Karolina Muchova vs. Venus Williams, US Open R1 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R1 preview + prediction: ??
?? (20) Karolina Muchova vs. ?? Venus Williams

A blockbuster opening round clash from the 2020 US Open sees 2-time former champion Venus Williams take on the 20th seeded Karolina Muchova. This will be the first career meeting between the pair in what is arguably the pick of the first round match-ups at this year’s championships.

Karolina Muchova made a decent start to her Flushing Meadows journey during the Western & Southern Open. Muchova defeated Ann Li in straight sets in the opening round before succumbing to Naomi Osaka in a competitive 3 set match. Whilst the Czech wasn’t able to get the job done against Osaka, it was a match that proved she can compete with the very best on this surface. The 24-year-old has a decent record at the US Open having reached the third round over the last couple of years in her only two appearances in the main draw.

At 40 years of age, Venus Williams is unsurprisingly the oldest players in the women’s singles draw at this year’s US Open. Williams brings decent form into the event. Williams returned to the tour at the Top Seed Open in Lexington where she defeated Victoria Azarenka in straight sets before succumbing to Serena Williams in 3 tights sets. Williams suffered another tight loss in her opening round match at the Western & Southern Open last week where she was beaten 7-5 in the deciding set by Dayana Yastremska. The draws certainly haven’t been kind to Williams, but that’s what can happen given her current ranking outside the top 50.

I’m going to give the edge to Muchova here. Muchova showed in her match against Naomi Osaka last week that her game matches up well against a big baseline hitter on this surface. Williams won’t be as challenging as Osaka was. Muchova has a great mix of power and versatility to her game, a style that is very well suited to the quick hard courts at Flushing Meadows. At this stage of their respective careers it is Muchova who should be getting the job done here. Two key factors could be Muchova’s greater stamina and greater reliability behind her serve.

Prediction: Karolina Muchova to defeat Venus Williams in 3 sets
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Angelique Kerber vs. Kristina Mladenovic, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (14) Angelique Kerber vs. ?? Kristina Mladenovic

Angelique Kerber will kick-start her 2019 US Open campaign with a first round clash against France’s Kristina Mladenovic. Kerber arrives in New York in the midst of a form slump, Kerber has lost 3 consecutive matches and hasn’t won a match on a hard court since Monterrey in April. Nevertheless, Kerber is a former US Open champions, a 3-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world number 1, she is still one of the major threats at this years championships in New York.

Angelique Kerber will fancy her chances against Kristina Mladenovic but will need to improve on her recent form to contend for the title at Flushing Meadows. Kerber hasn’t won a match since her shock second round exit at Wimbledon at the hands of Lauren Davis where she was defending the title. The Us Open series hasn’t gone to plan for Kerber who was beaten by Daria Kasatkina in 3 sets at the Rogers Cups, more recently the German was beaten by Anett Kontaveit in straight sets in Cincinnati. Kerber has shown in the past that she can regain her form at a major, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see that happen over the next few weeks.

Kristina Mladenovic also arrives in New York fresh from back-to-back opening round losses in Toronto and Cincinnati. Mladenovic has somewhat turned into a double specialist in 2019, it is on the doubles court where Mladenovic enjoys far more success. On the singles court, Mladenovic’s weaknesses are frequently exposed. Unfrequently for Mladenovic, Kerber looms as an opponent that will not have a hard time exposing the Mladenovic weaknesses.

Kerber holds a 4-1 head-to-head record over Mladenovic, the German has won all 4 of the previous meetings between the pair on a hard court, including a commanding 6-2 6-2 victory in Beijing last year in what was their most recent clash.

Despite her recent poor form, I don’t see Kerber having many problems in this match-up. Kerber is simply too solid for Mladenovic, especially on a hard court. Kerber’s has no problems picking on the Mladenovic backhand, she can expose Mladenovic’s backhand from anywhere in the court, Kerber’s defense also causes Mladenovic all types of problems, Kerber is one of the best players on tour at playing passing shots which takes away one of Mladenovic’s greatest assets. Furthermore, Kerber’s strong return of serve will likely cause the extremely vulnerable Mladenovic serve to crumble.

