French Open champion Swiatek inspired by youth movement in women’s tennis: ‘I know that there are no limits’

Iga Swiatek became the WTA Tour’s latest young star to storm to a Grand Slam title at the French Open.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek defeated Sofia Kenin to claim her maiden major title at the French Open on Saturday, becoming the first player from her country to claim a Grand Slam title in singles.

Born 2001, Swiatek is the latest youthful player to break through and become a Grand Slam champion in a sport which has seen a plethora of them in recent years.

Swiatek follows in the footsteps of 1997-born Naomi Osaka, now a three-time Grand Slam champion who was cheering Swiatek on from home; Jelena Ostapenko, also born 1997, who was ranked world no. 47 and, like Swiatek, unseeded when she won the French Open in 2017; 2000-born Bianca Andreescu, who became the first player born in the 2000s to win a major when she claimed the US Open title in 2019; and Kenin herself, born 1998, who won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January 2020.

All of them won the first Grand Slam final in which they appeared.

 

The French Open final between Swiatek and Kenin was the youngest in combined age since Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic faced off in the Australian Open final in 2008. In contrast, the men’s final will be contested by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have a combined age of 67.

Swiatek said it was ‘inspiring’ to have seen peers like Osaka, Andreescu and Kenin break through to become major champions.

‘I know that there are no limits. Even though you’re really young and you’re an underdog, you can do a lot in a sport like tennis.’

This was particularly true in the last couple of months, with the global health crisis having a huge impact on the tennis season. An unprecedented six-month total shutdown and the cancellation of Wimbledon was followed by a US Open and French Open played with minimal opportunities for players to compete in the run-up to either tournament. Both tournaments also had several key players missing from their fields: At the US Open, the majority of the WTA’s European-based top-10 players as well as world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Bianca Andreescu did not compete. The French Open was missing defending champion Barty, US Open winner Osaka, Andreescu and Serena Williams, who withdrew from the tournament after her first-round match due to injury.

Swiatek celebrates winning the French Open (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

While the US Open was played under unusual ‘bubble’ conditions and without fans, it was still familiar conditions for the players. Not so the French Open, which was rescheduled from its usual May-June slot to the first two weeks of October. Temperatures have been cold, almost every day of the tournament has been impacted by rain and players have been appearing on court bundled up in leggings, long-sleeved tops and puffer jackets.

Still, there are no asterisks to be placed by Swiatek’s name on the list of French Open champions. The 19-year-old took out the 2019 French Open finalist, Marketa Vondrousova; former top-10 player Eugenie Bouchard and, most impressively, the 2018 champion and huge favourite for the title, Simona Halep, just to make the quarterfinals.

Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin with their trophies (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Up against Kenin in the final, who had the experience of having beaten Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final in January, Swiatek impressed in a match which was very competitive for the first set and a half. She won 12 of the first 15 points as she raced to a 3-0 lead, and when she was broken when serving for the first set, bounced straight back to break and lead 6-4. She won six straight games to wrap up a 6-4, 6-1 victory as Kenin faded physically, struggling with a left leg injury for which she received a medical time-out.

‘She obviously played a really good match,’ Kenin said.

‘She’s really hot right now, playing some really great tennis. I’m not going to use this as an excuse, but my leg obviously was not the best. It’s obviously disappointing.’

Swiatek called lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen a ‘life-changing experience’ and said that the key to her victory was low expectations.

‘It was so crazy for me, winning against Simona that I already thought about the tournament as my lifetime achievement. Really, I had no expectations.

“I knew it’s going to be tough in the final. I didn’t want to stress a lot about it, so I just told myself that I don’t care and I tried to believe in that.’

Can Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin deny dazzling Iga Swiatek a maiden Grand Slam title and claim the French Open for herself?

Kenin vs Swiatek is live from Roland Garros on Saturday 10 October, 3pm local/2pm BST

The past decade has seen six women claim their maiden Grand Slam titles at the French Open, and with just 23 games dropped on the way to her first major final, Iga Swiatek could be poised to become the seventh.

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

Sofia Kenin, however, has other ideas. The American defused Petra Kvitova’s game in the semifinal and has her sights set on a second major title in 2020 in Saturday’s Roland Garros final.

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

How to watch Kenin vs Swiatek live

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Kenin vs Swiatek: Head-to-head

This is the first match Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek have played as pros.

