But her run likely will be ended by Bencic in round three.
Maria Sharapova had a non-existent build up to the US Open after injury kept her out of Toronto and Cincinnati. One wonders whether she will be 100% for the last grand slam of the year. Looking to take advantage of a diminished Sharapova is countrywoman Gavrilova. The 21-year-old upset the third seed in Miami so we know she is capable of producing a big result. Ana Konjuh or Tatjana Maria will be the round two opponent for the winner. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the projected opponent in the third round, but she has a tough opener against Kristina Mladenovic. A potential seed casualty there with Kuznetsova’s form very much in the question. You would expect the winner to make the third round with Bojana Jovanovski or Lara Arruabarrena. Sharapova has some tricky roadblocks in this section and it will be hard to gage how well she will do with the lingering injury.
It is a Russian heavy section of the draw with Ekaterina Makarova finding herself amongst her three compatriots in this section. Teliana Pereira will await in the first round. The Brazilian is more of a clay court specialist therefore making it difficult to look past the 13th seed here. Heather Watson or Lauren Davis could both provide a tough test in the second round but you would expect Makarova to make round three at least. Amidst the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, we could see the border clash make its way over to tennis with Elina Svitolina the likely round three opponent of Makarova. Albiet this conflict will be tamer. Svitolina should make her way through the first two rounds with Kaia Kanepi looking like the most dangerous opponent. Svitolina vs Makarova will be an interesting style clash and do not be surprised to see the lower seed advancing. The Ukrainian is in very good form after reaching the semi-finals of Cincinnati.
Ana Ivanovic’s blood pressure should be fine after seeing the draw for her section at the US Open. She is in a possibly injured Sharapova’s quarter and has a few out of form seeds in there too- this could get messy. Dominika Cilbulkova will no doubt raise the Serb’s temperature, but if Ivanovic is serious about making a deep run, she should come through that match. Alison Van Uytvank- who has done nothing of note since Roland Garros- will likely await in round two. The seventh seed got the lucky draw of a slumping Bouchard as the projected round three opponent. You can’t project anything with the Canadian at the moment however, she has struggled since the Australian Open. Alison Riske will look to take advantage of that in round one. Polona Hercog or Zarina Diyas (who did well at Wimbledon) will await in round two. Anything but Ivanovic making it out of this section will be a surprise.
Whilst we are on the topic of out of form players, Carla Suarez Navarro is another candidate for an early exit. The Spaniard has struggled since clay season, barely being able to win matches. Such a shame for her after a very solid start to 2015 that saw her break top 10. Denisa Allertova is a should win match, but Roberta Vinci will provide problems in round two. The Italian has shown good form over the summer hard court season. Jelena Jankovic will probably await in round three as she has a very good draw before the third round.
Despite mono and a lack of form, Petra Kvitova managed to defend her New Haven title putting her in good stead heading in to a grand slam she has traditionally struggled in. The Czech has a fairly good section to play her way in to the tournament here. Laura Siegemund in round one will be followed by the winner of Nicole Gibbs vs Lourdes Dominguez Lino in the second round- Both of which the fifth seed should win. Anna Schmiedlova’s steady ranking progression has seen her seeded for a grand slam for the first time. As the 32nd seed she will look to take advantage of avoiding the top players before the third round. She faces Julia Goerges in a tough but passable first round. The winner will face the victor of the Balkan battle between Danka Kovinic and Aleksandra Krunic. Kvitova will likely be a bridge too far for Schmiedlova, though Petra is certainly capable of some shocking performances. The Slovak has the consistency to take advantage.
Garbine Muguruza has been in a bit of a rut since making the Wimbledon final. The Spaniard has lost 4/4 sets to players ranked outside the top 50, and news has recently broke about her splitting with long-time coach Alejo Mancisidor–strange decision given the timing. Carina Witthoeft must not be overlooked in the first round, though Muguruza has a habit of bringing her best to the big events. She could face Johanna Konta again in round two. The Brit is riding a 13-match winning streak and defeated the Spaniard in Eastbourne. Can Konta repeat that feat in New York? Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Garcia may look at this news as a blessing. The winner of that opener will fancy themselves to make round four here with Muguruza’s questionable form. Petkovic will be the favourite, though Garcia, then Laura Robson or Elena Vesnina will provide some tough challenges.
The Great Dane is still searching for the big grand slam breakthrough her career has lacked thus far. A finalist last year, Wozniacki knows how to get around these courts. Can she translate that in to grand slam success? The fourth seed opens up against wildcard Jamie Loeb in a match she should progress in. In round two it will either be Christina McHale or Petra Cetovska- again Wozniacki should prevail. Round three is where it gets interesting with Flavia Pennetta potentially waiting in the wings. The Italian has not lived up to her 2014 but is still dangerous opposition at this stage of a slam. The 26th seed has a fairly easy draw to the third round with Jarmila Gadjosova and Monica Niculescu being her likely first two opponents. Wozniacki should make it through this section, but Pennetta could push her in the final 32.
