It would be fair to say that both tours are going under a transitional period right now with many of the game’s top stars struggling or absent with the next generation looking to make a name for themselves. Serena Williams is absent due to the upcoming birth of her first child while Victoria Azarenka has been forced to withdraw from the tournament due to personal issues. The big story surrounding the tournament will be the World No.1 ranking for which there are 8 current contenders although some of them realistically have very little chance. Last year’s champion and former No.1 Angelique Kerber is not one of those 8 women hoping to hold the top spot after the event.
Top seed Karolina Pliskova will need to start living up to her billing as a now No.1 after flattering to deceive often throughout the year. She was great at this event last year, making the final and beating Serena Williams in the process. Surprisingly, she found it tough at Wimbledon once more with yet another second round exit despite her draw. She was a semi finalist in Cincinnati but lost in fairly routine fashion to one of the other contenders for the title in Garbine Muguruza. With few sleepers in her opening week schedule, Pliskova should make it through the early rounds with relative ease unless something disastrous happens. Assuming no slipups, Kristina Mladenovic does await in round four though and that could be tough for her having gone 2-2 against the Frenchwoman previously. However, Mladenovic herself is not in good form and is carrying a four match losing streak into the tournament.
Despite a shocking year by her standards, Agnieszka Radwanska still finds herself as a top 10 seed but will need to do something here if she is to rescue her season. Her slam results this year go 2R, 3R, 4R and she is just 18-14 overall in 2017. That fourth round at Wimbledon saw her lose to Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, despite it probably being the Pole’s best surface and Kuznetsova’s worst. The same match could happen at the same stage this year if seedings hold but there is an argument for neither making it there with Coco Vandeweghe a tough out on hard courts, especially with home advantage, playing Radwanska. Meanwhile, Kuznetsova faces a lively youngster in Marketa Vondrousova in round one while the winner of the intriguing round one between Anett Kontaveit and Lucie Safarova will showcase a big power game that an off-form Kuznetsova could struggle with.
The second quarter contains three grand slam winners although it’s fair to say that Francesca Schiavone is at a different stage of her career to the other two – Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko. It’s a wide open section that is hard to pick a winner from with Elena Svitolina and Madison Keys also there. Svitolina is having a great season and recently won in Toronto while navigating an extremely tough draw. Alongside winning a three setter against Garbine Muguruza, she dropped 9 games against the trio Wozniacki, Halep and Venus Williams – all of which are legitimate contenders to win this tournament too. A third round against the New Haven winner Daria Gavrilova could be trouble for Svitolina if she is out of form while Keys in round four offers a lot too. Keys has not played much year but her US Open Series performances suggest she could be a contender. She won Washington before a round of 16 in Cincinnati but it could have looked far better had she converted one of her match points on serve against Muguruza.
Jelena Ostapenko finally arrived in Paris as she displayed some ridiculous displays of hitting at times and was fearless on her way to the title, coming from a set and break down to beat Halep in the final. As is expected with someone with her aggressive game style and currently weak serve, there are some downs to go with the outstanding tennis she often showcases. Defending champion Angelique Kerber would be projected to meet her in the fourth round but it is hard to guarantee that for her even as sixth seed. She is just 1-10 against the top 30 this year including a loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is also in this section. If Kerber and Ostapenko flame out early, the Russian could be a good choice to go far.
After failing to back up her first slam win last year, Garbine Muguruza has followed up her Wimbledon title with something far more this time round. She picked up the Cincinnati title and more impressively, dispatched of the World No.1 and No.2 for the loss of just 6 games with just 1 of them coming to Simona Halep in the final. It puts her right at the top of the contenders for the title and her seemingly newly found consistency should put her in good stead for the tournament. Up to the quarter finals stage, it would seem there is little to trouble Muguruza. She crushed Magdalena Rybarikova, her first potential seeded opponent, 6-1 6-1 on the way to her Wimbledon title while the other seeds in that section are Carolina Garcia and Petra Kvitova. Picture’s recently surfaced of Kvitova’s hand after she was attacked at the start of the year and it just shows how remarkable her recovery to make it back on court has been.
Venus Williams has two slam finals this season to her name at the age of 37 in what has been a remarkable year for the American, who has somehow managed to make herself into a legitimate contender once more. It seems unlikely that she can make it three, especially with Muguruza waiting in the quarter finals if seeds hold. It was the Spaniard who thwarted Venus’ attempt at an 8th singles grand slam title with a big performance at Wimbledon, as she pulled away from Venus in the second set. However, a quarter final run would be far from disappointing this time round. Caroline Wozniacki is the biggest danger to that as 5th seed, an impressive feat for the Dane who has managed to establish herself back in the top 10. It was in New York that Wozniacki made her first slam final, losing to Kim Clijsters in 2009. She repeated that feat in 2014, losing to Serena Williams on that occasion.
With the advantage going into the US Open in the race for No.1, Simona Halep would have been hoping that she would be able to still pick up the top ranking even if she did not live up to her billing as No.2 seed. That task will be much tougher with a blockbuster round one in store for her against Maria Sharapova. The Russian has struggled with injuries since her return from suspension but is always going to be a tough match player, one that Halep has always struggled against. If Halep can see off Sharapova, she will likely make it to the deep end of the tournament with three of the potential weakest seeds in the way of her and a quarter final spot. The quarter finalist opposite could be any of a number of players from big hitters in Julia Goerges and Ana Konjuh to New Haven finalist Dominika Cibulkova. Johanna Konta is the seed expected to advance and that could mean a rematch of their Wimbledon clash at the same stage. Konta toughed out a three set victory there but without home advantage in Cincinnati, the Romanian was a straight sets winner.
SF: Karolina Pliskova def. Elena Svitolina
SF: Garbine Muguruza def. Simona Halep
F: Karolina Pliskova def. Garbine Muguruza