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French Open 2020: Women’s singles draw analysis, preview and predictions

Proven Roland Garros champions Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza are the favourites but does the draw support their French Open chances?

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina lead the draw at the 2020 French Open.

French Open 2020: Preview

With players enclosed in a bio-security bubble, only 1,000 spectators allowed per day and the tournament rescheduled from sunny June to chilly, damp October, the 2020 French Open will be unlike any other edition of the Grand Slam in its history.

Naomi Osaka triumphed at the US Open under its own unusual conditions, but Osaka, along with defending champion Ashleigh Barty, is one of the absentees from the French Open. Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu are also not playing.

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of contenders for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Former winners Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Serena Williams are all among the favourites to regain the trophy. On the other hand, the French Open has seen six first-time major winners on the women’s side in the past decade. Could there be a seventh in 2020?

French Open Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Simona Halep (1) vs Kiki Bertens (5)
Tournament favourite Halep comes in on glittering form, having won her last 14 matches – ten of them on clay as she captured the Prague Open and Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome – and with a 28-9 record at Roland Garros, having made the quarterfinals or better for the past three years.

But the draw immediately threw up some potential obstacles for Halep. Jil Teichmann, the rising Swiss player, was helpfully taken out by Irina-Camelia Begu, against whom Halep is 7-0. More concerningly, Amanda Anisimova, who blasted Halep off the court in straight sets in last year’s quarterfinals, was her projected third-round opponent.

In the end, Halep rose to the occasion in tremendous style. Nineteen-year-old Anisimova has looked a bit lost this season, but the top seed gave her no opportunity to find her feet, trouncing her 6-0, 6-1.

Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up, was projected to await in the round of 16 and had beaten Halep in both their previous meetings, but the Czech was an early casualty of talented young Pole Iga Swiatek in the first round. Swiatek went on to beat Su-Wei Hsieh and Eugenie Bouchard, the former top-10 player and French Open semifinalist, in the draw as a wildcard. Halep and Swiatek will meet in the last 16, a rematch of last year’s encounter at the same stage which Halep won 6-1, 6-0.

The 2019 semifinalist Johanna Konta went out to Coco Gauff in the first round, while fifth seed Kiki Bertens is not really a strong Grand Slam performer despite her clay-court prowess and retired in Strasbourg due to an Achilles injury. Full-body cramps saw the Dutch player wheelchaired off the court after a marathon battle against Sara Errani in the second round, but she returned rejuvenated two days later to record a very solid victory over Katerina Siniakova. Bertens now looks a much likelier quarterfinalist as she will face either Maria Sakkari or Martina Trevisan, who eliminated Coco Gauff.

Halep is playing too well at the moment not to pick her to come through to the semifinals, but Bertens is emerging as a potential threat: Their head-to-head is 3-3, with Bertens actually leading 2-1 on clay courts.

Predicted semifinalist: Halep (6/5 @ SkyBet to win her quarter)

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Elina Svitolina (5) vs Serena Williams (6)
Svitolina only returned to competition in Rome, where she made the quarterfinals, and won the Strasbourg title the week before Roland Garros. A two-time French Open quarterfinalist, and twice a Grand Slam semifinalist in 2019, Svitolina’s tennis hasn’t been too inspiring so far – she was patchy in being dragged to three by Renata Zarazua in the second round – but she was up to the challenge of beating Ekaterina Alexandrova, more formidable on hard courts than clay, in the third.

Svitolina has lost her last three matches against Caroline Garcia – will she be in trouble when they meet in the fourth round? Garcia ousted Australian Open quarterfinalist Anett Kontaveit in the first round and then tricky Aliaksandra Sasnovich to set up a third-round clash with Elise Mertens. Mertens came in on nice form, and crushed Garcia in the first set, but spurred on by an enthusiastic if small Philippe-Chatrier crowd, Garcia came back to win in three dramatic sets. Just about nobody picked Garcia to make the quarterfinals in Paris for a second time, but she now looks nicely poised to do so – and perhaps go even further.

The bottom half of this section was blown wide open on Wednesday by the withdrawal of Serena Williams due to a left Achilles injury and the defeat of Victoria Azarenka at the hands of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who also beat Venus Williams. Now qualifier Nadia Podoroska or Barbora Krejcikova, the unseeded Czech better known as a doubles player up until this point, will be in the quarterfinals awaiting Svitolina or Garcia.

Predicted semifinalist: Svitolina (8/5 @ 888Sport to win her quarter)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs Sofia Kenin (4)
Clay is not Sabalenka’s best surface and I don’t think these conditions will be a good match for her, but the powerful Belarusian has fought her way into the third round past Daria Kasatkina, a former quarterfinalist showing flickers of resurgence. Ons Jabeur should end Sabalenka’s run, with her unorthodox, crafty tennis.

Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion who made the Australian Open final in January, was a popular pick coming in, but her draw is unpleasant. Her opening opponent Tamara Zidansek is a good clay-courter, and ended up pushing Muguruza the distance – the Spaniard had to dig out a win from 0-3 down in the decider. Muguruza was able to keep things simpler in a straight-sets win over Kristyna Pliskova, but third-round opponent Danielle Collins can cause top players all sorts of problems even if clay isn’t her preferred surface.

Garbine Muguruza (Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Should Muguruza power her way through that lot, she’s likely got to contend with Jabeur and then perhaps Sofia Kenin in the quarterfinals. Kenin beat Muguruza at the Australian Open, she beat Serena Williams at this tournament last year; she lost her only warm-up match 0-6, 0-6 to Azarenka in Rome, but she got past Liudmilla Samsonova, who has been playing well, in R1 and she’s got a nice draw to play her way in. The other potential threat is Fiona Ferro, the Palermo Open champion, who has looked ominous over the summer and took out 14th seed Elena Rybakina. Ferro will face Istanbul champion Patricia Maria Tig with the winner likely to face Kenin.

Muguruza had injury concerns in Rome, but in six years she’s not failed to reach the last 16; she’s 0-2 vs Kenin, but they have never played on clay. Despite a tough draw the 2016 champion still looks like the player to beat in these damp conditions.

Predicted semifinalist: Muguruza (13/8 @ SkyBet to win her quarter)

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Petra Kvitova (7) vs Karolina Pliskova (2)
Second seed Pliskova is a former French Open semifinalist and played well in Rome to reach the final, only to be sidelined by injury and have to retire against Halep. Injury, however, had nothing to do with a straight-sets defeat to Jelena Ostapenko in the second round which has left Ostapenko looking very much like a force to be reckoned with in this tournament once more.

Champion in Paris in 2017 when she blasted her way to the title, Ostapenko showcased a much more well-rounded game in her upset of Pliskova and has avoided having to take on former finalist Sloane Stephens in the third, with the American going out to Paula Badosa.

Should Ostapenko beat Badosa, she will face Petra Martic or Laura Siegemund, both finesse players who can’t match Ostapenko’s power but could disrupt her game – that’s a tough ask for the Latvian to come through that match.

Petra Kvitova was a French Open semifinalist in 2012 but has made the second week just once since then. She hasn’t dropped a set in the first two rounds, and faces 18-year-old Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez, a fellow lefty, in the third round. Should Kvitova make it back to the round of 16 at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, she is likely to face the experienced Zhang Shuai. Zhang knocked out Madison Keys in the first round and then Alize Cornet, and faces wildcard Clara Burel – who knocked out the talented Kaja Juvan, who had ousted Angelique Kerber – in the last 32. Kvitova lost her only previous clay-court match against Zhang.

Semifinalist: Martic (9/2 @ Paddy Power to win her quarter)

French Open 2020: Prediction

Semifinals:

Halep d. Svitolina
Muguruza d. Martic

Final:

Halep d. Muguruza

Serena Williams has pulled out of the French Open ahead of her second-round match with Tsvetana Pironkova.

Three-time French Open champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the tournament, giving a walkover to her second-round opponent.

The French Open website confirmed the news on Wednesday morning when it showed a walkover for Tsvetana Pironkova into the third round.

Williams confirmed that the withdrawal was due to a left Achilles injury, saying she was ‘struggling to walk’.

She told press:

‘We realised it wasn’t the best for me to try to play today. Struggling to walk and that’s a sign that I should try to recover.’

Williams was due to play Pironkova, who pushed her to three sets in the quarterfinals of the US Open, as the second match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day four of the tournament.

The American had Achilles injury concerns towards the end of her US Open campaign, which saw her reach the semifinals but fall to Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

Seeded sixth at Roland Garros, Williams did not play any clay-court matches coming into the tournament, withdrawing from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome due to a left Achilles injury.

She had a hard-fought opening match against compatriot Kristie Ahn, with the first set alone lasting 74 minutes.

Williams’s quest for a twenty-fourth major title, which would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record, will now be on hold until 2021. The American, who already holds the Open Era record for most Grand Slam titles won, has not been able to win a major since returning from maternity leave in 2018 despite reaching four finals.

Her best result at a Grand Slam in 2020 remains her semifinal finish at the US Open. She fell in the third round of the Australian Open to Wang Qiang.

It is unclear whether Williams would have planned to play any more tournaments in 2020 anyway – the WTA Tour schedule currently lists just one more tournament scheduled after the French Open, the Asian swing having been cancelled entirely due to the global pandemic.

‘I think I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing and at least just two weeks of sitting down. After that two weeks I’ve been told I need to do a little training. I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another tournament this year.’

It is the second time in three years that Williams has withdrawn from the French Open mid-tournament – in 2018 she gave a walkover to Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.

But the American denied that the Achilles problem is something that will be a concern for years to come.