They did meet at the French Open in juniors, however – Swiatek won in two sets.

Kenin vs Swiatek: Preview

It won’t bother Sofia Kenin at all that Iga Swiatek hasn’t dropped a set so far at this French Open – after all, neither had Petra Kvitova before their semifinal encounter, and Kenin still disposed of the more experienced Czech neatly 6-4, 7-5.

Kenin doesn’t seem to get the respect she deserves, perhaps because there was so little time for her to consolidate the unexpected Australian Open title she won (although she did win a title in Lyon) before the sport was shut down. And people were so eager to slap a ‘Kenin in trouble!!!!!’ narrative on her after losing 0-6, 0-6 to Victoria Azarenka in Rome, as if Azarenka wasn’t in the form to be bagelling people left, right and centre.

But here she is in her second Grand Slam final in the space of a season, and she still isn’t really the biggest story in it. That billing is reserved for Poland’s Iga Swiatek, whose run to her maiden Grand Slam final – the first French Open final reached by a Polish woman – has been eye-poppingly good. Simona Halep, the tournament favourite, was made to look like just another hapless victim of Swiatek’s whirlwind forehand and dazzling net game; in the semifinals, Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska – a player coming into her own and one to look out for over the next few years – was in the match for almost a whole minute before Hurricane Iga blew her away.

Iga Swiatek (©Sebastien Muylaert/MAXPPP)

Will Swiatek be able to play like this in a Grand Slam final? It’s entirely possible; she hasn’t seemed bothered too much by the scale of the occasion up until this point, although she’s struggling big-time in the women’s doubles semifinal at the time of writing. The better question is: If she does play like she has been, can Kenin neutralise her the way the American did Kvitova?

Yes – and no. Kvitova did make a few too many forehand errors and failed to find her first serve at a few crucial moments. But there are a lot of things Kenin does well which make her a very tough opponent to beat. She defends brilliantly, yes – fundamentally a counterpuncher, she can get a lot of balls back and make rallies extremely long – but she also serves with a really high degree of precision, if not power, despite her somewhat odd-looking motion. Time and time again, her backhand return down the line put Kvitova on the back foot before the rally had even properly started, and she has been deploying a well-played forehand drop shot frequently and extremely smartly.

Kenin is a combination of feisty and cool-headed which makes her a magnificent competitor, and she is a particularly good front-runner. If Swiatek has any vulnerabilities on Saturday, and it’s hard to believe there won’t be some for the Pole in her first Grand Slam final, Kenin will expose them.

Kenin vs Swiatek: Prediction

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova go head-to-head for a place in the French Open final.

Sofia Kenin vs Petra Kvitova is live from Roland Garros on Thursday 8 October, 5pm local/4pm BST

It could be seen as the de facto final, as the last two seeded players in the French Open draw, Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova, face off with the winner to face 19-year-old Iga Swiatek or qualifier Nadia Podoroska on Saturday, either of whom would be playing their first Grand Slam final.

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

Wimbledon champion Kvitova leads the head-to-head with Kenin 2-0 – but Kenin herself proved that head-to-heads don’t mean everything when she beat Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals.

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

How to watch Kenin vs Kvitova live

French Open matches including Sofia Kenin vs Petra Kvitova are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Kenin vs Kvitova: Head-to-head

Petra Kvitova leads the head-to-head with Sofia Kenin 2-0, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in Miami in 2018 and 6-1, 6-4 in Madrid in May 2019, on clay. They have not played since Kenin became a top-10 player, however.

Kenin vs Kvitova: Preview

You have to hand it to Sofia Kenin. The Australian Open champion nobody expected just keeps on proving that her victory in January was no fluke and that she’s at the top of the game to stay. When shutdown began, she had just picked up her fifth career title in Lyon; she made the last 16 at the US Open, and has now bounced back from an 0-6, 0-6 defeat to Victoria Azarenka in Rome by making the semifinals of the French Open for the first time.

Four of the five matches Kenin has played so far at Roland Garros have gone the distance, including a comeback win over Fiona Ferro in the fourth round, but perhaps none have been as impressive as the match she played to beat Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Collins had a 3-0 record vs Kenin coming into this match, and has been playing the best clay-court tennis of her career (not, admittedly, saying much) to beat Garbine Muguruza and Ons Jabeur, but she simply couldn’t find the right balance of patience and aggression against Kenin’s maddening consistency. She managed to level up, but was swiftly left behind in the third set – and unlike against Muguruza and Jabeur, she could not find a way to come back and win.

Despite four double faults, Kenin’s serving continued to be effective even if it looks a little odd, with her usual incredibly precise placement making up for a lack of outright explosiveness, and she played her usual clean match to make the second Grand Slam semifinal of her young career.

Petra Kvitova (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

This is more familiar territory for Petra Kvitova – her seventh Grand Slam semifinal, in fact. But they have been few and far between for the Czech in recent years, not just at the French Open – her only previous run to the final four came in 2012 – but everywhere: Since winning Wimbledon in 2014, her only other venture past the quarterfinals came at the 2019 Australian Open, where she finished runner-up to Garbine Muguruza.

It’s very emotional territory for Kvitova, who made her comeback after sustaining career-threatening injuries to her playing hand at Roland Garros three years ago, and it’s been clear at the end of her last couple of matches how much this means to her. So far, however, Kvitova has avoided letting the scale of the opportunity get to her: I was sure Laura Siegemund would be too much for her, but instead Kvitova simply smothered the German with power, just as she did Zhang Shuai, serving six aces, losing just seven points behind her first serve, and putting tons of pressure on Siegemund’s serve. Siegemund had no opportunity to out-craft Kvitova because the points simply weren’t long enough, and Kvitova made it a clean win, 6-3, 6-3.

It won’t be quite as easy against Kenin – well, it can be, if Kvitova produces a really flawless performance, but Kenin is such a good, smart competitor, such a solid server and so good at putting pressure on her opponents, it feels unlikely. Kvitova will win in straight sets or Kenin will win in three – and Kenin has been really good so far this fortnight at winning in three.

Kenin vs Kvitova: Prediction

Sofia Kenin must beat Danielle Collins for the first time in four attempts if she is to reach the semifinals of the French Open.

Kenin vs Collins is live from Roland Garros on Wednesday 7 October, 1pm local/12pm BST

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin wasn’t a popular pick for French Open champion, but the American is one of just two seeded players and major champions remaining in the draw as the quarterfinals continue on Wednesday.

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

Kenin has stayed steady so far, but she’s 0-3 vs quarterfinal opponent Danielle Collins, who has ousted Garbine Muguruza and Ons Jabeur from the French Open already – which American will make her second Grand Slam semifinal?

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

How to watch Kenin vs Collins live

French Open matches including Sofia Kenin vs Danielle Collins are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Kenin vs Collins: Head-to-head

Danielle Collins leads the head-to-head with Sofia Kenin 3-0. All three wins have come on hard courts, in straight sets: Two in 2017 at ITF events, and one in January 2020 at the WTA Premier in Adelaide which Collins won 6-3, 6-1.

Kvitova vs Siegemund: Preview

Sofia Kenin, despite being seeded fourth and the Australian Open champion, has been quite under the radar at this tournament – a position which seems to have suited her just fine. Double-bagelled by Victoria Azarenka in Rome in her only warm-up event on clay, Kenin has quietly played herself into form with three-set wins over Liudmilla Samsonova and Ana Bogdan, dropped just two games against Irina Bara in the third round and then, playing on Court Philippe-Chatrier and facing a partisan crowd and in-form opponent, came back from a set down to beat Fiona Ferro 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

The way that Kenin ramped up the aggression after being outplayed by Ferro in the first set, and the way that she psychologically responded to the antagonism of the crowd despite clearly finding it upsetting (as her post-match reaction showed), reminded one of just how impressive her Australian Open victory was, and has earned her an opportunity to make just the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career despite being, as recently as last year, not that comfortable on clay.

Danielle Collins (©PHOTOPQR/LE PARISIEN/Arnaud Journois)

Unfortunately for Kenin, however, she’s 0-3 against her quarterfinal opponent, who was the last woman to beat Kenin before she won the Australian Open. Danielle Collins is certainly not a player many predicted they would see in the quarterfinals – at WTA Tour level she was 12-9 on clay coming into the French Open – but she has teamed up with recently retired ATP Tour pro (and clay specialist) Nicolas Almagro and the partnership certainly seems to be bearing fruit. Collins came back from 0-3 down in the third to beat Garbine Muguruza – one of the big favourites for the title – in a late-night thriller on Court Philippe-Chatrier, then repeated the feat against Ons Jabeur in a match delayed by a day due to rain on Tuesday.

Collins used to be a retriever, but she’s really transformed herself over the past few years into a player capable of dictating with her forehand, and her aggressive attitude has been notable – coupled with dogged defense – in her wins over Muguruza and Jabeur. It’s not difficult to see how she’s been able to beat Kenin in the past – running her out wide with that forehand, then finishing the point into the open court: If there’s one thing that this tournament has reminded us of, it’s that well-executed offense will always beat well-executed defense. Kenin isn’t going to overpower Collins, and I don’t think Collins is going to blink in the lights. This could be yet another upset, by seeding if not by history.

Kenin vs Collins: Prediction

Sofia Kenin can make her first US Open quarterfinal if the Australian Open champion can maintain her unbeaten record against Elise Mertens.

Kenin vs Mertens is live from New York on Monday 7 September, 8.30pm local/1.30am BST

Neither second seed Sofia Kenin or ‘Cincinnati’ semifinalist Elise Mertens has dropped a set on their way to the fourth round of the US Open, but something has to give as the two face off for a place in the quarterfinals.

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

Kenin has won both her previous matches against Mertens – can she make the final eight at her home Grand Slam for the first time?

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

How to watch Kenin vs Mertens live

US Open matches including Sofia Kenin vs Elise Mertens are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Kenin vs Mertens: Head-to-head

Sofia Kenin leads the head-to-head with Elise Mertens 2-0. Both matches took place in 2019, on grass in Mallorca and on hard courts at the Wuhan Open: In both cases Mertens took the first set before Kenin came back to win in three.

Kenin vs Mertens: Preview

Second seed Sofia ‘Sonya’ Kenin is still somewhat under the radar at the US Open, due to being in the same half as Serena Williams and the resurgent Victoria Azarenka (her potential quarterfinal opponent). But those days are numbered as the American heads into the second week looking very strong indeed.

Neither Kenin nor Mertens has dropped a set so far at the US Open, and they’ve both had some tough players to contend with. Kenin dealt so well with the challenge of Leylah Annie Fernandez in the second round, and although she got her serve broken for the first time at this tournament by Ons Jabeur in the third round, the way Kenin won that Australian Open quarterfinal rematch was exemplary. The world no. 4 came back from 2-4 down in the first set, won it in a tie-break and weathered a barrage of ten aces and 34 winners from Jabeur in a match full of long, draining points.

Kenin’s serve looks like an odd shot because of the way the American looks down and away from the ball throughout it but it’s an underrated weapon, mainly because of the sheer consistency with which the American hits her spots. It’s a major part of what Mertens is up against as she tries to get her first win over the second seed.

Elise Mertens is a former US Open semifinalist (PA Images)

A semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2018, Mertens hasn’t got that far since but she rarely loses early at a major, making the fourth round or better at five of the eight majors played since that Melbourne run (not including this one). A quarterfinalist at the US Open last year, where she lost to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu, Mertens tends to put herself in the position to capitalise on opportunities, and she’s been playing great tennis since the return to competition: Finishing runner-up to Simona Halep in Prague, Mertens made the semifinals in ‘Cincinnati’ and while she hasn’t played any seeds so far in New York, she’s still been up against some very tough players – Laura Siegemund and Caty McNally chief among them.

It’s not difficult for me to see why Mertens has lost her two previous matches with Kenin in three. Mertens plays smart, appealing tennis which works well on fast courts; she uses angles smartly to open up the court, then moves forward to finish off the point. Against Kenin, who is so fast and defensively gifted, Mertens has to go for more on her shots than she is comfortable doing in order to get the American out of position; it’s not something she can sustain for a whole match. With Kenin serving as well as she seems to be, I expect this US Open clash to follow the script.

Kenin vs Mertens: Prediction

Sofia Kenin and Ons Jabeur clash in a rematch of their Australian Open quarterfinal at the US Open on Saturday.

Kenin vs Jabeur is live from New York on Saturday 5 September, 6pm local/11pm BST

Sofia Kenin defeated Ons Jabeur on her way to her maiden Grand Slam title in January, and despite flying under the radar in the build-up to the US Open, the second seed is beginning to look very good and is yet to lose serve in New York.

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

Tunisia’s trailblazer Jabeur is playing the best tennis of her career right now – but she’s never been able to find a way past Kenin on hard courts. Can she avoid dropping to 1-5 vs the counterpunching American on Saturday?

