The tennis action is heating up on the WTA Tour as we head into the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. Known for throwing up a few surprises - Samantha Stosur, Flavia Pennetta, Sloane Stephens and most recently Naomi Osaka - the Slam has gained a reputation of being fickle with its champions, especially on the women's side.
It has been an exciting (for the lack of a better word) year on the tour for the viewers, who saw one first time champion after another making their way to the top of the women's game. 29 women have won a singles title in 2019 already! It's an extraordinary stat, and add to that the surprise wins in Flushing Meadows in the recent past and we have the possibility of the 2019 Open being one of the most unpredictable Slams of all the time.
It is, then, extremely difficult to pick favourites for the 2019 title. Still, here is a list of players who have done well at the American hardcourts over the past few years. This list is based on players' (isolated) performance at the US Open Series events in the past three years.
8. Karolina Pliskova
Besides being a former US Open finalist, Karolina Pliskova has also been one of the most consistent players at the tournament. She has made at least the quarterfinals of the Slam in the past three outings and has done well in the warm-up tournaments as well.
Pliskova will also have the extra incentive of replacing Naomi Osaka as the World No. 1 should she put up a better performance than last year. Her form this year is indicative of good things for the big-serving Czech.
7. Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka's rise in the women's game began around this time last year. She won the Premier event at Connecticut in the lead-up to the US Open, and then went on reach the fourth round in the Slam. She followed it up with a Premier Mandatory title in Wuhan and broke into the top 10 of the world rankings.
Sabalenka's success in the US Open Series last year was no fluke, as she has followed it up with a final in San Jose this year as well. The youngster will be keen on defending her ranking points from last year and maybe even do one better this year.
6. Sloane Stephens
It has been two years since Sloane Stephens lifted the US Open trophy, and while big things were expected of her, the American has delivered mixed results since. The one thing that has worked out for her regardless though, is her game on home soil.
Stephens followed her finals showing with a quarterfinal run in Flushing Meadows last year. Add to that a final and two semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati in the last two years, and she is firmly placed as a favourite in the conditions.
5. Simona Halep
Former World No. 1 Simona Halep has not had the best time at the US Open in the past two years, but she is still a big threat. Halep is a former semifinalist, and had it not been for difficult draws she could have had better results in 2018-19 as well.
Outside of Flushing Meadows she has done extremely well in the US Open Series, having won a Rogers Cup title and making it to the final of Cincinnati in the last two years. Coming in fresh off a win at Wimbledon, Halep will be eyeing another big victory here.
4. Bianca Andreescu
Binaca Andreescu has been unstoppable in the few tournaments that she has played this season. She looked good in her title run at Rogers Cup a couple of weeks ago, and will be a definite threat in Flushing Meadows.
3. Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka's win at the US Open last year catapulted her to overnight stardom. And while she has carried forward the momentum into 2019, it will be big task to defend her title here.
Osaka did not have the greatest time on clay and grass, but she does play her best tennis on the American hardcourts.
The Japanese has made the back-to-back quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati this year, and will be looking to build on those performances at Flushing Meadows.
2. Serena Williams
Serena Williams has made it to a few finals in the US Open Series in the last three years. That of course includes the the 2018 final which she lost to Naomi Osaka. Serena also made the finals at the Rogers Cup this year, where she had to retire after suffering from back spasms.
Serena's record at the US Open should be beyond scrutiny at this point, but the 2019 tournament might a little extra important for the star athlete. She has lost the last three Grand Slam finals she has played, and would really be looking to go all the way in Flushing Meadows and end the losing streak.
1. Madison Keys
Madison Keys comes into her own during the American hardcourt season. The American has, in the last three years, won the titles in Stanford and Cincinnati, and reached the semifinal and the final at the US Open.
Keys' win in Cincinnati this year was impressive, and she would be feeling that this year is her chance to go all the way at her home Slam. With the type of form she looks to be in, that might well be a very realistic goal.
Anastasija Sevastova, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty have all done well here in the past. Add to that a fresh crop of young, in-form players including Sofia Kenin, Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari, and we have.a real contest at hand.Published 22 Aug 2019, 15:37 IST