Whilst the U.S Open series kicks off with a premier event in Stanford, the Citi Open in Washington D.C promises to be an entertaining sideshow. The event has amassed a rather strong field for an International Event with 8 of the world’s top 30 players in action in the nations capital.
Magdalena Rybarikova comes into the Citi Open as the two time defending champion. The Slovakian is currently on a four match losing streak and will have her work cut out defending her title in Washington D.C.
Eugenie Bouchard was set to be the headline act in Washington. The Canadian is having a stellar season having made the semi-finals in Melbourne and Paris and recently making the final at Wimbledon before being blown off the park by Petra Kvitova. Genie decided to withdraw from the event citing a vague medical issue, perhaps a wise move given the amount of tennis her young body has endured already this season. She is now a legitimate Grand Slam contender and doesn't really need to be taking part in events like this.
Sloane Stephens still desperately seeks her first career title, the American has been a little more consistent this season but overall her results haven’t been satisfactory, As a result the American recently decided to split with her coach Paul Annacone. I have a feeling this could be Sloane’s week at last.
A host of other noteworthy players are in action at the Citi Open. The always-entertaining Alize Cornet will be looking for a big American hard court swing after some promising results scattered throughout the season. Cornet has of course defeated Serena Williams twice and also defeated Agnieszka Radwanska on route to her first and only title of the season in Katowice.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Kirsten Flipkens and Sorana Cirstea will also be in action at the Citi Open, these three will be desperate to string a couple of wins together after having disappointing seasons. Pavlyuchenkova started the year off well but has recently been hampered by injury.
Dangerous lefties Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova will be a threat to any opponents who cross their paths in Washington, both will be looking to for a deep run heading into the U.S Open series. Both ladies had deep runs at Wimbledon. Safarova had a breakthrough tournament, reaching the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Makarova reached the quarter-finals before being belted by Lucie 6-3 6-1.
Young American talents Madison Keys, Christina McHale, Lauren Davis and Alison Riske will be looking to take the next step during the American hard court swing. Based on their respective results this season (especially Madison Keys) I wouldn't be surprised to see either one of them achieve some breakthrough results in the next few weeks.
Number 1 seed Lucie Safarova has been dealt a tricky first round match against Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman has been quite busy over the past few weeks, reaching the semi-finals in Istanbul before reaching the quarter-finals at the Baku Cup. The other seeded player in the top quarter, Madison Keys also faces a tricky first round opponent. The American faces Kurumi Nara who is certainly capable of causing an upset. Despite all this both Lucie and Madison should both proceed to the quarter-finals to set up a third career meeting.
Quarter-Final 1 Prediction: (1) Lucie Safarova vs (7) Madison Keys
Third seed Alize Cornet will take on local wild card Shelby Rogers in the opening round. The American recently had a breakthrough week on clay in Bad Gastein, defeating Sara Errani on route to the final before falling to Andrea Petkovic in straight sets. Alize should be able to make her way through this section of the draw with the out of form Sorana Cirstea being the other seeded player in this quarter. Cirstea faces Kiki Bertens in the opening round; on current form I think Bertens is very capable of defeating the Romanian. The winner of this match will likely face Bojana Jovanovski, I like the Serbs chances of reaching the quarters.
Quarter-Final 2 Prediction: (3) Alize Cornet vs Bojana Jovanovski
The third quarter is perhaps the toughest and features some interesting first round matches. Most noteworthy is the match between fourth seeded Sloane Stephens and compatriot Christina McHale (it will be the first meeting between the two). Sloane is still yet to win a title, with the withdrawal of Eugenie I would say she is now the favourite to go all the way in Washington. The first round match between unseeded players Heather Watson and Kirsten Flipkens is another one to look out for. The winner of that match will face either Kuznetsova or Hercog.
Quarter-Final 3 Prediction: Heather Watson vs (4) Sloane Stephens
The final section features second seed Ekaterina Makarova and fifth seeded compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Makarova had a brilliant run in London, the Russian is becoming a little more consistent and will be a threat to anyone she comes up against during the U.S Open series. Makarova comes up against two time defending champion Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round. On current form Makarova should be far too strong. Pavlyuchenkova faces Razzano In the opening round before a likely match up against Alison Riske in the second round. I wouldn't be surprised to see Riske have a deep run in Washington.
Quarter-Final 4 Prediction: Alison Riske vs (2) Ekaterina Makarova
Final Prediction: Sloane Stephens def. Madison Keys:
It will be a fascinating week in Washington, a good chance for a number of ladies to claim a rare title. The spotlight will be on Sloane Stephens to finally claim her first title, on this occasion I don't think she will disappoint. Madison Keys really impressed me in Eastbourne but injury derailed her Wimbledon campaign, assuming she is fit and ready to go she should have a good week in Washington.