Prediction: Angelique Kerber to defeat Kristina Mladenovic in 2 sets

Johanna Konta vs. Daria Kasatkina, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (16) Johanna Konta vs. ?? Daria Kasatkina

Johanna Konta will begin her 2019 US Open campaign with a potentially tricky first round meeting with Russia’s Daria Kasatkina. Konta has had a resurgent season headlined by a semi-final showing at Roland Garros and a quarter-final showing at Wimbledon. The US Open is now the only major where Konta hasn’t made it to the quarter-finals, can the British number 1 change that at Flushing Meadows in 2019?

Johanna Konta’s US Open preparation hasn’t been ideal. Konta suffered back-to-back opening round defeats in Toronto and Cincinnati, a straight set loss to Dayana Yastremska in Toronto was followed by a 3 set loss to Rebecca Peterson in Cincinnati. It has therefore been just over 5 months since Konta has won a match on a hard court, dating back to Miami, not ideal heading into the final Grand Slam of the year.

It has been a really tough season for Daria Kasatkina. However, the Russian is starting to show some small signs of a form reversal during the US Open series. Kasatkina hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Rome but has played a few good matches in recent times. Kasatkina defeated Angelique Kerber in Toronto before pushing eventual champion Bianca Andreescu deep into a third set. Kasatkina then beat an in-form Barbora Strycova in Cincinnati before succumbing to eventual champion Madison Keys.

Kasatkina holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Konta. Kasatkina has won the last 2 meetings between the pair including a 6-4 6-3 victory on route to winning the Moscow title last year.

I’m going to go for the upset here and side with the Russian. It seems Kasatkina is due for a big win and Konta’s form slump may continue. Kasatkina will be relatively confident heading into this match having won the last two meetings between the pair and having played a good couple of matches in recent weeks. Kasatkina’s defensive skills and versatility can trouble Konta, especially early in a tournament when Konta is likely to be rusty having not won a hard court match in a long time.

Prediction: Daria Kasatkina to defeat Johanna Konta in 3 sets

Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (8) Serena Williams vs. ?? Maria Sharapova

The pick of the opening round match-ups at the 2019 US Open sees the two biggest names in women’s tennis renew hostilities as Serena Williams comes up against Maria Sharapova. This will be the 22nd career meeting between the pair, their first ever meeting at the US Open. Williams holds a 19-2 head-to-head record over Sharapova and has won the last 18 matches between the pair in what is arguably the most talked about match-up in women’s tennis over the last few decades. Will Williams continue her dominance over Sharapova in New York?

Serena Williams is still desperately searching for a 24th major title, her first since returning from giving birth. Williams has been close on several occasions over the last few years having reached the final in 3 of her last 5 Grand Slam appearances. Williams was infamously beaten by Naomi Osaka in last year’s controversial US Open final, can the 37-year-old go one step further in 2019? Recent form suggests Williams will yet again feature late in the tournament, Williams arrives in New York fresh from a runner-up showing at the Rogers Cup which was ultimately derailed by a back injury, Williams reached the Wimbledon final just a few months ago.

The last time Serena Williams played Maria Sharapova was at the quarter-final stage of the 2016 Australian Open, Maria Sharapova would fail a doping test shortly after that match. Sharapova has never threatened at a major Since her return from the subsequent doping ban. Sharapova is currently languishing just inside the top 100 of the rankings and has really struggled for the majority of the 2019 season with ongoing injury problems continuing to make life tough for the Russian. Most recently Sharapova broke a lengthy winless spell with a straight set win over Alison Riske in Cincinnati before receiving a reality check as she was smashed by Ash Barty in the next round. It will be fascinating to see how Sharapova regroups and performs against her greatest ever rival.

Williams has absolutely dominated Sharapova, everyone knows that. Williams has won an unprecedented 18 matches in a row against Sharapova, 12 of the last 13 of those matches were straight set victories.

