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US Open 2019 women’s draw preview and predictions: Six-time champion Serena Williams battles Sharapova, uncertainty in wide-open field

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 22 Aug 2019
  • Draw preview and predictions for the women's singles at the 2019 US Open
  • Defending champion Naomi Osaka faces a tough road
  • Serena Williams set to clash with Maria Sharapova, Ashleigh Barty
Naomi Osaka is the defending champion at the 2019 US Open (PA Sports)

Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Karolina Pliskova are among the players who could be poised for big runs at the 2019 US Open.

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The women’s draw for the 2019 US Open is out and from first-round clashes between superstars like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to quarters packed with in-form contenders, it throws up question after question.

Six-time champion Williams could dominate her section of the draw if she is fit and focused, while a knee injury for defending champion Naomi Osaka opens up opportunity in her quarter and Simona Halep must be wary of both former winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and Rogers Cup champion Bianca Andreescu.

We’ve predicted the semifinalists, finalists and champion at Wimbledon 2019 – read on for our predictions and reasoning!

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka (1) vs Kiki Bertens (7) (1-1)

Also in this quarter: Aryna Sabalenka (9); Donna Vekic (23); two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka; two-time US Open quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi; Coco Gauff (WC)

First-round matches to watch: Anastasia Potapova vs Coco Gauff (WC); Aryna Sabalenka (9) vs Victoria Azarenka

Returning to the tournament where, 12 months ago, she stormed to an unforgettable – and not always for the right reasons – maiden major title, Naomi Osaka has plenty to contend with if she wants to make it back-to-back US Opens. 

Kaia Kanepi (PA Sports)
The world no. 1 suffered a troubling knee injury in Cincinnati which saw her retire against Sofia Kenin, and the status of that injury is really unknown at this point. It’s a shame, because Osaka actually has a decent draw, the kind that you would expect the top seed, if fit and focused, to master.

Opening against Anna Blinkova, who is having a good week in the Bronx and should come in full of confidence, Osaka is likely to face Magda Linette, also playing some good tennis in 2019 but a manageable opponent, in the second round, but things could and should get interesting in the third round. Veteran Carla Suarez Navarro is not too much of a threat, but Osaka could well face the winner of a first-round clash between Anastasia Potapova – rising Russian who knocked Angelique Kerber out of the French Open – and Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old who beat Venus Williams on the way to the fourth round of Wimbledon.

The powerful but erratic Anett Kontaveit and Dubai champion Belinda Bencic, a former US Open quarterfinalist who is tremendously dangerous but is struggling for fitness at the moment, are the trickiest potential fourth-round opponents.

Kiki Bertens, whose Cincinnati title defense was ended abruptly by Venus Williams in a nail-biter, won back-to-back matches at the US Open for the first time in seven attempts last year and she’s a prime candidate for an early exit, with former quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a potential second-round opponent and Julia Goerges, Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Veronika Kudermetova among those who could make life difficult in the third. It’s the section that will provide Berten’s fourth-round opponent that’s really packed with danger players, however. Aryna Sabalenka, not playing her best at the moment but the only player to take a set off Osaka on her way to the title in 2018, takes on two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka in a must-watch all-Belarusian first round, with the winner likely to face Yulia Putintseva in the second round and either the big-serving Donna Vekic or perpetual Grand Slam danger woman Kaia Kanepi in the third. 

I would back Bencic, who is 2-0 vs Osaka this year, to get through to the semifinals were it not for the left foot injury that saw her retire in Cincinnati. As it is, I think we’re going to see some real carnage in this quarter.

Semifinalist: Kanepi

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Simona Halep (4) vs Petra Kvitova (6) (3-1)

Also in this quarter: 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens (11); Indian Wells and Rogers Cup champion Bianca Andreescu (15); two-time US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki (19); Garbine Muguruza (24); Jelena Ostapenko; 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 

First-round matches to watch: Garbine Muguruza (24) vs Alison Riske

Simona Halep (PA Sports)
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep had some health hiccups in the run-up, retiring in Toronto, but if she’s fit, there should be no danger that Halep will suffer a third straight first-round exit at the US Open. Ousted by Maria Sharapova in 2017 and Kanepi in 2018, Halep has a nice draw through the first few rounds, opening against a qualifier and projected to face Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova – not nearly so dangerous on this surface – in the third round.

Intrigue beckons in the fourth round. Two-time US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki reliably produces her best tennis in New York but the Dane is just 14-12 in 2019 as she struggles with her health, and is up against Acapulco champion Wang Yafan in the first round with Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins a potential second-round opponent. The danger woman in this section is Bianca Andreescu, who produced another stunning, unlikely run to defeat multiple quality opponents and claim the Rogers Cup title in August, just as she had done at Indian Wells in March. Andreescu does struggle for fitness but this is a huge opportunity for her to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time. She’s never played Halep, but she is 7-0 vs top-10 players.

