US Open Women’s Preview: Stephens Looks Good to Retain Crown10 min read
Serena Williams –
Previous best US Open performance: Winner – 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014
It’s a long time since Williams has been sent off at 5/1 to win the US Open but that’s the case here – and with good reason. She’s won just one of three warm-up matches on the hardcourts and is undoubtedly yet to return to the form she was in prior to the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia 12 months ago. Still, she almost took advantage of the scattering of seeds at Wimbledon, losing only in the final, and there were signs in her most recent loss to Petra Kvitova that she is on the up again. Serena may be a six-time winner in NYC but 6/1 looks risky – there are more players at home on hardcourts than there were on the grass of Wimbledon.
Simona Halep –
Previous best: Semi-finals – 2015
Only Williams’ career history has denied the current world number one outright favouritism, you would think. Having finally put her ‘no Slam’ status aside by winning the French Open in June, Halep has grown in stature and has looked great in the warm-up events, winning Montreal and coming within a point of doing so in Cincinnati. She subsequently withdrew from New Haven citing an Achilles problem which has long bothered her but it seems likely to have been more due to not wanting three solid weeks of tennis in her legs heading to New York. Has every chance.
Angelique Kerber –
“To be here, of course, with the energy, with the great memories that I had the last years… I’m ready to go.”@AngeliqueKerber spoke to reporters at #USOpen Media Day about seeking back-to-back Grand Slam titles.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 25, 2018
Previous best: Winner – 2016
The current Wimbledon champion won here too in 2016 but arrives having performed poorly in the warm-up events in Montreal and Cincinnati, winning only one match. She is one of the best defensive players on the tour, as evidenced in her Wimbledon final victory over Serena Williams, so the fairly quick pace of the courts won’t unduly concern her – she should be able to deal with the big hitters. Still, that form is a worry – backers would like to have seen more from her coming in.
Sloane Stephens –
Previous best: Winner – 2017
The reigning champion will surely fancy her chances of retaining her crown. She’s become a big-stage performer over the last 12 months, having followed up her NY success with a title triumph in Miami and a run to the French Open final. More recently she looked impressive in Montreal before being edged out in the final by Halep. A definite contender once again.
Petra Kvitova –
Previous best: Quarter-finals – 2015, 2017
There would be few more popular winners of the tournament than Kvitova given the knife injuries she suffered when fighting off an intruder at her home in December 2016. But the US Open is her least successful Slam – she’s yet to go beyond the quarter-finals in New York. Has had some decent hardcourt results this year but still gets dragged into too many three-setters with alarming mid-match dips often her downfall. Also comes in after withdrawing from New Haven with a shoulder injury. There look more likely winners.
Kiki Bertens –
Previous best: R2 – 2012, 2015
The Dutchwoman enjoyed a fine claycourt season but few expected her results to continue in such spectacular fashion on other surfaces. She made the last eight at Wimbledon and since stepping back on the hardcourts has won six matches against top-10 players. She defeated Svitolina, Kvitova and Halep back-to-back to clinch the Cincinnati title and with that form, plus a decent-looking draw, she holds big claims. The downside is she’s played eight matches at Flushing Meadows before, winning only two.
Elina Svitolina –
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) August 26, 2018
Previous best: R4 – 2017
Has already won in Brisbane, Dubai (both hardcourts) and Rome (clay) this season, reason in itself to think that 18/1 might be too big here. The problems are that Svitolina has still not progressed beyond the last eight of a Grand Slam and while there have been plenty of hardcourt wins in the warm-up events, she has been found wanting when the going gets tough in the latter stages. Well-drawn until the quarter-finals, another exit at that stage could be on the cards.
Garbine Muguruza –
Previous best: R4 – 2017
Missed both San Jose and Montreal due to an arm injury and when she finally did make her summer hardcourt season bow she lost in her opening match in Cincinnati. It’s hard to imagine much worse preparation for a Slam than that. That said, you are never too sure what you will get from the Spaniard. Muguruza has won both the French Open and Wimbledon in the past, but since reaching her first Wimbledon final in 2015 she’s lost in the first week of a Grand Slam on six of her 12 appearances. That statistic becoming seven of 13 looks likely here.
Karolina Pliskova –
Previous best: Runner-up – 2016
The 2016 finalist has one of the biggest serves on the WTA circuit but her all-round game – often dubbed too one-dimensional – simply isn’t firing right now. She’s won just two of her five hardcourt matches coming into this tournament and clearly has felt the need to look for answers. She’s already announced she’ll be hiring Rennae Stubbs as coach after the tournament but in the interim, Conchita Martinez will help out. That’s an odd situation to be in and although Martinez found success working with Muguruza, it’s asking an awful lot – too much in fact – to turn an out-of-sorts player into a Grand Slam winner in days.
Madison Keys –
Previous best: Runner-up – 2017
Few players hit the ball as hard as Keys but that has its consequences. On a good day, the American looks unbeatable. She had many of those here last year en route to the final. However, on the bad days, she can look awful – her final loss to Stephens 12 months ago a case in point. More recently she managed to hit through Kerber’s defences in Cincinnati only to lose the next day to Aryna Sabalenka. Certainly has the ability to challenge again but an off-day loss is considerably more likely.
Bigger names like Maria Sharapova and Jo Konta have struggled too much this season to warrant serious consideration but Aryna Sabalenka arrives in excellent form and looks a better bet than many ahead of her in the market.
— Paul Doyle (@PaulDoyle1) August 25, 2018
Sabalenka (33/1) beat Konta, Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Keys in Cincinnati before losing to Halep and has spent the past week backing it up in New Haven. She’s really built on a 2017 season which saw her guide Belarus to the Fed Cup final against the odds – she knows how to perform on a big stage.
Another player who looks a big price is 66/1 shot Ashleigh Barty. Only Halep (twice) has beaten the Aussie since the tour hit the hardcourts and she certainly has claims in the tough first quarter of the draw – one which features Halep and the two Williams sisters.
Sloane Stephens at
Aryna Sabalenka at