‘I feel like my body is willing, this is not a nagging injury, this is an acute injury… I feel my body is actually doing really well and I just ran into bad timing and bad luck really in New York.’

Williams’s withdrawal will boost the chances of a deep run for both Azarenka, who was projected to meet Williams in the fourth round, and Elina Svitolina, who was the other top seed in her quarter.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion and tournament favourite, will also not have to go through a potential semifinal clash with Williams to reach the final.

Svitolina, Azarenka and Halep are all due to play their second-round matches on Wednesday as the tournament moves on.

A US Open rematch could be a stern test of Serena Williams’s French Open aspirations despite her unbeaten record against Tsvetana Pironkova.

Serena vs Pironkova is live from Roland Garros on Wednesday 30 September, 1pm local/12pm BST

For the second time in two rounds at Roland Garros, Serena Williams finds herself facing an opponent who pushed her hard at the US Open as she takes on Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Pironkova un-retired after three years away from the sport to make a dazzling run to the US Open quarterfinals, where she pushed Williams to the limit. Will it be another three-set battle between them on the French clay?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Williams vs Pironkova: Head-to-head

Serena Williams has an unbeaten 5-0 record against Tsvetana Pironkova, stretching back to their first meeting – and only match on clay – at the French Open in 2007, when Williams won 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

They played most recently at the US Open when Pironkova led by a set and a break before Williams came back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Williams vs Pironkova: Preview

This French Open so far really is déjà vu all over again for three-time champion Serena Williams, who had a first-round rematch from New York with Kristie Ahn on Monday and now faces US Open quarterfinal opponent Pironkova.

Williams beat Ahn 7-5, 6-3 at the US Open, but made it a slightly more emphatic 7-6(2), 6-0 victory over her compatriot on the clay despite trailing by a break for most of a very hard-fought first set. It took the sixth seed 74 minutes to win the first set, broken in a marathon nine-deuce third game before getting back on serve in an almost-as-long six-deuce game for 4-4; it was followed by another exchange of breaks before Williams was finally able to dominate the tie-break, and lead from there. She ended the match with 11 aces, 26 winners and 36 unforced errors.

Given the way Williams’s US Open campaign ended – fading physically and struggling with an Achilles injury which saw her withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, meaning she comes into the French Open with no clay-court matches – and the very unusual conditions prevailing at Roland Garros this year, it was a very solid start to her campaign. But Pironkova will be a much bigger challenge. Where Ahn hits hard from the baseline, Pironkova adds to her very classic backhand a slice forehand which played havoc with Williams’s footwork and ground game at the US Open, and a nice line in drop shots and net play.

Tsvetana Pironkova (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

We have tended to think of the Bulgarian as a grass-court specialist – she was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2010 and a quarterfinalist in 2011 – but she also made the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2016, another year when conditions were cold and wet in Paris, and she has a 133-102 record on clay.

But then, Pironkova kind of threw conventional wisdom to the wind when she came back at the US Open and made her first hard-court Grand Slam quarterfinal there despite having not played since Wimbledon 2017. The level of tennis she produced to beat Garbine Muguruza in the second round was dazzling and although she faded physically, which was predictable, it was not until after she had really outplayed Williams completely in the first set in New York.

If Williams wants to win this title, she needs short matches, but in this one, survival might be the name of the game. In theory these conditions should favour the American, who can power the ball through the slow courts, but then Pironkova played so well in similar conditions in 2016. Williams can’t rely on the Bulgarian fading physically this time; she needs to impose herself on the match from the beginning. I think we could be looking at another lengthy match.

Williams vs Pironkova: Prediction

Serena Williams targets the fourteenth US Open semifinal of her extraordinary career as she takes on Tsvetana Pironkova, a woman who is having a remarkable tournament herself.

Serena vs Pironkova is live from New York on Wednesday 9 September, 12pm local/5pm BST

After tough tests against Sloane Stephens and Maria Sakkari, both of whom pushed Serena Williams to a third set, is the six-time US Open champion vulnerable or simply being battle-hardened by each challenge she sees off?

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

Williams has not lost a US Open quarterfinal since 2007, and she has never lost to Tsvetana Pironkova. The Bulgarian lost all four previous matches against Williams, but her run this fortnight, in her first tournament after retiring in 2017 to have a child, proves that nothing is impossible.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Pironkova live

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Serena vs Pironkova: Head-to-head

Serena Williams has won all four of her previous matches against Tsvetana Pironkova. Pironkova took sets on grass and clay, but their two most recent matches, which were also their two hard-court matches, saw Williams win all four sets: 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

They last played in Cincinnati in 2015.

Serena vs Pironkova: Preview

Serena Williams has been tested on her way to the quarterfinals, having to rally from a set down against Sloane Stephens before surviving a rematch with Maria Sakkari, who beat her in ‘Cincinnati’ less than two weeks ago.

Sakkari played very well, finding her most attacking tennis against Williams: Undeterred by letting three break points in a row slip past in the first set, or two in the second set, she clinched it in a tie-break and actually led 2-0 against a Serena who was, if not reeling, struggling to find her range on her forehand and a way through Sakkari.

Does battling her way through without being able to consistently find her best tennis bode well for Williams’s chances, or mean that she’s vulnerable? Time will tell, but I incline to the latter. Ultimately, she found her biggest shots when they mattered most against Sakkari, and as importantly, she didn’t appear to be physically struggling through the 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory, unlike in ‘Cincinnati’ when she cramped in the third set.

Tsvetana Pironkova is 0-4 vs Serena Williams (PA Images)

Williams might have the physical advantage over Pironkova in the quarterfinals, because the Bulgarian definitely looked to be struggling against Alize Cornet. In fact, both women seemed to be struggling physically in a match which nevertheless contained many, many marathon rallies and lasted two hours and 53 minutes, although it would not have had Pironkova been able to serve it out when she had the opportunity in the second set. It was a tremendously watchable match, but it did leave me with the impression that Pironkova, as well as she played and has been playing, is beginning to feel the physical strain of so many matches after so long out of competition.

Apart from that factor, how do these two match up? Williams has won all their matches, and all of their sets on hard courts, although they haven’t met since 2015. Pironkova has a vicious slice forehand which has been most effective on these courts, and can be a good tactic against Williams, as well as a gorgeous backhand, but she’s much, much more about craft than power. Unless she produces a once-in-a-lifetime serving performance, Williams should be able to break her serve without too much trouble and I see a fairly dominant straight-sets win for the American to end the Bulgarian’s memorable run.

Serena vs Pironkova: Prediction

Maria Sakkari beat Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Open – will Serena get revenge at the US Open?

Serena vs Sakkari is live from New York on Monday 7 September, time TBC

Serena Williams served for the match against Maria Sakkari in ‘Cincinnati’ two weeks ago and was two points from victory, but the athletic Greek pulled off a tremendous comeback from the brink of defeat, beating the American 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-1.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

With Sakkari bursting with self-belief, will Williams be able to close out the match if she gets into a winning position this time, with a place in the quarterfinals of the US Open on the line?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Sakkari live

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Serena vs Sakkari: Head-to-head

Serena Williams and Maria Sakkari’s match at the Western & Southern Open this August, which Sakkari won 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-1, was their only meeting so far.

Serena vs Sakkari: Preview

Six-time US Open champion Serena Williams won her first two matches at this year’s tournament in straight sets, breaking a six-match streak in which all her matches had gone the distance – a streak which included defeats to Anastasija Sevastova in Fed Cup in February, Shelby Rogers in Lexington and Sakkari in ‘Cincinnati’. But Williams was back to being stretched to three when she faced fellow former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the third round.

The match followed a familiar pattern – a fired-up, aggressive Stephens coming out and using her signature brand of seemingly effortless power to make Williams move and stretch her wide, then hitting a winner into the open court, making Williams look slow and sluggish while the older woman struggled to get what she needed out of her first serve; Williams slowly raising her level and Stephens being unable to sustain hers, and the match doing a U-turn midway through the second set. In this case, the switch happened when Stephens made a poor return on break point; Williams did not look back, serving better and better as Stephens fell away. By the time she closed out the 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 match, ending with 12 aces, 29 winners and 23 unforced errors, Williams was in complete control.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

Having a day off to recover and rest is a crucial advantage for Williams, who struggled physically with long matches on back-to-back days in Lexington and ‘Cincinnati’. But when it comes to fitness, it’s difficult not to conclude that Sakkari reigns supreme. The 25-year-old Greek player somehow seems to have got fitter than ever during the six months that WTA Tour tennis was suspended, and if she doesn’t have the big serve or outright explosive point-ending power of Williams, she can run for days – and days.

Maria Sakkari is 9-13 vs top-10 players (PA Images)

Sakkari is now 15-8 in 2020 after making the fourth round of a major for the first time at the Australian Open, the semifinals of St Petersburg and the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open; at the US Open, she survived three-set battles against Stefanie Voegele and Bernarda Pera before impressing in a 6-3, 6-1 victory over a discombobulated Amanda Anisimova. With a 9-13 record against top-10 players – with the majority of those victories coming either on clay or American hard courts – Sakkari is definitely a threat: She can make Williams hit a lot of balls, which is an effective formulation against the American, and she will certainly back herself to be physically able to compete no matter how long the match is, something Serena couldn’t do in ‘Cincinnati’ where she cramped in the third set.

If Williams comes out serving well, and keeping her unforced errors under control, she should win in straight sets; if she gets taken to a third set, it’s advantage Sakkari. I’m backing Serena, who was furious with herself for letting that ‘Cincinnati’ match slip away, to get the victory.

