Slam tennis is finally back following the lockdowns enforced by COVID-19 with the US Open unmoved from the usual Late August-Early September spot on the calendar. Both draws have been hit by withdrawals relating to safety concerns but the women’s draw more so. Only two of the current top 8 players are in the draw with Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Ashleigh Barty, Kiki Bertens, Belinda Bencic and 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu not competing this time round. It offers a great opportunity for Serena Williams to finally get No.24 while a resurgent Naomi Osaka will look for a second title in three years at the event.
Full draw here: US Open 2020 Women’s’s Draw
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Karolina Pliskova is the top seed for this event but in no way is she the obvious pick to win it all. She was a losing finalist in 2016 but has never managed to get that far at a slam since, making 4 quarter finals and 2 semi finals across the set of tournaments. She is more than capable of beating top players and is good for several titles a year but can throw in a shocker every so often. She lost her return match in Cincinnati/New York to Veronika Kudermetova, in a tournament that should have been a good opportunity for her to get some confidence ahead of the US Open. It was Angelique Kerber who beat her in that aforementioned 2016 final but the German is not at the level she was back then. Still seeded 17th, she is a big match player that could make her way through a broken draw if the opportunity rises. American hopes in this section come in the form of Alison Riske and Jennifer Brady, both seeded. Brady was the winner of the Lexington tournament, giving her plenty of confidence coming into this one as a player on the up.
The eighth seed at the US Open being a player who has made it past the second round in New York just once means plenty will see Petra Martic as a scalp they could take. However, the early rounds look like they should not be too much trouble for a player who has gained such a rank with smart tennis and consistency throughout. Yulia Putintseva and Marketa Vondrousova will fancy their chances of advancing from this quarter as other seeded players along with Kristina Mladenovic. With Vondrousova still struggling following her return, Putintseva may well be the one to spoil things for Martic. She is a gritty player who will look to take advantage if her opponent is having an off day.
Naomi Osaka is looking like the one to beat coming into the US Open with the 2018 champion in great form but looking like a leader off the court too with her activism that led to the day’s suspension of play earlier in the week in Cincinnati/New York. A final on her return to play is a good start and she will be an incredibly tough player to beat while in-form as her runs in 2018 showed. A big hitting clash with Camila Giorgi is a possibility in round two while she can reignite her slam rivalry with Cori Gauff in round three. It could be their third meeting in three slams with the young American having won in Australia following an Osaka win in New York last year. Anett Kontaveit will be hoping for another crack at Osaka should the draw play out as expected and both make the fourth round. The Estonian does have a tricky opener first though, taking on Danielle Collins for a spot in the last 64.
Just to show how much damage withdrawals have done to the draw, Rebecca Peterson is the 32nd seed with a ranking of 46. The Swede does look one of the more likely early exits with a second round loss to Jessica Pegula or Marie Bouzkova very much on the cards for her. Despite Petra Kvitova being a solid hard court player, things have never gone all that well for at the US Open with just two quarter finals to her name. The Czech is clearly one of the most dangerous players on the tour at her best but the ability to keep such a high level for 2 weeks seems to elude her for the most part these days. She still has to be considered as a potential winner but it would be no surprise if she is out by the fourth round, especially with Elena Rybakina and Dayana Yastremska possibly waiting for her by that stage. Yastremska has an ultra-aggressive game that could see her either out very early or go deep this fortnight.
The focus on the third quarter of the draw has to be on Serena Williams as it always will be whenever the 23-time slam champion is competing. The third seed has not done a lot to inspire hopes of No.24 with her return to the tour. Three set losses to Maria Sakkari and Shelby Rogers were disappointing as she may have hoped to get a trophy and some much wanted wins under her belt ahead of another tough fortnight. It remains difficult to predict how she will do but writing off one of the all time greats remains foolish to do. One thing that seems clear with each passing loss is that Serena can not win as many matches on aura alone and there is only so far she can fight. She can exact revenge on Sakkari in round four should the Greek make it that far while a slumping Sloane Stephens will be hoping to deny the pair a second meeting in as many tournaments.
Madison Keys had been carving out a reputation as more of a big match player, especially with strong slams following surprise losses in warmup tournaments. It’s hard to say if she should still be considered as such with a number of poor losses at them since she made the final in New York 3 years ago. She does have all the tools still to mount a deep run and earn at least a potential quarter final with Serena but she could just as easily have a bad match that sees her out early too. It will be interesting to see how Donna Vekic does as 18th seed here, especially having just split from coach Torben Beltz last month. Garbine Muguruza still has a slam pedigree and will have to be among the favourites given she was a slam finalist in her last outing back in Melbourne at the start of the year. The former No.1 looked like she was getting back to her best in 2020, having moved from outside the top 30 to inside the top 20 before the tour suspension.
Asked two weeks ago which Belarussian was more likely to go deep in this tournament, you would find very few likely to say Victoria Azarenka. The former No.1 had been a shadow of herself since the birth of her son and the personal issues surrounding him. Finally, Azarenka seems to have found some form and has earned a final spot in the Cincinnati/New York tournament. The strongest opponent she defeated on the way there was 9th seed Johanna Konta but the Brit is the type of opponent that would have easily won such a matchup in the past. A resurgent Azarenka would be a great thing for the tour but it remains to be seen if this week is a one-off or she is truly back. Aryna Sabalenka will hope to put out those hopes in round two when the pair are likely to meet. The slam breakthrough many predicted for Sabalenka is yet to come with still no quarter final to her name. Konta and Karolina Muchova are among others hoping to advance from this section with Muchova one of the more improved players on tour over the past 18 months.
Sofia Kenin being the No.2 seed at a slam is something few would have predicted this time last year but that is how things have played out thanks to the withdrawals of Barty and Halep in addition to Kenin’s Australian Open title. It is hard to predict how Kenin will push on but she did show signs it wasn’t a one off by picking up a title in Lyon before the shutdown of the tour. Ons Jabeur looks a much improved player and may be a tough prospect in round three if they meet but many eyes will be on the return of Kim Clijsters. While she was comfortably beaten by Muguruza and Konta in her two matches before the tour shut down, the shortened format of World Team Tennis suited her and she picked up a number of good wins during the break. She will play 21st seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, which should be able to provide an interesting baseline for what the three time US Open champion is capable of.
Final – Naomi Osaka defeats Serena Williams