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

How to watch Kenin vs Jabeur live

US Open matches including Sofia Kenin vs Ons Jabeur are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

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Kenin vs Jabeur: Head-to-head

Kenin leads the head-to-head with Jabeur 4-1, and has won both their previous meetings on hard courts in straight sets, including a 6-4, 6-4 victory in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Kenin vs Jabeur: Preview

Despite the fact that she’s seeded second at this year’s US Open, Sofia Kenin has been little discussed in the run-up to the tournament – perhaps because she is in the same half of the draw as better-established Grand Slam champions like Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka, who she could face in the quarterfinals; and perhaps because the unusual events of 2020 meant that Kenin’s surprise win at the Australian Open received less attention that it usually might have.

Kenin did lose three of her next four matches after winning in Melbourne, but rebounded by winning her second WTA Tour title of the year in Lyon; she lost her only match coming into the US Open to Alize Cornet in straight sets, but she’s yet to lose a set or even have her serve broken in New York after wins over former semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer and rising Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez. I thought that Fernandez, a talented young lefty, might cause Kenin problems but actually the 21-year-old handled the Canadian with ease, winning 6-4, 6-3 to reach the third round.

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

Kenin’s next task is to snap her three-match losing streak in US Open third rounds, and she’s up against an in-form but extremely familiar opponent in the form of Ons Jabeur, who she has played five times before – most recently beating Jabeur in the quarterfinals in Melbourne in January.

Ons Jabeur was a quarterfinalist in Lexington and ‘Cincinnati’ (PA Images)

That run to the last eight in Melbourne was a historic one for Jabeur, who became the first Arab player to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. The 26-year-old Tunisian is a familiar face on the WTA Tour but has truly found her feet in the past couple of years, starting with a run to the final of Moscow at the end of 2018. She is 22-7 so far in 2020, and came into the US Open as one of the most in-form players thanks to runs to the quarterfinals of Lexington and ‘Cincinnati’. And a win over perennial dark horse Kaia Kanepi, a six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, 7-6(8), 6-0 in the second round must always impress.

Is there a way for Jabeur to beat Kenin? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s simply a very bad match-up for the Tunisian. Kenin is, fundamentally, a defensive counterpuncher but she’s also very quick to look for opportunities to transition forward into the court; Jabeur is an attacking player, an improviser, who thrives on producing unexpected winners. Kenin’s fantastic anticipation and footspeed makes patient point construction, of the kind Jabeur does not excel at, or sheer power the only way to beat her.

Kenin vs Jabeur: Prediction

Serena Williams could face Coco Gauff at the Western & Southern Open while top US Open contenders warm up in New York.

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin lead the field at the Western & Southern Open.

WTA Western & Southern Open Preview

Relocated from Cincinnati to New York, the Western & Southern Open marks the first big tennis event to be played since the sport shut down in early March – and the only opportunity for many of the top players to compete and tune up their games ahead of the forthcoming US Open.

A prestigious Premier-5 event, the Western & Southern Open is taking place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, home of the US Open, and using its Grandstand Court as centre court.

A significant number of WTA top-10 players based outside the USA bowed out, but the field remains immensely strong. Top four seeds Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Naomi Osaka are joined by Petra Kvitova, Coco Gauff, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and defending champion Madison Keys among others. With the WTA’s usual depth exacerbated by the fact that most players have competed little if at all in the past six months, we should expect upsets from the beginning.

WTA Lexington Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Aryna Sabalenka (5)
World no. 3 Pliskova is the only WTA top-10 player based outside of the USA to be playing Cincinnati-New York, and for good reason – some of the best results of her career have come on American hard courts, including her maiden Grand Slam final appearance at the US Open in 2016 and the Western & Southern Open title the same year.

Karolina Pliskova won the Western & Southern Open in 2016 (PA Images)

Playing for the first time since Doha, the Brisbane champion starts against hard-hitting Ajla Tomljanovic, whom she has won five straight matches against, or Veronika Kudermetova, a more dangerous opponent who has had a quietly superb past 18 months before the shutdown. She could meet Elise Mertens, runner-up on clay in Prague last week, in the third round; former US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova, who leads their head-to-head 2-1, is also in this section, but Sevastova is 1-7 in 2020 (before and after the hiatus).

