Saturday, August 25, 2018

U.S. Open Preview: Nakedly Interesting in the City

The are a million stories in the naked city. And there are seemingly just as many set to be exposed in the women's draw at this year's U.S. Open.

Over the next two weeks, the women of the WTA will surely unveil their fair share of tennis tales. And they won't even have to go au natural to do it. Of course, if one did, well, it would make even the Most Interesting Tour blush, wouldn't it? At least a little.

Some are nakely obvious potential plots to follow.

Such as Serena Williams' quest for post-motherhood slam win #1 (she came up a match short in London), a Margaret Court-tying #24, and her official elevation into the clouds above Mount Olympus (Olympia?). Well, that's already on schedule, I guess, but two weekends from now would be a can't-miss date for a ceremony that we could all put on our calendar. World #1 and Roland Garros champ Simona Halep, free of the pressure of winning her maiden major title, has been in top (maybe her most solid ever?) form on North American hard courts in recent weeks, coming an unconverted MP short of being the first women to achieve the Canada/Cincinnati double in back-to-back weeks. One year after being sacrificed in the altogether to the Draw Gods via a Night 1 match-up with a then-unseeded Maria Sharapova, the Romanian will seek to become just the second player not named Serena (Kerber '16) to reach three slam finals in a season since her idol Justine Henin played in all four in 2006. Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens completed her miraculous summer comeback with a U.S. Open title in 2017. After an extended period of looking lost in the woods immediately afterward, she's posted big results (Miami W, Roland Garros RU) on big stages, but the difficulty in defending a maiden slam crown will be a whole new experience to conquer.

Also without a stitch of cover, though operating without quite the same spotlight on their bare skin...

Madison Keys, who was a first-time slam finalist a year ago at Flushing Meadows, returns with another slam semi (RG) on her resume. She'll be discussed early and often as a potential title contender this time, but the worry of another injury (see her recent withdrawal from a tournament at the first inkling of a sore wrist) is always lurking just beneath the surface, ready to strip her of her dreams. Speaking of disrobing, Kiki Bertens stripped away her "clay court specialist" moniker by winning one of the biggest hard court titles on the schedule in Cincy after stringing together eight straight wins over Top 10 players this summer. But the Dutch woman has never advanced past the 3rd Round at a hard court major. So far, at least. Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova have been lights-out in "regular season" competition in '18, combining to win eight singles titles. They're a combined 8-6 in the season's three slams, with only the Ukrainian reaching a QF (AO). A solid Player of the Year contender but for her disastrous slam record, Kvitova has two 1st Round exits, while Svitolina (still without a slam SF in her career) won just two combined matches in Paris and Wimbledon. The Open is their last chance this season to change this stark (naked) narrative before the arrival of 2019.

Players who have been confident in their skin in recent majors will be looking display their raw ability once again.

Caroline Wozniacki opened '18 by claiming her maiden slam in Melbourne, but her season has been something of a disappointment ever since. And now she's nursing injuries that could make her a first week casualty. Or she could ride the emotional memory wave of what has traditionally been her *best* major. Angelique Kerber has climbed back from her historic "year after" slip in '17, winning her third slam at Wimbledon. She's been mostly quiet in recent weeks, but won in New York just two seasons ago. '17 RG champ Alona Ostapenko is coming off her best post-major title slam result (Wimbledon SF), but she's never reached the Round of 16 at a hard court major. Garbine Muguruza, a multi-slam champ who's as likely to win a third as she is to fail to escape the opening rounds (whether it be because of injury or one of her sleepwalking displays between the lines). One could make *any* prediction for the Spaniard and be assured of quite a few healthy nods of agreement, as she's the most vexing slam contender to figure out since the tour first got to know a Russian named Sveta.

To live, shining with delight, is not stupidity at all.
It's stupid to envy instead of delight and light.
It would be foolish to put all the tenderness away
and send empty greetings without emotions.
It's silly to invent other people's names for feelings.
It's a shame to deceive yourself and to believe in yourself,
Embroidering experiences in the framework of propriety.
Light and soulfulness measure fake.

[more or less, depending on which translation thingy you utilize]

Speaking of her, might this slam be the moment that a former major winner peels away the rust in full view, revealing themselves to be wearing a spankin' new cape and multi-colored bodysuit fit for a heroine underneath?

