Despite having such a dangerous game when at her best, Aryna Sabalenka‘s slam performances in previous years always seemed a bit of a disappointment in comparison to expectations. The end of 2021 suggested things had changed with semi final runs at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Banned from Wimbledon, the US Open will be very important for the Belarussian to maintain her status as one of the top players on the tour. She will play Kaia Kanepi in round two, an opponent who has always thrived in this kind of match at slams.
Kanepi is still going strong at the age of 35, remaining comfortably inside the top 50. A lot of this can be owed to her quarter final run at the Australian Open where she secured big wins over Angelique Kerber and Sabalenka before falling to Iga Swiatek. She began her trip to North America with a final run in Washington but struggled in both Toronto and Cincinnati. She booked her place in round two with a straight sets win over Tereza Martincova, dropping serve just once.
Sabalenka will still be ruing last year’s tournament, with an incredibly disappointing semi final loss in a slam that was hers for the taking. She opened her next attempt with a comfortable win over Catherine Harrison in round one. She was all over the American’s serve in the 6-1 6-3 win, breaking six times across the two sets.
She will be hoping it is third time lucky against Kanepi, having also lost in Melbourne last year too. The Sabalenka serve has been fairly disastrous at times in recent weeks, something that Kanepi can take advantage of if the stream of double faults continues. Despite being second seed, the pressure may well be off a bit here which could allow Sabalenka to finally make the breakthrough against an often tricky opponent.
Prediction – Aryna Sabalenka in three sets