There is little to suggest that Sharapova will be able to stop her losing streak against Williams in New York. Williams has generally been much closer to her best than Sharapova has been to her best. Serena’s serve is still strong, she still has the power and her movement is still good. Sharapova’s serve is a mess and she is certainly not as strong as she once was. Nevertheless, I feel like this will be closer than expected, Williams will be rusty, Williams will be nervous, Sharapova has nothing to lose and a point to prove. I can’t pick Sharapova but it’s not impossible.

Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Maria Sharapova in 3 sets

Saisai Zheng vs. Venus Williams, US Open R1 Preview

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?? Saisai Zheng vs. ?? Venus Williams

An interesting opening round match-up in New York sees two of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw go head-to-head as Saisai Zheng takes on Venus Williams. Zheng is full of confidence at the moment having recently won her first WTA tour level title in San Jose whilst Venus Williams arrives in New York fresh from a quarter-final showing in Cincinnati. Expect an entertaining clash between two contrasting styles.

Saisai Zheng has always been a player with great potential, Zheng recently reminded us of what she is capable of when she won the premier level title in San Jose to begin the US Open series. Zheng beat several tough opponent on route to the title, most notably a straight set win over Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Zheng did however lose in the opening round of the Rogers Cup to Tatjana Mara before succumbing to Aryna Sabalenka in the second round in Cincinnati. Zheng will be looking to regroup in New York and potentially move beyond the second round of a major for the first time.

Venus Williams received a much needed confidence boost a few weeks ago in Cincinnati where she beat several quality opponents on route to the final 8. Venus arrived in Cincinnati having lost 6 of her last 8 matches and in desperate need of strong run. That’s exactly what happened as Venus played some vintage tennis to defeat Lauren Davis, Kiki Bertens and Donna Vekic before succumbing to eventual champion Madison Keys. It will be interesting to see which Venus Williams shows up in New York.

The only previous meeting between the pair took place in Zhuhai in 2015, Venus won that match 4-6 6-1 6-1.

This is a difficult match to predict. It is hard to know what to expect from both players. I’m going to give the slight edge to Zheng. Venus is vulnerable, Zheng has the game to expose the weaknesses in the Williams game. Zheng’s versatility and strong defense have potential to cause Venus problems, especially early in the tournament when Venus hasn’t found her range. At this stage of their respective careers, I’d expect Zheng to be winning this match.

Prediction: Saisai Zheng to defeat Venus Williams in 3 sets

Garbine Muguruza vs. Alison Riske, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (24) Garbine Muguruza vs. ?? Alison Riske

One of the toughest opening round match-ups in the top half of the draw sees the 24th seeded Garbine Muguruza take on the in-form Alison Riske in New York. Muguruza hasn’t won a match in just under 3 months whilst Alison Riske has won 17 matches during Muguruza’s winless stretch. An upset is certainly on the cards heading into this match, however Muguruza is a 2-time Grand Slam champion for a reason and has a point to prove.

Garbine Muguruza is one of the WTA tour’s most mystifying talents, at her best she is one of the best players in the world, a former world number 1 and a 2-time former Grand Slam champion. At her worst she can lose to anyone and is currently in the midst of a slump. Muguruza made a good start to the season but hasn’t won a match since her run to the round of 16 at Roland Garros. To make matters worse, the US Open has historically been Muguruza’s least successful major. Muguruza only played the one match during the US Open series before arriving in New York, a tough opening round loss at the hands of Madison Keys in Cincinnati.

Alison Riske has had the best couple of months of her career. The American’s grass court season was outstanding and more recently she has played some good matches on the hard courts of North America. Riske made it through the qualifying draw in Toronto before succumbing to Karolina Pliskova in the second round in a match that went the distance. However, most recently Riske did suffer a disappointing opening round loss to Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati, perhaps an excusable loss down to fatigue. It will be interesting to see how Riske regroups for New York, a tournament where she has lost in the opening round on 5 consecutive occasions.

Muguruza holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Riske. The most recent match-up between the pair took place in Tokyo last year where the American claimed a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 victory.

