WTA 2015 US Open Tournament Preview

by Jack Suffers on August 29, 2015

The final Slam of the year gets underway tomorrow at Flushing Meadows in New York as the world’s best players battle it out for the trophy, a $1.9 million winner’s cheque and the ranking points which will help them towards a place at the end-of-season WTA Championships in Singapore. But the main story surrounds one woman – Serena Williams – as she chases a fifth consecutive major title and the calendar Grand Slam. For the first time in history, the women’s final sold out before the men’s, with many fans expecting the American star to feature in the showpiece event on September 12. Whether that happens remains to be seen, so here’s an in-depth look at the draw and what we might expect in the next fortnight.

Serena Williams quarter

Semi-finalist: Serena Williams

Vulnerable seed: Agnieszka Radwanska

Serena WilliamsNobody is as motivated to win this tournament than the world number one. She is seeking to claim the trophy for the seventh time overall and her fourth in a row, while also completing the Grand Slam set in a season for the first time in her career. She would join the great Steffi Graf as the only Open Era players to achieve the feat – the German won all four back in 1988. However, while no draw for Serena can be called ‘difficult’ right now, it certainly could have been easier. She opens against world number 86 Vitalia Diatchenko, but there are several big hitters in her section in the shape of Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe, who face each other in round one, and Madison Keys. Also in the mix is Agnieszka Radwanska, who could meet her sister Urszula in round two before facing off with Keys for the second Slam in succession.

The other half of the quarter is headed by two youngsters – eighth seed Karolina Pliskova, who has just broken the top 10 for the first time in her career, and Belinda Bencic, who is playing some of the best tennis on tour. The latter astonished everyone with her title run in Toronto, not only beating Serena, but also the likes of Wozniacki, Lisicki, Ivanovic and Halep in the final. The only question mark is her physical condition after playing so many matches, as she pulled out of her third-round match against Lucie Safarova with a right forearm injury. As for Pliskova, this is a place with good memories after she reached the third round last year, beating Ivanovic along the way, and the seed she is projected to meet in round three is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has shown good hard court form recently. Also in the mix is Venus Williams, who is in Bencic’s section, and the two-time former champion could meet her sister in the last eight.

Maria Sharapova quarter

Semi-finalist: Jelena Jankovic

Vulnerable seed: Maria Sharapova

Maria SharapovaAlthough the Russian is one of the top seeds here at number three, it’s hard to see her going on a spectacular run. The 2006 champion has not played since her semi-final loss to Serena Williams at Wimbledon and will be a little rusty adjusting to the hard courts in the early stages. Fortunately for her, she doesn’t get too bad a start, opening against Daria Gavrilova, who has lost seven of her last 10 matches, before Ana Konjuh is a likely second round opponent. What’s more, Svetlana Kuznetova suffered a leg injury in Washington and gets the tricky Kristina Mladenovic in round one, so the principal threats will come from either Elina Svitolina or Ekaterina Makarova, who seems to come to life at the Slams and reached the semi-finals here last year.

The other section is also fairly open, with seventh seed Ana Ivanovic the favourite to progress. Although the Serbian excelled at the French Open this year, her form on hard hasn’t been anything to shout about, and she has a tough first round opponent in former top 10 player Dominika Cibulkova. Meanwhile, Eugenie Bouchard, who is working with Jimmy Connors in an attempt to arrest her dreadful form, will take on Alison Riske – one of the few players she has beaten this year. Carla Suarez Navarro and Jelena Jankovic are the other seeds likely to meet in the third round, and the latter looks a good bet to make an impact, having reached the Cincinnati semi-finals last week.

Caroline Wozniacki quarter

Semi-finalist: Petra Kvitova

Vulnerable seed: Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki 1Let’s turn our attentions to the bottom half of the draw, starting with a quarter featuring fourth seed Wozniacki and fifth seed Petra Kvitova. The two squared off in the New Haven semi-finals this week, with the Czech winning in straight sets before coming from a set down to beat Lucie Safarova in the final. The top players would usually skip this event to rest up, but Kvitova needed to build match fitness while Wozniacki sought confidence after losing her first matches in both Toronto and Cincinnati. The Dane’s form on hard this season has been pretty poor by her standards, and the pressure is on to defend a bucket load of ranking points having reached the final last year. Flavia Pennetta is her projected third round opponent and she might face 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the last 16, so it’s crucial she starts quickly.

Meanwhile, Kvitova could meet Aana Schmiedlova in round three, and the young Slovakian is full of confidence after reaching the quarter-finals in Cincinnati, although she is yet to beat a top 10 player. The other section features Garbine Muguruza, who is winless after her Wimbledon exploits and is unlikely to beat Andrea Petkovic if the pair meet in round three. There is also British interest in the form of Laura Robson and Johanna Konta, who begin their campaigns against players ranked outside the top 100 in Elena Vesnina and Laura Chirico respectively. American 18-year-old Chirico showed her potential by beating Alize Cornet in a three-set marathon in Washington, so Konta will need to bring her A game to stop her and the home crowd.

Simona Halep quarter

Semi-finalist: Simona Halep

Vulnerable seed: Lucie Safarova

Simona HalepThe Romanian star has had an interesting year – while her season started positively with a quarter-final run at the Australian Open and her biggest ever title at Indian Wells, she suffered a mid-season slump with early exits at the French and Wimbledon. She also reached the semis in Miami and the final of both Toronto and Cincinnati, and her overall hard court form is second only to Serena Williams. Despite playing a lot recently, she’s had a week off and should be fresh. She gets her campaign underway against Marina Erakovic and could face the streaky Alize Cornet in round three. Sabine Lisicki and Timea Bacsinszky are potential round of 16 opponents, but there’s a sense the latter is feeling the effects of burnout after a tough clay court season, and she is without a win since Wimbledon. Lisicki is, of course, never easy to predict but she’s never reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.

There was much talk over where Victoria Azarenka would land in the draw, and she is in the section with Lucie Safarova and Angelique Kerber. The Belarusian has always enjoyed playing in New York since reaching the last 16 as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, and has reached the final twice in 2012 and 2013, falling to Serena Williams on both occasions. She is on a collision course with Kerber in the third round, who should be confident with four titles under her belt in 2015 – the most recent coming in Stanford. Meanwhile, sixth seed Lucie Safarova doesn’t appear to have too difficult a start, which is just as well given the fact she lost her opening matches at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Toronto. The only crumb of comfort has been her run to the final this week in New Haven, although even then she lost after winning the first set against Kvitova and will need to put the disappointment of defeat behind her quickly.

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