Serena vs Sakkari: Prediction

Serena Williams faces fellow US Open champion Sloane Stephens for a place in the last 16: Will this be her first real test?

Serena vs Stephens is live from New York on Saturday 5 September, 2pm local/7pm BST

It’s been smooth sailing for Serena Williams so far in her quest for a seventh US Open title, despite some rocky results in the build-up to the tournament. But the third seed has yet to face a real challenge.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

Could Sloane Stephens be that challenge? The 2017 US Open champion is a formidable player when she’s on song, and has beaten Williams at a major before, but has lost all four of their subsequent matches. They last played five years ago, before Stephens became a major winner, however.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Stephens live

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Serena vs Stephens: Head-to-head

Serena Williams leads the head-to-head 5-1 with Sloane Stephens. Stephens’s solitary victory came at the Australian Open in 2013, when Stephens won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Since then, Williams has won all four matches they have played. Their most recent match was at the French Open in 2015 when Williams won 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Serena vs Stephens: Preview

A first meeting in five years between the only American players to win a Grand Slam singles title in the past decade (until Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open in January), and it feels long overdue.

When they last played at the French Open in 2015, Williams would win in three sets and go on to claim the title despite suffering from a flu-like illness throughout the tournament. It was the 20th major title of her career; Williams would go on to pick up three more in 2015-17, then go on maternity leave in 2017 before returning in 2018, making four Grand Slam finals in 2018-19. Oddly enough, however, she had already won her most recent US Open title. Glory in New York has eluded her since 2015, despite semifinal finishes in 2016-17 and reaching the final in 2018-19.

Sloane Stephens has won the first set in two of her last three matches vs Serena Williams (PA Images)

Stephens would take her own enforced career break in late 2016 when she missed the best part of a year due to a foot injury, returning to competition in July 2017 when she made one of the most remarkable comebacks in living memory, making back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati before winning the US Open title despite being ranked world no. 83, beating Ashleigh Barty, Venus Williams and Madison Keys on the way. Stephens would spend 2018 in the top 10, making finals at Roland Garros, Montreal and the WTA Finals, but had a poor end to 2019 when she failed to defend those points and is now down to world no. 39. Before the US Open, she had won just one of the eight matches she had played in 2020 – and that was a win over the world no. 497.

The 27-year-old has made a good start at the US Open with wins over Mihaela Buzarnescu – not quite the threat she was a couple of years ago – and Olga Govortsova, and one of the intriguing (and infuriating) things about Stephens is that form really doesn’t matter very much when it comes to her. She is quite capable of producing her best tennis out of nowhere, but it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen any sign of it for quite a while.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

Williams’s travails in the build-up to the US Open have been well-documented: Each of the five matches she played went the distance, and the occasional impressive win – like the one she scored over sister Venus in Lexington – did not outweigh frustrating defeats to Shelby Rogers and Misaki Doi. Her matches so far at the US Open have been a bit uneven, but she has avoided being taken the distance, beating Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 and then Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-4, despite being broken when serving for the first set and then being unable to hold on to a 4-2 lead in the second.

What to expect when these two meet for the first time in five years? Stephens will play some of her better tennis, I think; twice in their past three matches she has come out firing, taking the first set with her rarely-leveraged power but being unable to sustain that kind of aggressive tennis. Williams has struggled recently when in the lead, or trying to close out matches, and Stephens can make her hit a lot of balls, but I think that Sloane – having beaten her before – has a tendency to bring out Williams’s best tennis.

Serena vs Stephens: Prediction

For the third time, Serena Williams faces Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan at a Grand Slam: Will the American maintain dominance at the US Open?

Serena vs Gasparyan is live from New York on Thursday 3 September, time TBC

Serena Williams’s 7-5, 6-3 victory over Kristie Ahn on Tuesday did more than start her campaign for a seventh US Open title: It was also her 102nd singles win at the US Open, breaking her tie with Chris Evert and securing the record for most US Open singles match wins in history.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

That’s not the record that Williams is in New York to chase, however, and her focus will be firmly on a second-round clash with Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan, who has lost both their previous encounters in one-sided straight sets – but nothing can be taken for granted with Serena these days.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Gasparyan live

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Serena vs Gasparyan: Head-to-head

Williams leads the head-to-head with Gasparyan 2-0, having beaten her 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of Wimbledon in 2015 and 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2016.

Serena vs Gasparyan: Preview

Williams has never really come close to dropping a set to Gasparyan: Will she be able to maintain that dominance at the US Open in 2020?
As we all know, things have been up and down for Williams in 2020, even before the six-month suspension: She won the Auckland title for the loss of one set, but went out in the third round of the Australian Open to Wang Qiang in a mass of errors; before the US Open, all five of the matches she had played since returning from hiatus had gone the distance, with Williams losing to Shelby Rogers in Lexington and Maria Sakkari in ‘Cincinnati’ after winning the first set.

Williams snapped that streak when she beat Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday, a reasonably solid win which saw her recover early breaks in both sets. The third seed served 13 aces and lost just six of 39 points played behind her first serve, but she lost the majority of points played on her second serve, ending the match with 28 winners to 24 unforced errors.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

The 23-time Grand Slam champion’s record in early-round matches at majors is as extraordinary as it would have to be – she’s only lost two of the 73 second-round Grand Slam matches she’s played, although she’s dropped sets in three of the eight she’s played since returning from maternity leave, including two of the last three.

Margarita Gasparyan is 0-2 vs Serena Williams (PA Images)

Russia’s Gasparyan has not been a troublesome opponent for Williams in the past, getting five games in their first meeting and three in the second. Both matches came before Williams went on maternity leave, but they also came during the first phase of Gasparyan’s career when she reached a career-high ranking of world no. 41 in 2016 after reaching the last 16 at the Australian Open.

Gasparyan injured herself at Wimbledon that July, and played just one match in 2017 before returning to competition in April 2018 ranked outside the top 1,000. It was incredible to see Gasparyan finish 2018 up to world no. 105, and she worked her way up to world no. 56 in 2019, but she has dropped back outside the top 100 in 2020 and came into the US Open on a six-match losing streak, having lost to Jamie Loeb in Lexington and Shelby Rogers in Cincinnati.

The Russian broke that streak when she beat Monica Puig 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-0 in the first round to set up her clash with Williams, but it’s not one which I can see her winning. Gasparyan has a beautiful one-handed backhand, and she’s beaten top-10 players before (Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens), but the kind of first-strike contest Williams will make of it doesn’t suit her. Their previous matches have seen Williams win by seven and nine games respectively; a similar one-sided scoreline seems likely on Thursday.

Williams vs Gasparyan: Prediction

Serena Williams’s path through the US Open draw is littered with fellow Americans – starting with Kristie Ahn in the first round on Tuesday.

Serena vs Ahn is live from New York on Tuesday 1 September, 2pm local/7pm BST

It’s tough to know what to expect from Serena Williams at this year’s US Open – she’s reached four Grand Slam finals in the past two years, but won none of them; she played brilliantly against sister Venus in Lexington, but then looked mentally and physically sub-optimal in defeats to Shelby Rogers and Maria Sakkari.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, latest news and live streaming information for the resilient Grand Slam in New York

One thing is for certain, Williams will take a lot of beating at a tournament where she hasn’t failed to make the second week since her debut in 1998. New York native Kristie Ahn is the one with the unenviable task of trying to break that streak on Tuesday.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Serena vs Ahn: Head-to-head

This will be the first meeting between Serena Williams and Kristie Ahn.

Serena vs Ahn: Preview

Not since her infamous defeat to Virginie Razzano at the French Open in 2012 – a loss that prompted a tactical re-evaluation and the hiring of Patrick Mouratouglou – has Serena Williams lost in the first round of a Grand Slam, and she doesn’t look too likely to start on Tuesday.
Even that slight qualification is a surprise, but then Williams hasn’t quite convinced in 2020. She did win her first seven matches of the season, dropping just one set, to claim the ASB Classic title in Auckland and reach the third round of the Australian Open, but then suffered an odd, error-strewn defeat to Wang Qiang 5-7 in the third set, and another narrow defeat at the end of a long third set to Anastasija Sevastova during Fed Cup.

US Open Predictions and Betting Tips: Outright winner tips for men’s & women’s singles at the 2020 US Open

Returning to action after the shutdown, Williams impressed with a comeback win over Bernarda Pera and frankly dazzled in a three-set clash with sister Venus which was one of the finest of their storied rivalry; but she lost in a third-set tie-break to Shelby Rogers the next day. She won a third-set tie-break to beat Arantxa Rus in a long, draining match in ‘Cincinnati’ last week, then failed to close out Maria Sakkari when she served for the match, ending up losing in three sets, cramping and looking exhausted by the end.

It bears repeating that Williams has made the final at four of the last eight Grand Slams she’d played, including both US Opens, despite struggling with injury issues and constantly lacking match practice. That has a lot to do with the fact that Grand Slams have rest days built in, with players rarely required to play on back-to-back days as they do at regular WTA events like Lexington and ‘Cincinnati’ (not that much is regular this year).

Kristie Ahn made a brilliant run to the last 16 at the US Open in 2019 (PA Images)

The 5’5” Kristie Ahn, a New York native playing the main draw of the US Open for the third time, had her best result in 2019 when she beat former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Kalinskaya and Jelena Ostapenko to make the last 16 before falling to Elise Mertens. Currently ranked world no. 96, Ahn is coming off the back of a career-best season in 2019, but for obvious reasons it’s been difficult to capitalize on that momentum in 2020: The oft-injured American was 4-6 before the shutdown, but has played five matches since, qualifying for Lexington but retiring in the first round against Anna Blinkova and losing to Leylah Annie Fernandez in qualifying for ‘Cincinnati’.