Serena, no matter what she wears (or who objects to it months later), is already squarely in the middle of this particular conversation. But so is Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Hordette won in Washington in recent weeks, faces Venus in the 1st Round, and could get Serena in the 3rd. I mean, it'd be oh-so-Sveta if she'd defeat *both* Sisters yet still fail to advance beyond the Round of 16, right? Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova ('06 champ) and Vika Azarenka (2012-13 finalist) are in the draw, as well, making this just the fourth major of the last thirteen with those two AND Serena in the main draw. A Serena/Venus pairing could come in the *3rd* Round, while Vika could meet Stephens at the same stage. A year after facing (and defeating) Halep in the 1st Round, this time Sharapova has drawn 39-year old Patty Schnyder, the oldest slam qualifier ever.

At the same time, contenders from a year ago very well could see their results undressed very quickly this time around, leaving them (figuratively) in the buff, wearing only their birthday suit.

The rare all-Bannerette semis of a year ago is a feat not likely to be replicated twelve months later. While Stephens and Keys should remain contenders, '17 final four members CoCo Vandeweghe and Venus Williams aren't exactly clicking on all cylinders. Both are battling injuries. Vandeweghe enters on five-match losing streak and with just one MD win in a major this season after reaching two semis and QF in '17. Venus is 6-6 since her good IW/Miami turn (SF/QF) in March and has yet to reach an '18 final after doing so in Melbourne, Wimbledon and Singapore last year.

Generation PDQ, brought to the forefront by Latvian Thunder's title run in Paris last year, have ofteen been seen running buck naked through any number of draws this season, flashing talent and generational buzz at every turn. Could one of them be the latest to "shock the world" by streaking across the slam stage and making off with a piece of hardware?

Surely, Aryna Sabalenka has the look of the sort of player who could do it. Before the season, this space postulated: "Looking for an Ostapenko-like smash who might shock the world and obliterate -- Kool-Aid Man style -- a slam wall? Maybe Sabalenka will be ready for such a star turn. Her Fed Cup heroics looked to be just scratching the surface, but can she maintain control of her powerful, though oft-wild, game long enough for a deep run at a major?" Well, maybe. She's ripped through the hard court summer, improving and growing more confident along the way, culminating in her maiden singles title in New Haven this weekend. Could the best be yet to come from "Belarusian Boom?" If not her, how about The (swashbuckling Dasha) Kasatkina? Or Elise "Belgian Rumble" Mertens, already a semifinalist at a HC major in '18? And then there's The Cricketeer (Ash Barty), the Croatian Comet (Donna Vekic) or Indian Wells champ Naomi Osaka, looking to ride The Great Wave off New York to the worldwide superstardom that a major title could produce?

That's already quite a lot of possibilities, and I haven't even talked about the late-blooming thirtysomething (or nearly so) contingent, the continued coverage of one of the tour's underlying themes of '18 -- mothers returning to the court -- or any of the many amazing comeback stories in play for one more miraculous chapter, such as that of Mihaela Buzarnescu. The Romanian made her slam MD debut in New York a year ago after having left the sport due to injuries, and she returns next week as a tour singles champion, the #21 seed and staggeringly back just a few weeks after *another* injury that looked (and sounded) catastrophic, or at the very least set to keep her away until the fall, if not end her season early.

And, of course, who knows what stories will pop up at this Open that NO ONE saw coming. And there surely will be a few. There always are on the Most Interesting Tour in the World.

One thing we can be assured of? In the end, one woman will leave New York wearing (at least in theory) only a smile, having shocked the world, stunned the sensibilities, and made the city her own personal tennis playground.

Look out New York, here they come.

Whole lotta slams...