Sixth seed Petra Kvitova has been battling a forearm injury and can be earmarked for an early exit, leaving opportunity rife for Sloane Stephens. The slumping 2017 champion has just reunited with Kamau Murray, who coached her to the title – will it provide a performance bump? And would it be enough to get her past Svetlana Kuznetsova, another former champion looking phenomenal on her return from injury, who trounced Stephens on her way to the Cincinnati final? Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko, both slumping, are unlikely to challenge the victor of that Stephens-Kuznetsova second round for control of this section. Kuznetsova vs Halep or Andreescu for a place in the semifinals?

Semifinalist: Kuznetsova

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina (5) vs Karolina Pliskova (3) (3-5)

Also in this quarter: Madison Keys (10); Sofia Kenin (20); Two-time US Open champion Venus Williams

First-round matches to watch: Venus Williams vs San Jose champion Zheng Saisai; Sofia Kenin (20) vs CoCo Vandeweghe (WC); Johanna Konta (16) vs Daria Kasatkina

Karolina Pliskova (PA Sports)
With Keys, Kenin and Venus Williams, call this the quarter of the lurking Americans – and with neither Elina Svitolina nor Karolina Pliskova on particularly spellbinding form, opportunity knocks.

Svitolina made her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, but has gone 3-4 since and the Ukrainian faces a big test early on in the form of Venus Williams, who can generally be relied upon to find some great tennis at her home major (but has a tricky opener herself in the form of Zheng Saisai, who played so well to win in San Jose).

The very talented Dayana Yastremska, who has a tricky first round herself against the slice-happy Monica Niculescu, could await in the third round. But all eyes will be on the potential third-round clash between Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys (provided of course that Kenin can get past big-serving CoCo Vandeweghe, who has only played eight matches in the past 12 months but is a former US Open semifinalist, in the first round). Kenin, a semifinalist in Toronto and Cincinnati and a fearless competitor but perhaps lacking a reliable kill shot; Keys, who played beautifully to win titles in Charleston and Cincinnati and is all kill shots, but nervy and erratic, yet a quarterfinalist or better at five of the past eight majors. Kenin, should she come through, is 2-0 vs Svitolina this month alone; Keys can beat just about anyone as she proved in Cincinnati.

In the bottom section, Karolina Pliskova has been so consistent this season, but continues to underwhelm at Grand Slams and didn’t dazzle in August. The Czech has a very decent draw, though, with the struggling Caroline Garcia her potential third-round opponent and French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova or Johanna Konta in the fourth. Pliskova should be a shoo-in for the quarterfinals; can she lift her game to meet whoever comes out of the top section?

Semifinalist: Pliskova

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Serena Williams (8) vs Ashleigh Barty (2) (2-0)

Also in this quarter: 2018 semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova (12); 2016 champion Angelique Kerber (14); Maria Sakkari (30); 2006 champion Maria Sharapova

First-round matches to watch: Serena Williams (8) vs Maria Sharapova; Eugenie Bouchard vs Anastasija Sevastova (12); Angelique Kerber (14) vs Kristina Mladenovic

Serena Williams (PA Sports)
There was only one headline when the draw was released, and it was ‘Serena Williams to face Maria Sharapova in the first round’. The two have never met in New York, and they haven’t played since the 2016 Australian Open – before Williams’s maternity leave and Sharapova’s doping suspension. There are plenty of good reasons to tune into this clash between two of the biggest stars in tennis, especially because we may not get too many more chances to watch them.

But suspense about the result isn’t really one of them. We’ve seen plenty of shocking outcomes with Williams recently, and returning to the scene of last year’s controversial final is bound to be very difficult and emotional – not to mention the back problem that caused her to retire in Toronto. But Williams Is on an 18-match winning streak against Sharapova, who is hardly at anything like her best as she deals with her own injury issues.

This quarter is, really, all about Serena and there are a number of interesting potential pitfalls for her. She could face Timea Bacsinszky, a very classy player decimated by injuries, in the second round, and either the unorthodox Su-Wei Hsieh or the surprise Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Mucova in the third. Anastasija Sevastova, a semifinalist at the US Open last year and a reliable performer at this tournament, looks likely to await in the fourth round, with talented Polish teenager Iga Swiatek and the classy but streaky Petra Martic lurking.

It should all be grist to Williams’s mill – if she’s fit – however. French Open champion Barty hasn’t been playing well this month, although she’s fought tooth and nail, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Australian go out in the second round to tenacious American Lauren Davis, while the much-improved Maria Sakkari, who loves American hard courts, awaits in the third round and could also beat Barty. Former champion Angelique Kerber is not in any form whatsoever, but might take advantage of a good draw if she can get past big-hitting Kristina Mladenovic in the first round. But this quarter is Williams’s to lose.

Semifinalist: Serena Williams

Semifinals: Kuznetsova d. Kanepi
Williams d. Pliskova

Final: Williams d. Kuznetsova

US Open tennis is live from New York from 26 August-8 September 2019

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US Open 2019 women’s draw preview and predictions: Six-time champion Serena Williams battles Sharapova, uncertainty in wide-open field

Breaking down the 2019 US Open women’s draw and predicting the semifinalists – Knee injury casts Naomi Osaka’s title defense into question while in-form Americans, led by Serena Williams and Madison Keys, could dominate the bottom half

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