Doha champion Sabalenka lost a tight second-round match with Coco Gauff in Lexington, and is a player to watch this week and next. She’ll open against a qualifier, but must face the winner of a packed mini-section in the third round: 11th seed Alison Riske taking on 2019 French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova, with the winner likely to face very in-form Lexington champion Jennifer Brady (Brady was supposed to face wildcard Kim Clijsters, who withdrew).

Predicted semifinalist: Brady (20/1 to win the tournament with Unibet)

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Naomi Osaka (4) vs Petra Kvitova (6)
With neither Osaka nor Kvitova exactly a model for consistency and both women playing their first tournament since before shutdown, this seems like a recipe for a ‘surprise’ semifinalist.

Osaka could start off against last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova, who is not a model of consistency herself and who might not find these courts the best fit for her attacking game, although she’s beaten Garbine Muguruza at the US Open before.

Venus Williams debuted a remodelled service action in Lexington (PA Images)

Venus Williams meets Dayana Yastremska in an intriguing first-round clash – Williams looked in great form in Lexington where she narrowly lost to Serena, while Yastremska was a quarterfinalist in Palermo on her return from shutdown. The winner will likely face American lefty Bernarda Pera, who showed the benefits of playing World Team Tennis during the hiatus when she pushed Serena Williams hard in Lexington; nevertheless, the winner of Venus-Yastremska should make the quarterfinals.

Kvitova could be in for an all-Czech clash with Marie Bouzkova, who has not long broken into the top 50 after an excellent year or so of results and was a quarterfinalist in Lexington. Match sharpness could see Bouzkova upset Kvitova; the unpredictable Danielle Collins is also in this quarter, but Anett Kontaveit – a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open in January, and runner-up in Palermo two weeks ago – is the player to watch in this section.

Predicted semifinalist: Kontaveit (33/1 @ 888Sport to win the tournament)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Johanna Konta (8) vs Serena Williams (3)
Serena Williams looked brilliant in a victory over her elder sister in Lexington – then fell in the next round to Shelby Rogers, showing it’s still very difficult to know what to expect from Serena from one day to the next.

Coco Gauff could face Serena Williams in the third round (PA Images)

The six-time US Open champion isn’t going to push herself too hard the week before the US Open, but after opening against a qualifier or Alison van Uytvanck, she could face an intriguing third-round encounter with Coco Gauff. The 16-year-old looked great when she made the semifinals in Lexington, and is capable of beating Maria Sakkari and Yulia Putintseva to make a clash with Serena.

Johanna Konta and Marketa Vondrousova both lost their only matches since shutdown in Lexington and Palermo respectively; Konta didn’t look good at the Battle of the Brits, either. Poland’s Magda Linette could possibly take advantage, but this would be a good section for a qualifier to make a run.

Predicted semifinalist: Gauff (33/1 @ Unibet to win the tournament)

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Madison Keys (7) vs Sofia Kenin (2)
Defending champion Keys will be tested from the beginning as she plays her first match since the Australian Open (!) against either a qualifier or, more likely, the unorthodox Ons Jabeur, who warmed up with a quarterfinal run in Lexington.

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek is in this section, but the first-round match to watch is the clash between Elena Rybakina – who made four finals already in 2020 but hasn’t played since February – and Ekaterina Alexandrova, who beat Rybakina in the Shenzhen final and was also having a great 2020 season before the shutdown (1-2 since). Rybakina is the more promising player but will greater match practice in recent weeks benefit Alexandrova?

Sofia Kenin’s last tournament saw her win the title in Lyon (PA Images)

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will be taking the court for the first time since winning Lyon on indoor hard courts in February, but the American’s counterpunching game should help her ease back into competition and she doesn’t have the worst draw: A first-round bye followed by either tenacious veteran Alize Cornet or wildcard Caty McNally. In the third round, she would face either Donna Vekic, last seen losing to the world no. 156 in Palermo; the slumping Victoria Azarenka; Sloane Stephens, who’s lost her last two matches to the same Canadian teenager; or Caroline Garcia, playing for the first time since February.

Semifinalist: Kenin (6/1 @ 888Sport to win the tournament)

WTA Cincinnati-New York Prediction

Semifinals: Anett Kontaveit d. Jennifer Brady
Coco Gauff d. Sofia Kenin

Final: Gauff d. Kontaveit