I’m going to side with Muguruza here. To say Muguruza is due for a win would be an understatement whilst it seems that Riske may have hit a wall in Cincinnati after all the tennis she has played over the last few months. Riske’s poor history in New York is a cause for concern especially against an opponent who usually thrives on the big stage. Muguruza should be healthy and motivated heading into this match and that spells danger, a focused Muguruza is too powerful for Riske and should get the job done.

Prediction: Garbine Muguruza to defeat Alison Riske in 3 sets

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Yafan Wang, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (19) Caroline Wozniacki vs. ?? Yafan Wang

The 19th seeded Caroline Wozniacki begins her 2019 US Open campaign against China’s Yafan Wang. The 2-time former finalist in New York is a shadow of the player she once was, Wozniacki is certainly vulnerable heading into this match and Wang is a dangerous enough opponent to make the most of this opportunity. Can Yafan Wang pull off the upset?

Caroline Wozniacki won just 1 match during the US Open series before heading to New York. The Dane defeated Yulia Putintseva in straight sets in Toronto before being beaten by Iga Swiatek in 3 sets. A week later Wozniacki was beaten in the opening round in Cincinnati, a straight set loss to Dayan Yastremska. The former world number 1 is having one of her worst seasons on tour in a long time, the US Open provides Wozniacki one last chance to make a major run in 2019 at a tournament where she has had a lot of success in the past. Wozniacki had reached the semi-finals or better in New York on 5 previous occasions, a figure she seems unlikely to extend in 2019.

Yafan Wang is having the best season of her career but also arrives in New York short of match wins. Wang’s US Open series results have been poor. Wang was beaten in the opening round in Washing and the Bronx, in the midst of those losses Wang reached the second round in Cincinnati via the qualifying draw as a lucky-loser where she succumbed to Karolina Pliskova in straight sets. Wang is relatively inexperienced at the Grand Slam level, she has never made it past the second round of a major and will be competing in the main draw in New York for just the third time. Nevertheless, 2019 has been a year of firsts for Wang after she won her first title in Acapulco, perhaps she can also break new ground in New York?

The only previous meeting between the pair took place in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 where Wozniacki won 6-3 6-1. Expect a very different match this time around with the pair in very different spaces heading into this match.

I believe Wang has a decent chance in this match. Wang has the consistent, deep hitting that can expose Wozniacki if the Chinese player is able to remain patient and execute her game. Wang can also match the physicality of Wozniacki and therefore she has the game to win this. Wozniacki’s defense is not what it once was so she is vulnerable in these types of match-ups. I’ll go for the upset here, Wozniacki has no weapons at the moment, her movement is far from what it used to be, she is simply ripe for the picking.

Prediction: Yafan Wang to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (9) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka

A blockbuster opening round match-up in New York sees Belarus’s top players go head-to-head for the first time when the 9th seeded Aryna Sabalenka takes on 2-time former finalist Victoria Azarenka. Expect fireworks between two of the fiercest competitors on tour desperate to avoid an opening round exit at the final Grand Slam of the year. Who will prevail?

2019 hasn’t gone to plan for Aryna Sabalenka. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old is still one of the tours most exciting young prospects and is still clinging to a spot in the top 10. Sabalenka’s recent form isn’t great but she did start her US Open series off with a run to the final in San Jose where she would disappointingly succumb to Saisai Zheng in straight sets. Since then the fiery Belarusian was upset in the opening round in Toronto at the hands of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a very close match, Sabalenka was then beaten in the round of 16 by Maria Sakkari in a similarly tight 3 set match.

Victoria Azarenka is far from the player that reached back-to-back US Open finals in 2012 and 2013. Azarenka’s results have been consistently mediocre over the last few years and her recent form is true of that. Azarenka was beaten in straight sets in the second round of all 3 of her US Open series events before heading to New York, Azarenka was beaten by Donna Vekic in Stanford and Cincinnati whilst she was beaten by Dayan Yastremska in Toronto. Unfortunately for Azarenka has been dealt yet another tough early round draw at a major, she will need to dig deep to get through this one.