2016 AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2016 US: Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2017 RG: Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2017 WI: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2017 US: Sloane Stephens, USA
2018 AO: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2018 RG: Simona Halep, ROU
2018 WI: Angelique Kerber, GER

1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2010 Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Aga Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (W)
2016 U.S. Open - Karolina Pliskova
2017 Roland Garros - Alona Ostapenko (W)
2017 U.S. Open - Sloane Stephens (W)
2017 U.S. Open - Madison Keys

1999 Serena Williams, USA
2000 Venus Williams, USA
2001 Venus Williams, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2006 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Serena Williams, USA
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA
2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 Sloane Stephens, USA

8...Serena Williams (6-2)
4...Venus Williams (2-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2...Victoria Azarenka (0-2)
2...Caroline Wozniacki (0-2)
1...Angelique Kerber (1-0)
1...Maria Sharapova (1-0)
1...Sloane Stephens (1-0))
1...Samantha Stosur (1-0)
1...Jelena Jankovic (0-1)
1...Madison Keys (0-1)
1...Karolina Pliskova (0-1)
1...Vera Zvonareva (0-1)

101...Chris Evert
89...Serena Williams*
89...Martina Navratilova
76...Venus Williams*
73...Steffi Graf
62...Lindsay Davenport

**U.S. OPEN TOP SEEDS - since 2002**
2002 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL (RU)
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL (4th)
2005 Maria Sharapova, RUS (SF)
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA (SF)
2007 Justine Henin, BEL (W)
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB (2nd)
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS (3rd)
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (SF)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (SF)
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR (RU)
2013 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2014 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2015 Serena Williams, USA (SF)
2016 Serena Williams, USA (SF)
2017 Karolina Pliskova, CZE (QF)
2018 Simona Halep, ROU

1968 Virginia Wade, GBR
1979 Tracy Austin, USA
1990 Gabriela Sabatini, ARG
1998 Lindsay Davenport, USA
1999 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2017 Sloane Stephens, USA

Unseeded/Wild Card - Kim Clijsters, BEL (2009)
Unseeded - Sloane Stephens, USA (2017)
#26 - Flavia Pennetta, ITA (2015)
#9 - Samantha Stosur, AUS (2011)
#9 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (2004)
#7 - Serena Williams, USA (1999)
#6 - Virginia Wade, GBR (1968)

Unranked - Kim Clijsters, 2009 (W)
#83 - Sloane Stephens, 2017 (W)
#66 - Venus Williams, 1997

2011 Stosur (W), S.Williams (F); Kerber/Wozniacki
2012 S.Williams (W), Azarenka (F); Errani/Sharapova
2013 S.Williams (W), Azarenka (F); Li/Pennetta
2014 S.Williams (W), Wozniacki (F); Peng/Makarova
2015 Pennetta (W), Vinci (F); Halep/S.Williams
2016 Kerber (W), Ka.Pliskova (F); S.Williams/Wozniacki
2017 Stephens (W), Keys (F); Vandeweghe/V.Williams

2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
2009 [WC] Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
2015 Roberta Vinci, ITA
2016 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2017 Sloane Stephens, USA (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#26 - 2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA (W)
#20 - 2017 CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
#16 - 2014 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
#15 - 2017 Madison Keys, USA (RU)
#12 - 2005 Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
#12 - 2007 Venus Williams, USA
#10 - 2001 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#10 - 2002 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#10 - 2012 Sara Errani, ITA
#10 - 2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (RU)
#10 - 2016 Karolina Pliskova, CZE (RU)

2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Alexa Glatch/USA
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS d. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2007 Kristina Kucova/SVK d. Urszula Radwanska/POL
2008 Coco Vandeweghe/USA d. Gabriela Paz/VEN
2009 Heather Watson/GBR d. Yana Buchina/RUS
2010 Daria Gavrilova/RUS d. Yulia Putintseva/RUS #
2011 Grace Min/USA d. Caroline Garcia/FRA
2012 Samantha Crawford/USA d. Anett Kontaveit/EST
2013 Ana Konjuh/CRO d. Tornado Black/USA
2014 Marie Bouzkova/CZE d. Anhelina Kalinina/UKR
2015 Dalma Galfi/HUN d. Sonya Kenin/USA
2016 Kayla Day/USA d. Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
2017 Amanda Anisimova/USA d. Coco Gauff/USA
#- (2010) players now represent AUS & KAZ

[won Girls & Women's titles]
Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. Champion; 1998 Women's champion)
Martina Hingis (1994 Junior RU; 1997 Women's Champion)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (2001 Junior RU; 2004 Women's champion)
Victoria Azarenka (2005 Junior champion; 2012-13 Women's RU)