Ahn is a likeable player with a great attitude but I just don’t see her being able to really push Williams, not in a match of standing and hitting like this one is likely to be – a dynamic which plays to all Williams’s strengths right now. This should be a swift win for Williams to start her US Open campaign.

Serena vs Ahn: Prediction

From Serena Williams to Coco Gauff, the US Open women’s draw is packed with intrigue but it’s tough to know who will shine at this unusual major.

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin lead the challengers for the US Open women’s singles title.

US Open 2020: Preview

No fans, little freedom: It’s an unusual US Open for the players, but one that is taking place against the odds. There are plenty of absentees, including six of the WTA’s top 10 – defending champion Bianca Andreescu and world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty among them – leaving Karolina Pliskova, a former runner-up, leading the field.

But all eyes are on Serena Williams, once more going for that elusive 24th major title. If she can snap her four-match losing streak in Grand Slam finals, she’ll win an Open Era record seventh US Open crown, but the draw is paved with pitfalls.

US Open Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Petra Martic (8)
Pliskova is the only top-10 WTA player based outside of the USA to be playing the US Open, and she’s not been well rewarded. After opening against Anna Kalhenina, Pliskova could face Caroline Garcia – who is 3-3 against her – with a third-round clash looming against one of the most in-form players right now: Lexington champion Jennifer Brady.

Brady admittedly got one game from Pliskova in a previous meeting, but the American is vastly improved in 2020 and should be a formidable challenge for the Czech, whose only warm-up match was a defeat to Veronika Kudermetova.

Angelique Kerber made a late decision to play the US Open (PA Images)

Another threat is Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion who decided more or less at the last minute to play. The counterpunching lefty will have to play herself into form, with Ajla Tomljanovic a tricky opening opponent and Alison Riske potentially in the fourth round, but she loves this tournament. Eighth seed Petra Martic, at the bottom of this section, has a smoother route, potentially meeting former quarterfinalist Kristina Mladenovic in the third round and 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the last 16. Watch out for Aliaksandra Sasnovich, if the courts are indeed playing fast.

Predicted semifinalist: Kerber (12/1 @ Paddy Power to win her quarter)

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Naomi Osaka (4) vs Petra Kvitova (6)
Osaka’s run to the Western & Southern Open final has seen her move up to second favourite with the bookies for the title, and it’s not surprising; the 2018 US Open champion is a world-beater when she’s on song.

The way that Osaka focused in her delayed semifinal to beat Elise Mertens was very impressive, although the Japanese-Haitian player showed signs of physical fatigue at the end, which may cast doubt over her contender credentials.

Naomi Osaka is looking for her second US Open title (PA Images)

So does her draw. Osaka could face Coco Gauff, who beat her at the Australian Open, or former US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova in the third round – that’s after talented compatriot Misaki Doi and hard-hitting Camila Giorgi. The in-form Anett Kontaveit, who came close to getting her first win vs Osaka at the Western & Southern Open, is likely to await in the last 16.

The bottom half of this quarter is also pretty unpredictable. Ninth seed Elena Rybakina was having a dazzling breakthrough season before the shutdown – can she recapture that form? She could face Dayana Yastremska in the third round, while Petra Kvitova – never particularly strong at the US Open – could have to contend with Marie Bouzkova, who beat her at the Western & Southern Open, or in-form Jessica Pegula in the third round. I like Kontaveit’s chances: She’s in superb form, totally disciplined and incredibly fit right now.

Predicted semifinalist: Kontaveit (7/1 @ BetVictor to win his quarter)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Madison Keys (7) vs Serena Williams (3)
All eyes will be on Serena Williams after she played well in spurts in the warm up – notably against sister Venus in a three-set thriller in Lexington – but struggled physically and mentally in defeats to Shelby Rogers and Maria Sakkari.

Never forget that Williams has reached the final at four of the eight majors she’s played since returning from maternity leave, including at both the US Opens. The six-time champion hasn’t lost before the semifinals at the US Open since 2007. That’s an incredible record.

Williams doesn’t have a bad draw through the early rounds – Kristie Ahn in the first round, maybe Monica Puig in the second, Sloane Stephens in the third – and at a major she has the huge advantage of a rest day between matches which should avoid the physical struggles of Lexington and ‘Cincinnati’. Williams could face a rematch with Sakkari in the last 16, but a bigger threat might be Amanda Anisimova, the teenager who will be desperate to do better than the 1-6, 1-6 scoreline she achieved against Williams in Auckland in January.

Madison Keys is a former US Open finalist (PA Images)

Madison Keys is a former US Open finalist but the big-serving American has some tricky players in her way, starting with Lexington runner-up Jil Teichmann – just a fantastically in-form player over the past 18 months – in the second round; Zhang Shuai in the third; and Garbine Muguruza, potentially, in the fourth. Muguruza would have been hotly tipped here, after she shook off a lengthy slump to make the US Open final in January, but she had injury concerns coming in; nevertheless she’s got the draw to play herself into form, albeit possibly not Serena-beating form.

