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Five takeaways from WTA Toronto and Cincinnati: Keys set for another US Open run as young guns Andreescu and Kenin stake their claims

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 19 Aug 2019
  • Five takeaways from WTA Toronto and Cincinnati
  • Cincinnati champion, Madison Keys set for another US Open run
  • Can young guns, Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin continue their brilliant forms at the US Open
Madison Keys. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via ZUMA Press)

Following the conclusion of the Premier 5 tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati, we run the rules over the last fortnight and pick out some of the talking points ahead of the upcoming US Open.

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Madison Keys played herself into some very good form, while Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin also impressed at the Premier-5 meets in Toronto and Cincinnati.

Keys dangerous in New York

Madison Keys has had an up-and-down couple of seasons- injuries playing a big part in that- but amidst a string of poor results, she has managed to produce some very good Grand Slam performances, particularly at the US Open, where she made the final in 2017, and reached the semi-finals last season.

Her recent record at the US Open, coupled with a confidence-boosting title-run in Cincinnati is a dangerous combination for the rest of the tour, given the American’s ability to blast through any field when she is feeling good and playing well. Keys secured her biggest career title in superb fashion in Cincinnati, beating four Grand Slam champions- Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova to claim her maiden Premier-5 title, and secure a return to the top ten. In a very open WTA field, Keys must surely now be considered as one of the top contenders for the US Open title.

Kuznetsova rolls back the years

She might not have got over the line in Cincinnati, but Svetlana Kuznetsova set Cincinnati alight with her all-round, all-court game to reach her first WTA semi-final since winning the Citi Open in Washington last season. 

The Russian missed the first three months of the year due to a wrist injury and recently had problems securing a US visa, missing her Washington title defence as a result, but she eventually got the visa, entered Cincinnati via a wildcard, and almost produced a miraculous run to the title. The former US Open champion carved her way through a high-quality draw, including a trio of top-ten stars, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty before falling just short against Keys on Sunday. Kuznetsova served for both sets, but faltered at the finish line on each occasion, losing 7-5 7-6.

Can she possibly reproduce that form at the US Open, where she won one of her two Grand Slam titles back in 2009?

Serena’s fitness a concern

Serena Williams played superbly to reach the Rogers Cup final, but all the good work she did in Toronto was soiled by a back injury that forced her to tearfully quit the title match against Bianca Andreescu after just four games, and subsequently pull out of Cincinnati. The severity of the problem remains up in the air ahead of her latest bid for that record equaling 24th Grand Slam title.

Since her return from maternity leave in February last year, Serena has pushed hard for this record, making three finals, but it has so far proven elusive for the legendary American. Will her body allow her launch another sustained challenge in her home major?

Young guns Kenin and Andreescu excel

There are a host of WTA young stars coming through, but two of them stood out in Toronto and Cincinnati. In a run reminiscent of her superb title-winning performance at Indian Wells, home favourite, Bianca Andreescu treated the Canadian crowd to a thrilling week in Toronto, capturing her second career title with a run full of grit and skill in almost equal measure. 

Andreescu was playing just her third tournament since that Indian Wells, as she had been kept on the sidelines by a shoulder injury, but the Canadian produced an inspired week, beating top-ten stars, Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova en route a brilliant title run on home soil. Can she now find an extended period of fitness, and make her Grand Slam move at the US Open? It is not exactly outlandish to suggest that Andreescu could win the US Open, given the talents at her disposal, and the openness of the WTA Tour. Since the turn of the decade, Sam Stosur, Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka have all won the US Open title, so why not the reigning Indian Wells and Rogers Cup champion?

Or why not Sofia Kenin, a semi-finalist in Toronto and Cincinnati? OK maybe Kenin is a much longer shot that Andreescu, as the American does not have some of the options Andreescu possesses, but she has definitely played her way into the reckoning. She is not going to win the US Open title- at least I don’t think so- but she is definitely playing well enough to claim some big scalps in New York. No one will want to face her.

Question marks hover over top-ten stars

It wasn’t a great fortnight for many of the top ten stars, with a number of them failing to make any impressions in Montreal and Cincinnati. Among the main culprits was Kiki Bertens, who was 1-2 in both tournaments, and surrendered her Cincinnati title with an opening round exit, while Sloane Stephens’ dodgy season continued as she mirrored Bertens’ 1-2 record across the fortnight. Stephens is now out of the top-ten following a string of disappointing results. 

Apart from Serena Williams, who made the final in Toronto, Ashleigh Barty was the only top-ten player to reach a semi-final, with her run in Cincinnati, but that only came after she crashed to an opening round exit in Toronto, losing her No. 1 ranking as a result. Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova reached quarter finals in both tournaments, while Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep (who retired from Toronto with a foot injury), made one quarter final across the two events.

Aryna Sabalenka did not make the last eight in either week (although she did reach the final in San Jose in the preceding week), while Petra Kvitova played only Cincinnati, and lost in the opening round. With no one really taking control of the North American hard courts, it will be another wide open field at the US Open!

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Five takeaways from WTA Toronto and Cincinnati: Keys set for another US Open run as young guns Andreescu and Kenin stake their claims

Madison Keys played herself into some very good form ahead of the US Open, while Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin also impressed at the Premier-5 meets in Toronto and Cincinnati.

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