1970 Margaret Court, AUS
1972 Billie Jean King, USA
1976 Chris Evert, USA
1982 Chris Evert-Lloyd, USA
1983 Martina Navratilova, USA
1986 Martina Navratilova, USA
1987 Martina Navratilova, USA
1988 Steffi Graf, GER *
1989 Steffi Graf, GER
1993 Steffi Graf, GER
1995 Steffi Graf, GER
1996 Steffi Graf, GER
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2000 Venus Williams, USA *
2001 Venus Williams, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Serena Williams, USA *
* - also won Olympic Gold

1969 Margaret Court, AUS
1970 Margaret Court, AUS
1972 Billie Jean King, USA
1973 Margaret Court, AUS
1975 Chris Evert, USA
1980 Chirs Evert, USA
1984 Martina Navratilova, USA
1988 Steffi Graf, FRG
1991 Monica Seles, YUG
1992 Monica Seles, YUG
1993 Steffi Graf, GER
1994 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, ESP
1995 Steffi Graf, GER
1996 Steffi Graf, GER
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2013 Serena Williams, USA

[Sept/Dec finals; 1977-86]
1982 Chris Evert, USA
1983 Martina Navratilova, USA
[Jan/Sept finals]
1969 Margaret Court, AUS
1970 Margaret Court, AUS
1973 Margaret Court, AUS
1988 Steffi Graf, FRG
1989 Steffi Graf, FRG
1991 Monica Seles, YUG
1992 Monica Seles, YUG
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER

2005 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur, USA/AUS
2006 Nathalie Dechy / Vera Zvonareva, FRA/RUS
2007 Nathalie Dechy / Dinara Safina, FRA/RUS
2008 Cara Black / Liezel Huber, RSA/USA
2009 Serena / Venus Williams, USA/USA
2010 Vania King / Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
2011 Liezel Huber / Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
2012 Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
2013 Andrea Hlavackova / Lucie Hradecka, CZE/CZE
2014 Ekaterina Makarova / Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS
2015 Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza, SUI/IND
2016 Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Lucie Safarova, USA/CZE
2017 Latisha Chan / Martina Hingis, TPE/SUI

1998 Serena Williams / Max Mirnyi, USA/BLR
1999 Ai Sugiyama / Mahesh Bhupathi, JPN/IND
2000 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario / Jared Palmer, ESP/USA
2001 Rennae Stubbs / Todd Woodbridge, AUS/AUS
2002 Lisa Raymond / Mike Bryan, USA/USA
2003 Katarina Srebotnik / Bob Bryan, SLO/USA
2004 Vera Zvonareva / Bob Bryan, RUS/USA
2005 Daniela Hantuchova / Mahesh Bhupathi, SVK/IND
2006 Martina Navratilova / Bob Bryan, USA/USA
2007 Victoria Azarenka / Max Mirnyi, BLR/BLR
2008 Cara Black / Leander Paes, ZIM/IND
2009 Carly Gullickson / Travis Parrott, USA/USA
2010 Liezel Huber / Bob Bryan, USA/USA
2011 Melanie Oudin / Jack Sock, USA/USA
2012 Ekaterina Makarova / Bruno Soares, RUS/BRA
2013 Andrea Hlavackova / Max Mirnyi, CZE/BLR
2014 Sania Mirza / Bruno Soares, IND/BRA
2015 Martina Hingis / Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2016 Laura Siegemund / Mate Pavic, GER/CRO
2017 Martina Hingis / Jamie Murray, SUI/GBR

2006 Mihaela Buzarnescu / Raluca Olaru, ROU/ROU
2007 Ksenia Milevskaya / Ula Radwanska, BLR/POL
2008 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn / Sandra Roma, THA/SWE
2009 Valeria Solovyeva / Maryna Zanevska, RUS/UKR
2010 Timea Babos / Sloane Stephens, HUN/USA
2011 Irina Khromacheva / Demi Schuurs, RUS/NED
2012 Gabby Andrews / Taylor Townsend, USA/USA
2013 Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova, CZE/CZE
2014 Ipek Soylu / Jil Teichmann, TUR/SUI
2015 Viktoria Kuzmova / Aleksandra Pospelova, SVK/RUS
2016 Jada Myii Hart / Ena Shibahara, USA/USA
2017 Olga Danilovic / Marta Kostyuk, SRB/UKR