Interestingly this will be the first career meeting between Sabalenka and Azarenka. This is a classic match-up between a power hitter and a counter-puncher. Sabalenka has the superior firepower but Azarenka deals with power better than most. Usually I would side with the counter-puncher but on this occasion I’ll stick with Sabalenka. Azarenka was easily beaten by Vekic (twice) and Yastremska in recent weeks, Sabalenka provides a similar but stronger challenge, if Sabalenka can control her power she will be too strong for Azarenka.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets

Naomi Osaka vs. Anna Blinkova, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (1) Naomi Osaka vs. ?? Anna Blinkova

Naomi Osaka begins her title defense in New York with an opening round clash against Russia’s Anna Blinkova. There are several questions marks surrounding the form and fitness of the Japanese star heading into this clash, she will need to be on guard as she comes up against an in-form opponent. Will the top seed survive her first test at the 2019 US Open?

Naomi Osaka’s US Open series hasn’t gone to plan thus far. Osaka may have made back-to-back quarter-finals but the reality wasn’t so impressive. Osaka was comfortably beaten by Serena Williams in Toronto before retiring injured against Sofia Kenin in Cincinnati with a left knee injury. Osaka has rarely been able to play her best tennis over the last few months and arrives in New York under a huge amount of pressure as she seeks to defend a Grand Slam title for the very first time in her young career.

Anna Blinkova arrives in New York fresh from a quarter-final showing in the Bronx last week. Blinkova is battled-hardened having played 6 matches in the Bronx, the Russian fell at the final round of qualifying before making the most of her lucky-loser position in the main draw with a run to the final 8. Blinkova has never won a main draw match at the US Open but she did achieve her best result at a Grand Slam earlier this year by making the third round at Roland Garros.

This will be the first career meeting between Osaka and Blinkova. This may look like an easy matchup for Osaka but the reality is likely to be very different. It is Blinkova who is better prepared heading into this match and who has nothing to lose. All the pressure is on Osaka, this will be her first match as a defending champion at a Grand Slam, many others have stumbled in this position. Nevertheless, Osaka is a 2-time Grand Slam champion for a season and is very much at home on a hard court, I expect the world number 1 to fight her way through this one, she should have too many weapons for the young Russian to handle.

Prediction: Naomi Osaka to defeat Anna Blinkova in 3 sets

Madison Keys vs. Carla Suarez Navarro, US OPEN QF Preview

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?? (14) Madison Keys vs. ?? (30) Carla Suarez Navarro

Madison Keys will be out to maintain her perfect record over Carla Suarez Navarro when the pair meet at the quarter-final stage of the US Open on Wednesday. Keys reached her first and only Grand Slam final in New York 12 months ago, the American has reached the quarter-finals in 3 of Grand Slams in 2018 but claiming that elusive Grand Slam title is now the task for Keys. Suarez Navarro will be no pushover, the Spaniard is fresh off a big upset win over Maria Sharapova and is arguably playing the best tennis of her career right now.

Madison Keys of the United States in action during her fourth-round match at the 2018 US Open Grand Slam tennis tournament

Madison Keys rocketed into the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows with a commanding 6-1 6-3 win over Dominika Cibulkova. Keys played her greatest match of the tournament thus far as she breezed past the Slovakian. Keys was also untroubled in her first few matches in New York as she beat Pauline Parmentier and Bernarda Pera in straight sets. The American’s biggest test was in the third round where she defeated Aleksandra Krunic from a set down, an important win for Keys.

Carla Suarez Navarro has had a much more difficult route to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows. Carla required 3 sets to get the better of Nicole Gibbs and Kristina Mladenovic in a pair of scrappy performances to start her campaign. The Spaniard claimed an epic third round win over the 6th seeded Caroline Garcia, outlasting the Frenchwoman to win in a third set tiebreak. Suarez Navarro secured her spot in a 7th Grand Slam quarter-final with a dominant 6-4 6-3 win over a wayward Maria Sharapova. Suarez Navarro has never reached the semi-finals at a Grand Slam having lost all 6 of her previous Grand Slam quarter-finals.

Keys holds a perfect 3-0 record over Suarez Navarro. All 3 of those victories required a third set. The most recent match between the two took place at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Keys won that match 6-3 3-6 6-3.

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