The WTA tour is in an exciting state heading into the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. There are numerous legitimate potential champions, an exciting mix of past Grand Slam champions (Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka) and those gunning for a maiden major title (Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Eugenie Boucahrd, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki).
Two time defending champion Serena Williams sits at the top of the draw, Serena will be desperate to claim her sixth U.S Open title to avoid going through 2014 without a Grand Slam title to her name. The number 1 seed will face compatriot Taylor Townsend in the opening round. The match between Serena and Taylor is arguably the most fascinating first round match in New York. Serena has a relatively comfortable draw through the opening week. The world number 1’s first projected seeded opponent is Shuai Zhang in the third round. Serena could potentially run into Sam Stosur in the fourth round, in a rematch of the 2011 final. After an impressive week in New Haven, Stosur will arrive in New York with some real momentum, desperate to make a mends for her shock first round loss in New York last year. Stosur would not be without a chance against Serena. Stosur faces Lauren Davies in the opening round, a potential banana skin for the inconsistent Aussie. Coco Vandeweghe is probably the most likely to spoil a Serena vs Stosur fourth round encounter. Vandeweghe could meet Stosur in the third round.
Ana Ivanovic finds herself in Serena’s section of the draw once again. Ivanovic has had a really consistent season and will be looking for another solid run in New York. Ana arrives in New York full of confidence after a terrific run in Cincinnati where she reached the final. Ana’s epic semi-final victory over Maria Sharapova was arguably the match of the season, a massive victory for the former world number 1. Ivanovic faces Alison Riske in the opening round; the American will be no pushover. The Serb is then likely to meet Karolina Pliskova in the second round before facing Casey Dellacqua in the third round. Overall Ana has a pretty favorable draw in the opening week, she is projected to meet Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round. 23rd Seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also sits in this section of the draw; the Russian is always dangerous at big events. Anastasia hasn't had the greatest of seasons but her recent results suggest she is turning things around.
Quarter-Final Prediction: (1) Serena Williams vs (23) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Petra Kvitova sits at the top of the second quarter. The Wimbledon champion has been dealt a fairly tricky draw. The U.S Open is Petra’s least successful Slam; the Czech has never progressed past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Petra arrives in New York with some confidence after a great week in New Haven. Petra will need to be close to her best right from the first round where she will face the dangerous Kristina Mladenovic. Petra faces a potential blockbuster third round clash with Madison Keys. If Petra reaches the fourth round she may set up another blockbuster clash, this time against two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka arrives in New York deprived of confidence; the Belarusian suffered a lopsided loss to Agnieszka Radwanska in Montreal before withdrawing from Cincinnati. Vika’s ranking continues to drop and could suffer a major blow if she suffers an early exit in New York. Vika faces Misaki Doi in the opening round and could potentially meet an in form Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round. It’s really hard to predict how things will unfold in this section of the draw; it could end up being a complete mess.
Eugenie Bouchard arrives in New York, deprived of confidence having lost 3 of her 4 matches during the U.S Open series. Once again Genie has been dealt another relatively favorable draw at a Grand Slam. The seventh seed faces Olga Govortsova in the opening round before a second round match against either Heather Watson or Sorana Cirstea who will do battle in an interesting first round matchup. Bouchard is then projected to meet Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the third round. Twelfth seed Dominika Cibulkova also features in this section of the draw. The Slovakian should cruise through her opening two matches before a potentially tricky third round match against Ekaterina Makarova. Cibulkova has a perfect 3-0 record over Makarova, however Domi arrives in New York on the back of three straight losses. Markarova has a good record in New York, I fancy the Russian to come through this section.
Quarter-Final 2 Prediction: (27) Madison Keys vs (17) Ekaterina Makarova
Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska are the headline acts in the third quarter. Both ladies arrive in New York full of confidence, both desperate to claim a maiden Gland Slam title. Kerber will face a qualifier in the first and second rounds before a projected third round match against Kurumi Nara. It doesn't get much better than that for the German. Kerber’s fourth round assignment will be a much tougher test. Kerber is likely to face the winner of Sloane Stephens and Jelena Jankovic who seem likely to meet for the third time in a month. Kerber would have the edge against either opponent and seems pretty likely to reach at least the quarter-finals.
Agnieszka Radwanska also seems likely to reach the final eight, like Kvitova Aga is yet to reach the final eight at the U.S Open. Radwanska arrives in New York full of confidence on the back of winning one of the biggest titles of her career in Montréal. Radwanska faces Sharon Fichman in the opening round before facing either Shuai Peng or Jie Zheng in the second round. Aga is then projected to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round. The fourth seed is then likely to face either Lucie Safarova or Alize Cornet who look set to meet in the third round. Both Safarova and Cornet have had some great results this season, both will be dangerous opponents for Aga. Nevertheless I expect Aga to come through this section to set up a meeting with Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals.
Quarter-Final 3 Prediction: (6) Angelique Kerber vs (4) Agnieszka Radwanska
The fourth quarter is perhaps the most intriguing section of the draw as it features three serious contenders: Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki as well as a resurgent Venus Williams. Fifth seed Maria Sharapova faces compatriot Maria Kirilenko in a fascinating first round encounter. Kirilenko hasn't played a match since Wimbledon and will surely not pose a threat to Maria. Maria’s first real test is likely to come in the third round where she could come up against Sabine Lisicki. Caroline Wozniacki has really turned things around in the last couple of months and arrives in New York full of confidence after a solid U.S Open series. Wozniacki faces a tricky opening round match against Magdalena Rybarikova. Wozniacki seems destined to meet Andrea Petkovic in the third round in what would be fascinating contest. I think/hope we will see Maria take on Caro in the fourth round, in what would be their first meeting since Miami last year.
Second seed Simona Halep rounds out the draw. The Romanian arrives in New York on the back of a shock first up loss to Magdalena Rybarikova in New Haven. Halep has a seemingly straightforward passage through to the third round where she is projected to meet 25th seed Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza certainly has the game to trouble Halep and I wouldn't be surprised to see her come through this section. Venus Williams and Sara Errani are the other seeded payers in this section. Venus had a wonderful week in Montreal, defeating Serena on route to the final where she eventually ran out of gas and was no match for Aga Radwanska. Venus is projected to meet Sara Errani in the third round, however Venus may well find herself up against Camila Giorgi, which would be some spectacle. Venus has a great chance to reach the second week in New York.
Quarter-Final 4 Prediction: (5) Maria Sharapova vs (19) Venus Williams
I truly believe this years U.S Open is wide out, there are so many legitimate potential winners, it really is hard to pick a winner at this stage. Of course Serena will be the favourite, the two time defending champion will be desperate to avoid going through 2014 without a major. Serena has a pretty comfortable opening week, so she should avoid an early round wobble. Once Serena get’s into the business end of a Slam she is almost unbeatable. It is for this reason that I am going to pick Serena to win her sixth U.S Open title. Serena finished first in the U.S open series after claiming titles in Stanford and Cincinnati.
It’s going to be fascinating to see who comes through the bottom half. Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep are all gunning for a maiden Grand Slam title; perhaps this is the time for one of them to step up? Former champion Maria Sharapova is the clear second favourite heading into New York. Despite not having the best U.S Open series, Maria is always a contender at any Slam, her best this year has been very good. However, I think either Agnieszka Radwanska or Angelique Kerber will go on to reach the final. Both come into this event full of confidence and both have a seemingly comfortable pathway into the quarter-finals and therefore should be fresh and able to play there best tennis at the business end of the event.
Final Prediction: Serena Williams def. Angelique Kerber