Sara Errani secured a top 16 seeding with a good run in Toronto, and now the Italian will begin her quest to re-enter the top 10 at the US Open. She has been drawn with 2011 champion Sam Stosur in her section with a potentially interesting round three meeting between those two on the cards. Errani will face Mayo Hibi in round one, then likely Annika Beck in the second round. Stosur faces Timea Babos before meeting the winner of Rodina-Mrdeza. I believe Stosur’s previous experience at this event will allow her to advance from this section.
Lucie Safarova will look to top off a good year in the grand slams by making another deep run, only this time in New York. The sixth seed has drawn dangerous floater Lesia Tsurenko in round one, a player she defeated in New Haven the week prior to this event. The winner gets either Varvara Lepchenko or Kirsten Flipkens in round two. You would believe that the winner of Safarova-Tsurenko will make round three here given their respective forms. There they could face Irina Begu who is the other seed in the section. The Romanian however has a tough test I the form of Olga Govortsova in round one, and should she survive they first round, the next opponent will not be any easier. Mona Barthel vs Tsvetana Pironkova is a good looking match between two unseeded players, both of which will fancy their chances of round three.
Angelique Kerber has had the misfortune of getting the ‘Azarenka draw’ making this section one of the most mouth-watering of the lot. Barring a big upset or two, we should see this round three clash that most tennis fans undoubtedly want. Of course there are a few players who will no doubt be looking to spoil the party, not least Karin Knapp who on paper seems to have the best shot in stopping this meeting. Should we get the Azarenka-Kerber match the Belarusian will be favourite despite the seedings. Kerber has never defeated Azarenka in four attempts.
Simona Halep is still bidding for the elusive grand slam title to add to her collection of trophies. It will start with Marina Erakovic before facing the winner of Kateryna Bondarenko vs Yulia Putintseva in what should be simple enough wins for the second seed. The third round could be tricky with Alize Cornet possibly awaiting the Romanian. The Frenchwoman for whatever reason seems to bring her A-game to these sort of matches. She has defeated Serena and she got a victory over Halep in Madrid too. Cornet will face Kurumi Nara in the first round before possibly moving on to face Sachia Vickery or Shelby Rogers in the second round. Can Cornet spring another surprise against the world number two?
Timea Bacsinszky’s momentum has gone off the rails since Wimbledon and the Swiss has struggled to get wins under her belt in the build up to the tournament. The comeback story is one of the better tales of the 2015 season, but she needs to re-find that early season form. Barbora Strycova is a testing round one despite the Czech not enjoying her 2014 levels of success. The winner should make the third round. Sabine Lisicki (surprisingly not the Wimbledon woman this season) is the other seed in this section. The German has overall performed very well on American hard courts this year. The 24th seed should make it past her qualifier opponent in round one before meeting Camila Giorgi in round two. This one could be interesting with both players known for their power. They will fancy their chances of making the fourth round with Bascinszky out of form.
Round of 16:
Serena def. Radwanska
Bencic def. Pliskova
Sharapova def. Svitolina
Ivanovic def. Jankovic
Kvitova def. Petkovic
Wozniacki def. Stosur
Azarenka def. Safarova
Halep def. Lisicki
I can’t see Radwanska troubling the world number one on these courts. Bencic will carry her momentum into the US open to defeat Pliskova and set up a rematch with Serena. Sharapova’s place in the quarter final is questionable due to her fitness but I am going to presume she will be fine to compete. Ivanovic should take advantage of a good draw to make the quarter finals.
Kvitova’s form in New Haven has given me confidence that she will make the quarter finals here, beating Petkovic. Wozniacki’s defence will be too much for Stosur to create a New Haven rematch against Kvitova. Azarenka likes these courts so I feel she will beat Safarova to set up a quarter final against Halep. The Romanian will defeat a Lisicki who takes advantage of Bacsinszky’s bad form.
Serena def. Bencic
Ivanovic def. Sharapova
Wozniacki def. Kvitova
Halep def. Azarenka
It would be an incredible story if Bencic was able to shock Serena yet again, but this is a grand slam so I see the world number one prevailing this time. Again, Sharapova’s injury could hamper her progress here so I am going with Ivanovic to make it through that quarter. Kvitova defeated Wozniacki in New haven, but I feel a mix of fatigue and Caro liking these courts will allow the Dane to advance this time. Azarenka is not the player that made the final here anymore, so I feel Halep will prevail in that one.
Serena def. Ivanovic
Halep def. Wozniacki
Ivanovic has tested Serena numerous times over recent years and could do so again here. But it is hard seeing the world number one losing at this stage of a grand slam. Halep and Wozniacki could be a marathon, but I can’t see the Dane making back to back finals.
Serena def. Halep
If Serena makes it to the latter stages I don’t see her losing. It should be a historic tournament for Williams who will add to her ever growing legacy.