It is hard to know what the more compelling narrative is for the US Open where Williams is concerned. For so long it was all about ‘22’ and drawing level with Steffi Graf’s grand total of Slam titles. Now surely next in line is to surpass Margaret Court, but reaching those heights has proved pretty challenging.
Now to add some spice to the proceedings the race is on for the World No. 1 spot, with Angelique Kerber firmly leading the charge. Williams has a potentially tough start with Ekaterina Makarova – while the American leads their head to head with a healthy 4-1 lead, Makarova has a hard court Slam win against her.
Her first seed (Ana Ivanovic) is unlikely to find the kind of form to oust a No. 1 at the moment, but the potential fourth round is a compelling match up with Sam Stosur who defeated her in 2011 for her maiden Slam.
Halep seems to have found some solid form on the hard courts and skipping the Olympics did not do any harm as she won the Montreal final and reached the Cincinnati semi-final. Britain’s Heather Watson may well wind up as a potential opponent, but if Halep can get through her possible fourth round opponent Carla Suárez Navarro.
If this is our locked in quarter-final, we should expect a good battle here, but it will be all about the shoulder and whether Williams can play herself into form.
Radwanska actually has an outside chance at the World No. 1 spot if she goes on and wins the whole shebang. Heaven knows she deserves a solid run after her nightmare trip to Rio which resulted in a first round exit, but she has shown a cleaner pair of heels in Cincinnati, where she reached the quarter-final, and at the time of writing, is on a strong dash through the New Haven draw.
However, is there the risk of over-play? Her potential third round is Caroline Garcia who has one win over her. Worst still would be Timea Bacsinszky, who leads their head to head 2-0.
At the other end of the bracket – come on – who does not want the prospect of potentially one last Williams sisters US Open clash? The pair are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals and buoyed by a Rio silver in the Mixed doubles, can Williams the elder power her way through in this corner? She would have to beat an in-form Karolina Pliskova who won in Cincinnati, and is the most likely quarter-finalist.
The big question is will Keys have recovered from the neck injury that caused her to pull out of New Haven. So close to an Olympic medal, Keys has had a strong run of form this year, including winning the Birmingham title and making finals in Rome and Montreal.
She could face complatriot CoCo Vandeweghe in the third round and the winner of a match up that has the potential to be a winner on drama alone between Barbora Strycova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. If Keys is on form she could be set for a good performance here.
It has been a bit up and down for the French Open champion, who lost a stack of points with a second round exit at Wimbledon, lost to the eventual Olympic champion Monica Puig in Rio but had a good outing in Cincinnati.
Which Muguruza is going to turn up though? She also has a chance of snaring the No. 1 spot with a second Slam title in a year, and could well face Puig once more in the third round. She has something of an issue recently when she has faced British No. 1 Johanna Konta and could well face the Brit again a year after falling victim to Konta’s run to the fourth round.
We might just suggest, ever so gently that Muguruza is a likely upset here.
As fond as we are of the hilarious Vinci, the bottom quarter is all about Kerber. She talks a great talk about how the ‘Singapore Incident’ shaped her resolve to longer give in to mental fragility – and to be fair two Slam finals and a maiden title backs that up pretty well.
She had a shot at claiming the No. 1 and came up against an inspired Pliskova who had been hitting the ball huge all week in Cincinnati. The race will be even more nip and tuck at the US Open. With only third round points to defend, Kerber will have to hope she can win the potential battle of the lefties between her and Petra Kvitova, while Williams will have to make it past the semi-finals at the very least to cling on to the top spot.
Vinci was trying to deflect all pressure on her in her pre-tournament press at Cincinnati, and she could well fall to Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round.
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