Serena Williams plays her first match since her shock Olympics exit on Tuesday night, kicking off the night session in New York with a tough opener against Ekaterina Makarova. It will be their third meeting at the US Open and sixth overall, the head to head currently standing at 4-1 in the World No.1’s favour.
Serena is holding on to her No.1 ranking for dear life and will lose it if she fails to make the quarter finals. Only winning the tournament ensures she holds on to it regardless of what Angelique Kerber does while losing the final to anyone but Kerber will also see her hold on to the top spot.
Makarova, a gold medallist in the doubles in Rio, is one of the top unseeded players in the draw and is seen as a danger to Serena given her convincing win at the Australian Open in 2012. However, Serena has handled her with ease each time after with three straight sets wins since including two at the US Open. The Russian has dropped down the rankings a fair bit since hitting her career high of 8 last year, coming into the tournament outside the top 30. Her year has been up and down, most recently taking a convincing beating from Petra Kvitova in the New Haven quarter final.
Going into the Olympics as favourite, Serena put in an incredibly flat performance against Elena Svitolina and was punished for it with a straight sets loss. Rumours have been swirling over the severity of the shoulder injury that saw her withdraw from Cincinnati as a precaution although she did claim it feels better pre-tournament. Serena remains a heavy favourite as long as her body holds up and it does feel like the chances for Makarova are being overrated on the basis of that Melbourne match where Serena was not 100%.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets