Top Half, First Quarter (Williams/Kerber)
Another tournament, another quarter that looks like a cake walk for top seed Serena Williams. After storming through Toronto without losing a set and nearly winning Cincinnati while running on nothing but fumes, Serena has to be the massive favourite yet again. While Serena has had a ton of success on grass, hard courts are likely her most comfortable surface. While she is on a crash course to meet Sloane in the fourth round, Stephens has been struggling of late (particularly with patches of questionably passive play) and may not even get that far.
The other side of this quarter is one of the more intriguing sections of the draw. While it technically belongs to German Angelique Kerber, Dunncurrber (Dunnkerber?) hasn’t shown the type of form or resiliance on court that was saw from her last year, and could be up for an incredibly difficult ask in the second round against Eugenie Bouchard, who is quickly gaining steam.
Also in this section is an intriguing Flipkens/Venus Williams first round match, as well as the always unpredictable Jie Zheng. Speaking of unpredictable, who knows which version of Kaia Kanepi could show up.
This quarter is Serena’s to lose, and shouldn’t be a problem. Who she will play in the quarters will be up for debate, and at this stage it is difficult to put money on Kerber. I like Bouchard’s chances against both Kerber and Kanepi (she’s quickly becoming comfortable dealing with players with pace) so…
Predicted Quarterfinal: S. Williams vs. Bouchard
Notable Early Matches: Flipkens vs. V. Williams (1R), Bouchard vs. Kerber (2R), Stephens vs. U. Radwanska (2R), Shvedova vs. Rybarikova (2R)
Top Half, Second Quarter (Radwanska/Na Li)
Consistency in non-majors pays, and Radwanska has really reaped the benefits of her high seeding at the US Open. The only real danger for A-Rad is Pavlyuchenkova, assuming she gets that far, and one would assume Pavs would likely self-destruct anyway. A looming fourth round match with Lisicki would be a fascinating clash of styles, but Lisicki’s health is always a question mark, and she hasn’t quite lived up to potential on the high bounces of hard courts. Tough to assume she’ll get that far.
The other side of this quarter is a complete treat. The interesting names in this section would suggest a planned Li Na/Jankovic fourth round match won’t happen. Madison Keys is an incredibly difficult ask for Jankovic in her first round, particularly as JJ doesn’t look too interested in grinding out big hitters these days. Furthermore, if Sorana Cirstea is healthy again, she should be able to get to the third round where she could play Jankovic (who she beat quite handily in Toronto).
On the other side of this 1/8th is Li Na, a player I’m not normally high on, but was impressed with in Toronto. Her opening round matches are pretty winnable, and I think she is a player who likes to warm her way into tournaments.
While Cirstea beat both Jankovic and Li Na in Toronto, her abdominal injury could be a real concern (it forced her to retire in New Haven). I’ll go with the safest bet for that section.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Radwanska vs. Li Na
Notable Early Matches: Jankovic vs. Keys (1R), Robson vs. Garcia (1R), Puig vs. Kleybanova (1R)
Bottom Half, First Quarter (Wozniacki/Errani)
It’s difficult to know what is going through the mind of Caroline Wozniacki these days. She appears to be trying to add some aggression to her game, and I’m not entirely convinced that’s actually the right move. Watching her courtside in Toronto, I was still incredibly impressed at how well she moves, makes small adjustments before shots, and rarely misses (she missed out on two match points versus Cirstea). I think her level may be much higher than her results give her credit for at the moment. Her entire section is incredibly weak, and Caroline loves New York. I like her chances of getting back on the horse at the US Open.
The section below her is another 1/8th with serious question marks and a whole lot of potentially juicy early round matches. Errani/Kirilenko is the name of the game, but these quick courts don’t favour Errani, and I was surprised at how poorly Kirilenko was playing in Toronto.
Everyone has quickly looked for another potential name to come out of this section, and most eyes have been drawn to Kuznetsova. My eye was quickly drawn to the player I have half jokingly dubbed the 2015 Roland Garros champion, Simona Halep. Simona was a top junior player, but at 5’6 appears to be a player that has looked like she might not be able to translate her skills in the pros. Having seen her play recently (including on her clay run) I was struck at how well she was dealing with big hitters, and how comfortable she is at getting the ball deep for a player her size. While she doesn’t hit as big as a Cibulkova, her tennis instincts are incredible, she has an excellent eye for when to put extra spin at the ball, when to come to net – all things that smell of incredible natural talent. It is a tough ask for her to put everything together on quick courts, but I think this might be the tournament that launches Simona into the top 20 and into the eyes of tennis fans.
Predicted Quarterfinal: Wozniacki vs. Halep
Notable Early Matches: Halep vs. Watson (1R), Vekic vs. Halep/Watson (2R), Vinci vs. Safarova (2R), Kuznetsova vs. Anyone.
Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter (Azarenka/Kvitova)
Oh, Kvitova. Whatever shall we do with you? Petra and Li Na remain two of the hardest players to judge in terms of their levels. Speaking of which, this section also contains Samantha Stosur and Nadia Petrova. While Kvitova has looked consistent so far this year, I actually think she prefers slower hard courts that give her some more time to get around and really set up to crush things. With Stosur winning Carlsbad (and your guess as good as mine), I might have to go all in.
This quarter, and ultimately half, belongs to Victoria Azarenka. Still a wildly underrated player (largely due to the comfortable shadow of Serena and Maria) Vika has a real chance to win this tournament. A match against Ivanovic may be tough but entirely winnable. She’s lucky in that she can only play one of Kvitova or Stosur, and may not end up having to play either. I think she has the stuff to outlast Petra and hit Sam off the court, particularly judging those players current form. Look for Azarenka to crush early and crush often off the back of a big Cincinnati win.
Predicted Quarterfinals: Stosur vs. Azarenka
Notable Early Matches: Goerges vs. McHale (1R), Pironkova vs. Riske (1R) Stosur vs. Hantuchova (2R), Kvitova vs. Petkovic (2R), Ivanovic vs. Cibulkova (3R)
Predicted Semifinals: S. Williams vs. A. Radwanska, Wozniacki vs. Azarenka
Predicted Final: S. Williams vs. Azarenka
Predicted Champion: Azarenka