Serena Williams embarks on her quest for a 7th US Open title Tuesday night. But there are questions for the best female tennis player on the planet. She’s got a shoulder issue, she’s 34 going on 35 and she’s on the edge of losing her No. 1 ranking to the on-coming Angelique Kerber. Yet, Serena is still the clear favorite having won the US Open three of the last four years and with few true contenders out there, why won’t she win another?
On to the draw…
Serena Williams Quarter
Serena’s road won’t be easy. She’s in the toughest quarter in the better half. And right off the bat she’s pitted against former US Open semifinalist Ekatarina Makarova who beat Serena at a hard court Grand Slam at the 2012 Australian Open. There’s Sam Stosur who beat Serena in the US Open final in 2012 and in the quarters she could run into Simona Halep who’s having herself a great summer. Young Russian Daria Kasatkina and Wimbledon semifinalist Elena Vesnina are in the mix, but it will likely come down to that Serena-Halep quarter and I think Serena’s not going to lose on her home turf. And poor Halep, if only she landed in any other quarter.
The Pick: Serena Williams
Agnieszka Radwanska Quarter
Agnieszka Radwanska just won New Haven, but her struggles in the US Open put me off making her the favorite. Instead, I’ll go with former champion Venus Williams who played well at Wimbledon reaching the semifinals and I like her draw. There’s the Laura Siegemund in the third round, maybe the unproven in Slams Karolina Pliskova in the fourth and then Radwanska, if she gets that far, in the quarters. If the weather gets hot and rain comes into play forcing scheduling issues (neither is forecasted), that will hurt Venus. But the crown, atmosphere and her experience are the difference.
The Pick: Venus Williams
Garbine Muguruza Quarter
The Spaniard Muguruza won her first Slam at the French but she’s fizzled since. And I don’t expect much from her this week which is too bad because it’s an open part of the draw. Madison Keys is probably the favorite but the American often underwhelms. Johanna Konta has come on strong the last year and she’s continued to play well after her Australian Open semifinal run. So I think this quarter gets decided by the Keys-Konta quarterfinal. It’s a tight call but I think Keys edges through.
The Pick: Madison Keys
Angelique Kerber Quarter
The German Kerber is in arguably the softest section of the draw. There’s 2015 finalist Roberta Vinci, Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova and French Open finalist Sara Errani plus 2-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, but other than Vinci only Kerber has any decent US Open history. And I like Kerber’s post Wimbledon effort in Rio and at Cincinnati.
The Pick: Angelique Kerber
Serena d Venus: Serena gets best of older sister in what could be their last sister showdown at the US Open.
Kerber d Keys: Kerber too sly for the error-prone Keys.
Serena d Kerber: Kerber can’t stop Serena moving ahead of Steffi in Grand Slams and in consecutive weeks at No. 1.
The whole women’s draw depends on the health of Serena’s shoulder. That’s it. If Serena’s OK I think she’ll win. It’s her tournament, her surface and her crowd and against a thin field of competition that should be enough.
If the shoulder isn’t good – and who knows, it may not be – then look for a Kerber or a Halep to take advantage. Or what would be really interesting is if Serena were to lose early (like Rio), putting the thought of possibly winning the title in the minds of these players early. That will create some chaos and we could get a result like we saw in Rio when Monica Puig came out of nowhere to win.
A few other players who could make a run are Eugenie Bouchard, Daria Gavrilova, Pliskova and maybe Puig. Pliskova has the game and it’s a good surface for her, but mentally playing in Slams seems to be a hurdle. But we’ve so many surprises in Slams the last year, we might see another in two weeks?
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