1991 Monique Kalkman, NED
1992 Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1993 Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1994 Monique Kalkman, NED
1995 Monique Kalkman, NED
1996 Maaike Smit, NED
1997 Daniela Di Toro, AUS
1998 Esther Vergeer, NED
1999 Daniela Di Toro, AUS
2000 Esther Vergeer, NED
2001 Sonja Peters, NED
2002 Esther Vergeer, NED
2003 Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Maaike Smit, NED
2005 Esther Vergeer, NED
2006 Esther Vergeer, NED
2007 Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 --
2009 Esther Vergeer, NED
2010 Esther Vergeer, NED
2011 Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 --
2013 Aniek van Koot, NED
2014 Yui Kamiji, JPN
2015 Jordanne Whiley, GBR
2016 --
2017 Yui Kamiji, JPN
2005 Korie Homan & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2006 Jiske Griffioen & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2007 Jiske Griffioen & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2008 --
2009 Korie Homan & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2010 Esther Vergeer & Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2011 Esther Vergeer & Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2012 --
2013 Jiske Griffioen & Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2014 Yui Kamiji & Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 Jiske Griffioen & Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2016 --
2017 Marjolein Buis & Diede de Groot, NED/NED
NOTE: event not held in 2008/12/16 (Paralympics)

2015 US - Jordanne Whiley/GBR d. Yui Kamiji/JPN
2016 AO - #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2016 RG - Marjolein Buis/NED d. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2016 WI - #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2017 AO - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED
2017 RG - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 WI - Diede de Groot/NED def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 US - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 AO - #2 Diede de Groot/NED def. #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2018 RG - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 WI - #1 Diede de Groot/NED def. Aniek van Koot/NED

10..Serena Williams, USA (age 30-35)*
3...Martina Navratilova, USA (age 30-33)
3...Margaret Court, AUS (age 30-31)
2...Billie Jean King, USA (age 30 & 31)
2...Chris Evert, USA (age 30 & 31)
1...Flavia Pennetta, ITA (age 33)
1...Virginia Wade. GBR (age 31)
1...Ann Haydon Jones, GBR (age 30)
1...Angelique Kerber, GER (age 30)*

Serena Williams (35y/125) - 2017 Australian
Serena Williams (34/283) - 2016 Wimbledon
Serena Williams (33/285) - 2015 Wimbledon
Martina Navratilova (33/263) - 1990 Wimbledon
Serena Williams (33/254) - 2015 Roland Garros
Flavia Pennetta (33/201) - 2015 U.S. Open
Serena Williams (33/127) - 2015 Australian

Martina Navratilova (37y,258d) — lost '94 WI to C.Martinez
Venus Williams (37/28) - lost '17 WI to Muguruza
Serena Williams (36/291) - lost '18 WI to Kerber
Venus Williams (36/226) — '17 AO, lost to S.Williams
Serena Williams (35/125) — '17 AO, def. V.Williams
Martina Navratilova (34/325) — '91 US, lost to Seles

33y,199d - Flavia Pennetta, 2015 U.S. Open
29y,346d - Francesca Schiavone, 2010 Roland Garros
29y,275d - Jana Novotna, 1998 Wimbledon
29y,154d - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1977 Australian Open
29y,98d - Li Na, 2011 Roland Garros
28y,277d - Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon
28y,12d - Angelique Kerber, 2016 Australian Open
27y,200d - Caroline Wozniacki, 2018 Australian Open
26y,255d - Simona Halep, 2018 Roland Garros
26y,207d - Amelie Mauresmo, 2006 Australian Open
26y,165d - Samantha Stosur, 2011 U.S. Open

49 - Flavia Pennetta (2015 U.S. Open)
47 - Marion Bartoli (2013 Wimbledon)
45 - Jana Novotna (1998 Wimbledon)
43 - Caroline Wozniacki (2018 Australian Open)
39 - Francesca Schiavone (2010 Roland Garros)
34 - Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open)
33 - Angelique Kerber (2016 Australian Open)
32 - Simona Halep (2018 Roland Garros)
32 - Amelie Mauresmo (2006 Australian Open)

**TEEN SLAM CHAMPS - since 1997**
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (AO)*
1997 Iva Majoli, 19 (RG)*
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (WI)
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (US)
1998 Martina Hingis, 17 (AO)
1999 Martina Hingis, 18 (AO)
1999 Serena Williams, 17 (US)*
2004 Maria Sharapova, 17 (WI)*
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 19 (US)*
2006 Maria Sharapova, 19 (US)
* - first-time slam winner
NOTE: Ostapenko* (won '17 RG at 20 yrs, 2 days)