Predicted semifinalist: Williams (11/4 @ 888Sport to win her quarter)

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs Sofia Kenin (2)
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin lost to Alize Cornet at the Western & Southern Open, which is less than perfect preparation, and opens against former semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer with a former runner-up, Vera Zvonareva, or fast-rising Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez in the second round. In-form Ons Jabeur, the trailblazing Tunisian who made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, could be a real threat in the third round, and perennial Grand Slam dark horse Kaia Kanepi – a six-time major quarterfinalist – also lurks in this section, more than capable of blowing Kenin off the court.

Elise Mertens has been on excellent form at the Western & Southern Open (PA Images)

It only gets more packed with contenders in the fourth round: Ekaterina Alexandrova, a player rising quietly but unstoppably, faces three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters in the first round. Clijsters has unretired before to win the US Open – albeit not after quite such a long break – but has an abdominal injury which has proved difficult to shift, with Elise Mertens, who played superbly at the Western & Southern Open, also in this section.

As if that wasn’t enough – Aryna Sabalenka could face an all-Belarusian battle with the suddenly-on-form Victoria Azarenka in the second round, with Venus Williams and Johanna Konta possibly headed for a third-round duel. Azarenka, Konta, Mertens and Jabeur have all played fantastic tennis in New York this past week; Mertens could be the one to carry it through to a US Open semifinal run.

Semifinalist: Mertens (5/1 @ William Hill to win her quarter)

US Open 2020: Prediction

Semifinals: Kontaveit d. Kerber
Serena d. Mertens

Final: Serena d. Kontaveit

Serena Williams could face compatriots Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, among others, as she pursues a 24th Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open.

The women’s singles draw for the US Open, which takes place 31 August-13 September, was released on Thursday.

The tournament will be played behind closed doors and no draw ceremony was held after the USTA, ATP and WTA’s collective decision to ‘pause’ the Western & Southern Open – currently being held at the US Open venue, the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, New York – on Thursday in response to a fresh outbreak of police violence in the USA. The decision to postpone the semifinals until Friday was sparked by Naomi Osaka’s statement declaring that she would not play her scheduled match against Elise Mertens. Osaka has subsequently yielded to entreaties and will play against Mertens on Friday.

The US Open begins on Monday 31 August and will be played behind closed doors, with players and tournament staff enclosed in a bio-security ‘bubble’.

US Open 2020: Tournament information, schedules, records, latest news and live streaming

Six of the WTA’s top 10, including world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Bianca Andreescu, are not playing, but the draw still looks very strong.

This is largely due to the presence of Serena Williams, who will be going for a record Open Era seventh US Open title as well as her 24th major title, which would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Third-seeded Williams has landed in the bottom half of the draw, and on a collision course with some of her compatriots. Williams will open against fellow American Kristie Ahn and could face 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the third round and Madison Keys, the woman Stephens beat to win that title, in the quarterfinals. Rising teenager Amanda Anisimova, another American player, is also in this quarter – as are non-Americans Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion; the in-form Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, who could face Keys in the second round; and Maria Sakkari, the athletic Greek who beat Williams at the Western & Southern Open this week.

Sofia Kenin is Serena Williams’s projected semifinal opponent at the US Open (PA Images)

Williams could face yet another American in the semifinals in the form of second seed Sofia Kenin, the Australian Open champion who beat Williams at the French Open in 2019. Kenin’s potential opponents include the in-form Ons Jabeur, sixteenth seed Elise Mertens (a Western & Southern Open semifinalist this week) and wildcard Kim Clijsters, the three-time US Open champion who has unretired after eight years away from competition. Clijsters faces 21st seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round.

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka is also in this quarter but there are a swarm of potentially dangerous opponents, including two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka – Sabalenka’s potential second-round opponent – and, in the fourth round, Venus Williams and Johanna Konta. Konta has an all-British clash with Heather Watson in the first round while Venus Williams opens against 20th seed Karolina Muchova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2019.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova, the only top-10 player based outside the USA to travel to New York, will open against Anhelina Kalinina and could face Jennifer Brady, a surprise champion at the Top Seed Open in Lexington two weeks ago, in the third round. The 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber is a potential fourth-round opponent for Pliskova, who finished runner-up to her in that year, and eighth seed Petra Martic or 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova are among possible quarterfinal opponents.

The 2018 US Open champion Osaka, who made headlines on Thursday with her decision not to play her semifinal match, could face Coco Gauff – with whom she has a developing rivalry – in the third round. The in-form Anett Kontaveit could wait in the round of 16 and Petra Kvitova is her projected quarterfinal opponent.