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

hannahwilks in US Open 29 Aug 2020
Serena Williams is looking for her seventh US Open title (PA Images)

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