NR - Evonne Goolagong, 1977 Australian (W)
NR - Kim Clijsters, 2009 US Open (W)
NR - Justine Henin, 2010 Australian
#181 - Serena Williams, 2018 Wimbledon
#111 - Chris O'Neil, 1978 Australian (W)
#83 - Sloane Stephens, 2017 US Open (W)
#81 - Serena Williams, 2007 Australian (W)
#78 - Betsy Nagelson, 1978 Australian
#68 - Barbara Jordan, 1979 Australian (W)
#66 - Venus Williams. 1997 US Open

AO: Sloane Stephens/USA
RG: -
WI: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
US: Flavia Pennetta/ITA
AO: Genie Bouchard/CAN
RG: Simona Halep/ROU (RU), Andrea Petkovic/GER
WI: Lucie Safarova/CZE
US: Ekatarina Makarova/RUS, Peng Shuai/CHN
AO: Madison Keys/USA
RG: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
WI: Garbine Muguruza/ESP (RU)
US: Roberta Vinci/ITA (RU)
AO: Johanna Konta/GBR
RG: Kiki Bertens/NED
WI: Elena Vesnina/RUS
US: Karolina Pliskova/CZE (RU)
AO: CoCo Vandeweghe/USA
RG: Alona Ostapenko/LAT (W)
WI: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
US: -
AO: Elise Mertens, BEL
RG: -
WI: Julia Goerges, GER

**CAREER SLAM #1 SEEDS - active**
20...Serena Williams
6...Caroline Wozniacki
4...Maria Sharapova
3...Victoria Azarenka
3...Angelique Kerber
1...Jelena Jankovic
1...Karolina Pliskova
1...Venus Williams

2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL [won U.S. Open in 2005]
2009.Dinara Safina, RUS [0-3 in slam finals]
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN [won Australian Open in 2018]
2008.Jelena Jankovic, SRB [0-1 in slam finals]
2004 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA [won Australian Open in 2006]
2017.Karolina Pliskova, CZE [0-1 in slam finals]
2017 Simona Halep, ROU [won Roland Garros in 2018]
. - #1, NO SLAM TITLE W/L IN FINALS: Safina (0-3), Pliskova (0-1)*, Jankovic (0-1)*

AO: Vera Lapko, BLR
RG: Rebeka Masarova, SUI
WI: Anastasia Potapova, RUS
US: Kayla Day, USA
AO: Marta Kostyuk, UKR
RG: Whitney Osuigwe, USA
WI: Claire Liu, USA
US: Amanda Anisimova, USA
AO: Liang En-shuo, TPE
RG: Coco Gauff, USA
WI: Iga Swiatek, POL

AO - Mauresmo
WI - V.Williams
AO - Sharapova
WI - V.Williams
WI - S.Williams
AO - S.Williams
WI - S.Williams
RG - Sharapova
WI - S.Williams
US - S.Williams
AO - Azarenka
RG - S.Williams
AO - S.Williams
RG - S.Williams
WI - S.Williams

9 - S.Williams
2 - Henin,Kerber,Kvitova,Sharapova,V.Williams
1 - Azarenka,Clijsters,Halep,Ivanovic,Kuznetsova,Li,Mauresmo,

I used to run around here when I was little ??

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#1 Halep d. (WC) Kuznetsova
#32 Sakkari d. Yastremska
#3 Stephens d. #15 Mertens
#19 Sevastova d. Radwanska
#22 Sharapova d. #6 Garcia
#4 Kerber d. #14 Keys
#26 Sabalenka d. #11 Kasatkina (though, if this happens... Dasha's defense could be vexing)
#13 Bertens d. Tsurenko

...Halep (vs. Kanepi) and Sevastova (vs. Vekic) have particularly dicey 1st Round encounters, but at least in the Latvian's case if she can escape her first match things could open up a little (I see you there in the 3rd Rd., Julia G) at the major where she's done the most damage with a pair of QF runs the last two years. The Venus/Sveta 1st Round encounter is sure to generate buzz, but not nearly as much as a Serena vs. either match in the 3rd Round would. Picking Serena is such an all-or-nothing thing (if you pick her through the first week you almost have to pick her at least to the final, but then if she's not yet in top form the entire prediction house comes down... so I'll play it safe and go with Sveta -- as nutty as THAT sounds). It's hard to have ANY faith in Svitolina coming through a slam draw right now, so I'm just leaving her by the side of the road early on (vs. Aga in the 2nd Rd.?) in order to keep things tidy.

