US Open 2019: Women's singles draw analysis, preview and prediction
At the 2019 edition of the US Open, Naomi Osaka will be spearheading one of the most dynamic fields to have ever played in the tournament. There are over 30 women in the draw who have won one or more WTA titles this year alone.
The field boasts of names of former champions Serena and Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur, the reigning Wimbledon and French Open champions Simona Halep and Ashleigh Barty, and this year's Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova - to name just a few.
Add to that list the names of a slew of in-form players, including a mix of youth and experience: Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, Hsieh Su-Wei, Camila Giorgi, Bianca Andreescu, Aryna Sabalenka.
With main draw action set to begin on Monday, here is a look at the prospects of some of the top players in the draw.
Expected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka vs Kiki Bertens
Analysis: The first quarter of the draw is going to be all about power. Leading the pack will be defending champion Naomi Osaka and Dutch No. 1 Kiki Bertens.
Osaka's path to the quarterfinal is laden with some quality players. While they might not be the biggest names in the women's game, Magda Linette, Coco Gauff, Carla Suarez Navarro and Belinda Bencic are all capable of some top-drawer tennis. Osaka will have to rely on her own strength to get past them, but it will not be easy for the top seed by any means.
The story is not much different for Bertens. Her prospective opponents, including Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Julia Georges, look even more formidable as they pack a lot of experience to go along with their raw power.
Another story to watch out for in the quarter will be of the two Belarusian stars - Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, going up against each other in the first round. The winner of that match might face the winner of another interesting battle brewing in the section - Kaia Kanepi vs Donna Vekic.
With so many big names, all of whom play a very similar style of tennis, it is extremely difficult to pick a winner from this quarter.
Prediction: Naomi Osaka / Magda Linette vs Aryna Sabalenka
Expected quarterfinal: Simona Halep vs Petra Kvitova
Analysis: Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have been handed relatively easier routes to the fourth round. The Romanian has Barbora Strycova to worry about, but the Czech has never played her best tennis in these conditions.
Andreescu, on the other hand, might come up against a tricky second round opponent - the winner of the Mona Barthel vs Lesia Tsurenko first-round encounter. But given the Canadian's recent form, she should be expected to get past that hurdle.
Petra Kvitova will not be thrilled to see Andrea Petkovic and Mihaela Buzarnescu on her side of the draw. The duo has the troubled the Czech in the past, on hard courts in particular.
Elise Mertens also has a very powerful game from the back court, the kind that often bothers the Czech.
Her real challenger though will be former champion Sloane Stephens. The American, however, already has her hands full with probable encounters against the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Alison Riske, Jelena Ostapenko, and Grabine Muguruza.
It will make for an intense battle if Kvitova and Stephens make it to the fourth round. However, if Kvitova can play herself into form early in the tournament, she might not be too far from a last eight spot.
Prediction: Simona Halep vs Petra Kvitova
Expected quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina vs Karolina Pliskova
Analysis: This quarter of the draw will see a few talented Americans taking on seeded players in the early rounds itself. Elina Svitolina will have to watch out for a resurgent Venus Williams, if she wants to have a shot at the quarterfinal spot. The winner of this battle will most likely be up against an in-form and very dangerous looking Madison Keys in the fourth round.
Keys, a former runner-up in Flushing Meadows, played a brilliant tournament in Cincinnati and will be gunning for another big title here. She will be tested by compatriot Sofia Kenin, but should not have much trouble reaching the fourth round.
Keys beat Venus in Cincinnati, but her game can break down against a counterpuncher like Svitolina. It will be interesting to see that match unfolds.
Pliskova, on the other hand, has a much simpler path to the fourth round. If she manages to get past tricky opponents including Jennifer Brady and Caroline Garcia, she will be rewarded with a probable last-16 match against another big-serving player, Johanna Konta.
Prediction: Madison Keys vs Karolina Pliskova
Expected quarterfinal: Serena Williams vs Ashleigh Barty
Analysis: The Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova first round encounter has been the talking point ever since the announcement of the draw. And while it will be an absolute delight to watch the two stars go up against each other, Serena will most likely come out on top without much trouble.
The winner of the match will still have a long road ahead, with a few talented players including Hsieh Su-Wei, Anastasija Sevastova, and Petra Martic standing in their way of a fourth round spot.
Another former champion in the quarter is Angelique Kerber, who has been struggling to find form this season. Here however, she has been handed an easy draw and should make it to the fourth round. There, she is slated to meet one of the star performers of 2019, Ashleigh Barty.
Barty for her part has to be wary of the big-hitting Camila Giorgi, who has found some form of late. The Italian, who made back-to-back finals in the last couple of weeks, has a tough opener against Maria Sakkari, but will fancy her chances from there on.
Prediction: Serena Williams vs Ashleigh Barty / Camila Giorgi
Notable first round matches
Aryna Sabalenka vs Victoria Azarenka
Alison Riske vs Garbine Muguruza
Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova
Camila Giorgi vs Maria Sakkari