Breaking down the 2017 U.S. Open women's draw, including matches to watch, dark horses and more.
1. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
She was the favorite of Wimbledon and was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100. A finalist last year, she comes in with a new, shiny No. 1 ranking. What an opportunity to legitimize it.
2. Simona Halep (ROU)
As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. This was a year of opportunity for Halep. While she deserves credit for competing, this is her last chance of 2017 to bag that elusive Slam. In the someone-has-a-sense-of-humor match, she starts against Sharapova.
3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
An enigma for the first half of the year and a killer from Wimbledon on. Can seal the deal as 2017 MVP with a title. One of those players who speaks openly about her ambivalence about the chaos of New York (and by extension its signature tournament.) But between the Wimbledon title and Cincinnati hardcourt title, Mugu has to be the favorite.
4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)
We keep saying that the breakthrough ought to be a matter of when and not if. In Toronto, she offered another tasting menu of her skills and authoritative ball-striking. Never been beyond round three in New York. And challenging first round foe in Siniakova.
5. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
An awfully strong year, but an awful lot of runner-up finishes (six and counting). You worry about the lower back issue and you worry about her lower power grade. But she is a two-time finalist, comfortable in New York. In other words, be prepared for any result.
6. Angelique Kerber (GER)
Last year’s winner has spent most of 2017 in the sub-Zero. And she’ll start with a challenging match against young Naomi Osaka. The Cinderella-to-pumpkin lines begin in eins, zwei, drei…
7. Johanna Konta (GBR)
All credit to Konta for her upward mobility. A fine run at Wimbledon ended in the semis. But her play on hardcourts has been unremarkable thus far.
8. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
The old cut-and-paste: that the 2004 U.S. Open champ remains a contender in 2017 is testament to her professionalism and her athleticism. A terminally underrated player who could easily steal her third major.
9. Venus Williams (USA)
Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she made her debut, reaching the final and stealing the scene. Expectant aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. A sentimental favorite but…
10. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Sadly, a player in decline. The absence of power once motivated her. Now it seems to deprive her of self-belief.
11. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
A giant-killer who punches above her height and embraces competition. But has turned in mostly meh results in New York, including a loss to then-15-year-old Cici Bellis in 2014 and a third round exit in 2016.
12. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
French Open champion turned in a solid Wimbledon but little to show for on North American hardcourts. You like the attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) but you wonder if she isn't feeling the effects of a long and eventful season.
13. Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Your comeback player of the year.
But has never been at her best in New York.
14. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
Mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game, but when does she truly break through in singles?
15. Madison Keys (USA)
If she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.
16. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Best player you’ve never heard of. Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.
18. Caroline Garcia
Not unlike Mladenovic—her former doubles partner—she’s a terrific athlete who needs to work on closing.
20. CoCo Vandeweghe
A semifinalist in Australia and week two player at Wimbledon now brings her serve to the final Slam of 2017.
21. Ana Konjuh
Nice week two run in 2016.
22. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Coming off a semifinal at the previous hardcourt major.
30. Julia Goerges
Fine summer of hardcourt tennis.
Dark Horse Nation
Serena Williams: Count her out at your peril.
Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.
Sloane Stephens: Shaking off the rust after a foot injury, she’s looked like a top 10 player over the last six weeks.
Ash Barty: One of the better stories in tennis this year. A year ago she was playing cricket—chick-et the Aussies call it. Now she’s inside the top 50.
Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.
Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.
Donna Vekic: Showing signs of playing to her potential.
CiCi Bellis: Already won a lot of matches on a lot of surfaces. And she turned 18 in April.
Jelena Jankovic: All former No.1’s (and former finalists) get recognized, no matter how steep their descent
First Round Matches to watch
Halep vs. Sharapova: It’s official. Sharapova has become a sympathetic figure.
Konjuh vs. Barty: Lousy draw for both.
Stephens vs. Roberta Vinci: Tricky opponent for resurgent Stephens.
Vandeweghe vs. Alison Riske: American on American action for these divided times.
Kvitova vs. Jankovic: Lot of combined time in the top five.
Just for kicks…. Siniakova d. Svitolina
Hingis and Chan
Keys d. Pliskova
Muguruza d. Halep
Muguruza d. Keys