The long-overdue Garcia/Mladenovic post-all that could finally happen in the 3rd Round after coming up one win short of happening in Cincinnati. But it probably won't. Garcia is decidedly under the radar in this slam, but has a good draw and the ability to get hot and stay hot (and her dad can't come out and overload her brain w/ info here, so that's a good thing, too). Ostapenko/Anisimova need to -- and MUST -- happen in the 2nd Round, if nothing else because the winner likely gets Sharapova in the 3rd. Kerber is most definitely in play in this slam, but keep an eye on her 3rd Round. She could face Dominika Cibulkova... or maybe Hsieh Su-wei and her Death-Defying Traveling Roadshow of Tennis Sudoku. If she's not exhausted from solving such a potential puzzle, Angie could fave Keys in the 3rd Round, just after losing to her in Cincinnati (though she's still 7-2 vs. the Bannerette in a series that doesn't feel nearly as lopsided as that number would lead you to believe). Meanwhile, who know what we'll get from Wozniacki (in order vs. Stosur, Tsurenko/Van Uytvanck, Kontaveit/Tomljanovic), Mihaela Buzarnescu (2nd Rd. vs. Bouchard) or Petra Kvitova (3rd Rd. vs. Sabalenka). Ah, yes, the Sabalenka monster is here. And Kasatkina, too. And Bertens. And Osaka, too. In fact, Osaka could face Kasatkina in the 3rd for the right to meet Sabalenka or Kvitova in the Round of 16, with winner maybe meetings Bertens in the QF. Oh, the bottom quarter of the draw could be SUPER-fun.

#1 Halep d. #32 Sakkari
#19 Sevastova d. #3 Stephens
#4 Kerber d. #22 Sharapova
#26 Sabalenka d. #13 Bertens

...Sevastova likely *should* have taken out Sloane in last year's QF (she led 3-1 in the 3rd), and could get another shot at her here. If Simona can escape the Williams/Kuznetsova Vortex in her section, she seems a good bet for at least her fourth SF+ result in the last seven slams.

There's something for everyone in the bottom, with two former champs and two Superheroes of Summer facing off to reach what would be a sure-fire semifinal no matter which combiation played out (Kerber/Bertens, Kerber/Sabalena, Sharapova/Sabalenka or Sharapova/Bertens).

#1 Halep d. #19 Sevastova
#4 Kerber d. #26 Sabalenka

...aren't they bound to face off in a slam final at some point? Why not here in plain sight?

#4 Kerber d. #1 Halep

#17 S. Williams d. #1 Halep
#18 Barty d. #32 Sakkari
#15 Mertens d. WC Azarenka
#7 Svitolina d. #9 Goerges
#22 Sharapova d. #6 Garcia
#4 Kerber d. #14 Keys
#5 Kvitova d. #20 Osaka
#13 Bertens d. #28 Kontaveit

...The top section of the ladies draw is the most loaded, possibly ever. Three former champions, the top seed, a former doubles winner and Kaia Kanepi all reside here. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams will be an electric night match on Ashe, possibly to kick off the tournament. It will deliver. Overall, look for Serena to come through against the winner of that and then dismiss Simona Halep.

Every slam has a section that goes haywire, particularly on the women’s side of the draw. Garbine Muguruza has been totally off lately and Pliskova has one title, from one final in Charleston, a quarterfinal in Melbourne and a semi-final in Madrid. That’s it. She has been nowhere this year. So I will take a flyer on a Barty-Sakkari fourth round. And if it comes to pass it would be an awesome match. Vika Azarenka will have a couple of matches to play herself in. She will beat Sloane Stephens because there is no pressure on her but there is a lot on the shoulders of the American. Elina Svitolina is totally overrated as a player. She is the Dominic Thiem of the ladies tour. Good results in Paris but nowhere else slam-wise. If I keep picking her to do well you would think she would eventually fluke a good result somewhere. Aga Radwanska is here, playing in one of her last U.S. Opens, but there's nobody who could threaten the two big seeds here.

