2016 US Open Women’s Preview
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The US Open is turning out to be one of the most fascinating tournaments in a long time. There is more than a Grand Slam title at stake. Four players are in the running to finish the tournament as the world number one. So many players, so many stories, we can’t wait.
Tier: Grand Slam
Location: New York, USA
Date: August 29- September 11
Top eight seeds
1. Serena Williams
2. Angelique Kerber
3. Garbine Muguruza
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
5. Simona Halep
6. Venus Williams
7. Roberta Vinci
8. Madison Keys
First round matches to watch
(1)Serena Williams vs Ekaterina Makarova : There could have hardly been a more dangerous round one player to draw than Makarova, and it just so happens it is Serena that has got her.
The Russian is a former semi finalist here, and holds a Grand Slam victory over the world number one. There is a lot of pressure on Serena with her status as the top ranked player in the game under serious scrutiny, and her attempt to match Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record.
It is rare that the top seed draws such a dangerous unseeded player, but in this case it certainly rings true. Makarova is a lefty which provides extra awkwardness for the American, and when at her best she is a top 10 player. She was ranked there not too long ago.
But the match is on Serena’s racket as usual. If the world number one can kick start her tournament with a win over a very good opponent then that will no doubt boost her form for later rounds.
(5) Simona Halep vs Kirsten Flipkens: Halep is projected to face Serena in the quarter finals, but she also must not look past the opening round where she faces a dangerous opponent.
Flipkens might not be the most consistent player out there, but she has an unusual game that can trouble anyone. Whilst the WTA is full of powerful hitters, Flipkens builds her game around finesse.
But for all her awkwardness, Halep does boast a good record over the Belgian. The Romanian has won all four of their previous meetings, but this is their first for two years.
Serena’s quarter: There is usually an air of certainty that surrounds Serena and Grand Slams, but this US Open is anything but. Williams will have to fight for her ranking as well as chasing a 23rd Grand Slam. Makarova is a player you don’t want to face in the opening round and could arguably be her biggest test of the first week. 29th seed Ana Ivanovic is in no form and may face an early exit of her own. Sam Stosur, who famously defeated Serena to win her maiden major title here 5 years a go, will likely be the next big test of this US Open. The Aussie herself faces the unpredictable Camila Giorgi first, then there is a possible round three against Daria Kasatkina. A win for Serena in the last 16 will leave her one win away from even being in contention to finish the tournament as the world number one.
Halep could dash those hopes. The Romanian has been drawn in the same quarter as Serena and comes into the US Open in good form- her decision to skip the Olympics may turn out to be a good one as she aims for her first Grand Slam title. It is a tough draw with Flipkens first, then either Lucie Safarova or Daria Gavrilova in the second round. Big serving Timea Babos is the first seeded player Halep is due to face. Carla Suarez Navarro could set up a intriguing fourth round match-up. The 11th seed has a good draw ahead of her with 19th seed Elena Vesnina being the biggest test before Halep.
Radwanska’s quarter: The Pole has seemingly recovered from her poor Olympic showing after reaching the final of New Haven last week. But can her deep run in Connecticut be a hindrance to her chances? There is a possibility of fatigue and that could play a factor as she reaches the seeded players. Caroline Garcia is the one she is projected to face first, but the Frenchwoman is a little out of sorts, so it could end up being Eugenie Bouchard instead. It does not get any easier as Timea Bacsinszky, who holds a 2-0 head to head record over the fourth seed, is scheduled to meet Radwanska in the fourth round. The Swiss is due to face Kiki Bertens in round three, but she could find herself undone by rising youngster Ana Konjuh. Radwanska will realistically have to win the US open to stand a chance of becoming world number one, and there are some banana skins in that draw.
The possibility of another potential Williams sisters clash in New York has grown with the draw. They will meet in the semi finals, providing all goes well from their family’s perspective. Venus has a few dangerous players in her draw, but her run will likely not come under threat until the fourth round. Karolina Pliskova has struggled to translate her tour form to Grand Slams, but her confidence is sky high after winning in Cincinnati two weeks ago. The Czech could come unstuck against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, but the Russian has a few youngsters in Louisa Chirico and Kristina Mladenovic to face first.
Muguruza’s quarter: Outside of her French Open title win, little much positive can be said about Muguruza’s form this year. However, she is still in contention to be the number one player in the world after the US Open, and comes into New York with nothing to defend. The Spaniard’s opening two matches should be straight forward, but Monica Puig could possibly await in the third round, and she is fresh off winning Olympic gold. Johanna Konta has also landed in this section, and she is looking to repeat last year’s success here. The Brit faces American wild-card Bethanie Mattek-Sands in an interesting round one affair, then it will likely be Tsvetana Pironkova in round two. Konta could faces the recovering Belinda Bencic, who has been injured throughout the year, in the third round. A win there could possibly set up another Big Apple meeting with Muguruza, who she upset last year.
Many people are tipping Keys to have a big tournament in a home slam, and there is no reason why she can not. The American can match anyone for power, and she is constantly growing mentally. She will have All-American clashes in the opening two rounds, with potential for a big serving battle with another compatriot Coco Vandeweghe in the third. Svetlana Kuznetsova is slated to meet the eighth seed in the round of 16, but the Russian could be locked in a feisty tussle with Barbora Strycova in round three. Caroline Wozniacki has also landed in this section, and is scheduled to face Kuznetsova in the second round.
Kerber’s quarter: In the race for the number one ranking, Kerber goes in as the favourite. She has not many points to defend, and if she is in good form she should beat her round three result of last year. Alize Cornet and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni are dangerous opponents, and one of them will meet the German in the second round. Sara Errani should be a victory in the third round for Kerber, but it is the fourth where things get really interesting. Petra Kvitova has been drawn in this section along with the in form Elina Svitolina. On her day, Kvitova can beat anyone and storm to the title, on another she could easily lose in her opening match. Svitolina is fresh off her New Haven final run, but there will be questions on how much of a physical toll that has taken on her.
Vinci ended up pulling off the biggest upset of last year by defeating Serena and thus ended her calendar year grand slam conquest. The Italian would go on to lose the final to the now retired Flavia Pennetta, but that will always remain as a career highlight. Vinci has failed to really build on that form, and it is unlikely she will repeat last year’s success. There are some dangerous player in her section such as Christina McHale and Mona Barthel. Misaki Doi is the first seeded opponent the Italian will face, but the seventh seed’s tournament is likely to end in the fourth round. Dominika Cibulkova, a player who has re-climbed the rankings this year, is the round four opponent. The Slovakian has a good draw to player her way in to form too, with the out of sorts Irina Begu being the biggest threat.
Round of 16:
Serena def. Stosur
Halep def. Suarez Navarro
Radwanska def. Bacsinszky
Venus def. Pavlyuchenkova
Keys def. Kuznetsova
Konta def. Puig
Cibulkova def. Vinci
Kerber def. Svitolina
Serena def. Halep
Venus def. Radwanska
Keys def. Konta
Kerber def. Cibulkova
Serena def. Venus
Keys def. Kerber
Serena def. Keys
It is such a difficult tournament to predict, and when in doubt, you have to choose Serena. She always rises to the occasion, and with all the pressure on her, providing she is fit and healthy, she should do the same here. Venus has a decent draw to the semi finals which will set up the showdown with her sister. Kerber will feel the pressure of becoming the world number one and will ultimately stumble to Keys. The young American will not have enough, however, to overcome Serena.