The top section of the bottom half has a lot of players who could get hot and play dark horse, but do you trust Kiki Mladenovic, Monica Puig or CSN? Neither do I. Andrea Petkovic could give Jelena Ostapenko a run for her money, though. Caro Garcia will beat Jo Konta and quietly win through to the fourth round. Angie Kerber is playing for the top ranking. It mathematically cannot come here but if she wins it will come in the next few months. There is some talent near Kerber - Timea Bacsinszky, Domi Cibulkova and Yulia Puntintseva can all win on their day but they need to have seven days. The biggest dark horse of them all is Madison Keys. She could bomb or win ten straight sets. Did you know, by the way, that the American has only won three titles?

In section seven there are three names to watch. They are Naomi Osaka, Dasha Kasatkina and Petra Kvitova. The quarterfinalist will come from one of those three. There are three first round matches to watch. Marketa Vondrousova and Mihaela Buzarnescu will put on a great match. Anett Kontaveit and Katerina Siniakova will pummel the balls to a pulp...but the big one is the last match in the draw. Can Sam Stosur upset Caro Wozniacki? It'll be on a big stadium which the Aussie won't like. But she will have nothing to lose and she does know how to beat the Dane.

#17 S. Williams d. #18 Barty
#7 Svitolina d. #15 Mertens
#4 Kerber d. #22 Sharapova
#5 Kvitova d. #13 Bertens

Serena wants to overtake Margaret Court. She will be on the war path by the quarterfinals. Svitolina has to make a semi-final at some point. Sharapova will run out of gas and Kvitova will have too much power for Bertens.

#17 Williams d. #7 Svitolina
#4 Kerber d. #5 Kvitova

It is so unlikely that Svitolina even gets to the semi-finals. If she does, she will be no match for Serena. Kerber is probably the best slam player outside of Serena right now.

#4 Kerber d. #17 Williams

Serena has the same seed Federer did when he won the Aussie Open last year. But Kerber will do the double, methinks.

All for now. Day 1 awaits.


Blogger Galileo Sutherland-west said...

Oh Todd what have we done? Not only did we pick the same winner but you went for the mad Sveta pick and I didn't. We've probably short-circuited the universe. I always fall into the same trap- if you pick Serena early then you can't just stop picking her in the quarterfinals, as you said so correctly above. I really don't like my Svitolina pick but she's gotta make a run at some point right? Right?

Sat Aug 25, 08:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

If you'd only picked Halep to defeat Serena we would have effectively switched brains. Well, except for the Kerber thing... for which I suppose an immediate official apology is now owed Angie, just to get it over with before the inevitable. :\

Sat Aug 25, 11:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Between the two, it seems you have more faith in Sharapova, Azarenka, and Sakkari than I do.

If Puig had not gotten injured, I would be back on the Puig Express.

I will go on record-just like I don't think Serena/Venus will happen, Federer/Djokovic won't either.

Sun Aug 26, 10:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I don't think Serena-Venus will happen, either. And my inclination also is that Angie will win the whole thing (though I don't count Simona out). My wild card is Bertens.

Sun Aug 26, 03:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Kumkhum is out, replaced by Brengle as she can't make it back for the Asian Games in time.

To note, she was in the mixed doubles final, and they, along with the women's doubles final, were played the day after the singles final. So Wang and Zhang are probably good to go, but now brings up the question if Xu, Yang and the Chans make it.

Sun Aug 26, 06:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Galileo Sutherland-west said...

Ill jinx it horrible if I predict this to happen but there is a certain player I am keeping an eye on. No big results this year but she is a former number one from the same country as the 1989 FO Champion. I really dont want to name her because then it wont come to fruition but she always pulls results out when you least expect it. So you know watch her because she is going to have a great tournament. But dont say her name just in case!!

Mon Aug 27, 09:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, you mean... (zips lips). ;)

For the record, we didn't jinx the men's draw. While you had del Potro/Nadal/Djokovic/Cilic semis and Delpo def. Djokovic in the final, I picked Nadal/Tsitsipas/Djokovic/Cilic with Djokovic def. Nadal.

Mon Aug 27, 10:27:00 AM EDT  

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