As the Olympics looms on the horizon, the US tournaments are coming thick and fast with the calendar bunching up over the next few weeks. Washington and Stanford are both a week early, thus reducing the Wimbledon blues! The draw for Washington has held up pretty well and is arguably more inviting than Stanford. Let’s take a look at the seeds and the draw…
Washington Seeds 1-4
Sam Stosur (1): Winning just one match on her least favourite surface of grass, Stosur had a bit of a breather after a physically gruelling, but highly successful clay court season. The Aussie reached her fourth French Open semi-final but first since 2012. Stosur returns to Washington where she reached the semi-finals in 2015. Stosur opens against a qualifier and could meet Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.
Sloane Stephens (2): The 23-year-old returns to the scene of her first WTA title in 2015 in Washington where she beat the likes of Kuznetsova, Stosur and Pavlyuchenkova to triumph. Stephens missed most of the grass court season due to an abdominal injury, returning at Wimbledon where she lost out in a thrilling third rounder against Svetlana Kuznetsova, 8-6 in the third set. Stephens has already won three titles in 2016 in Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston. If she can overcome early rust in the first few rounds, then there’s no reason why this cannot be #4. First up in Washington this year will be the world number 132, Risa Ozaki.
Monica Puig (3): At a career high ranking of 33, Puig is flourishing on the WTA tour right now. The Puerto Rican had a wonderful run in Eastbourne where she came through qualifying and reached the semi-finals, winning a total of six matches. She couldn’t carry that form into Wimbledon, coming unstuck with a tough draw against Jo Konta in the first round. Still, it’s been a very successful year up till now for Puig who is knocking on the door of being seeded for the US Open. This will be another opportunity for Puig to prove her mettle as the number three seed in an International draw; she plays Oceané Dodin in the first round.
Kristina Mladenovic (4): After a woeful first five months of the season in singles in which she won back-to-back matches at just one tournament, Mladenovic steadied herself at home, reaching the semi-finals of Strasbourg and the third round of the French Open. Seemingly buoyed by her ever-blossoming doubles partnership with Caroline Garcia, Mladenovic picked up the pace on favoured grass, reaching the final of Rosmalen and the quarter-finals of Eastbourne. A first round loss though at Wimbledon to Aliaksandra Sasnovich did come as a surprise.
Washington Seeds 5-8
Eugenie Bouchard (5): The grass court season was vastly improved for Bouchard when compared to the misery in 2015. She won two matches each in Eastbourne and Wimbledon, and simply came up against a better player on the day against both Radwanska and Cibulkova. There’s still plenty of work to do for Bouchard to come anywhere close to the lofty heights of her 2014 season but she seems to be on the right track. The Canadian player will go up against Camila Giorgi in the first round…
Yulia Putintseva (6): While she may have attracted more attention during her career for her on-court antics, Putintseva has been impressing with her tennis in 2016. A first Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros was a superb achievement and she had Serena Williams on the ropes for a time. Putintseva didn’t have much joy on the grass, winning just one match, but has had some solid results on hard courts. In a favourable section of the Washington draw, Poots could quite comfortably go on a run…
Yanina Wickmayer (7): Since winning her first WTA title in over five years at the Tokyo International last year, Wickmayer has pretty much stabilised, sneaking back into the world’s top 50. There have been some excellent performances at times (notably in Birmingham) but the good form has rarely been sustained; Wickmayer has won back-to-back matches on just four occasions in 2016. The Belgian player will take on Madison Brengle in the first round, who has proven herself over the last year to be difficult to break down.
Monica Niculescu (8): After missing match points against Petra Kvitova in the second round of Stuttgart, Niculescu arrived at Wimbledon on a four match losing streak. Niculescu secured a valuable win over Aleksandra Krunic in the first round. A back injury had forced the Romanian player out of the Wimbledon tune-up tournaments. Niculescu faces a challenging opener in Washington against Christina McHale.
First round matches
Eugenie Bouchard v Camila Giorgi: Although Giorgi’s recent form has been poor, she will always be a consistent threat against the seeds because of the way she plays. As first round matches go, this will be entertaining… i’d expect the quality of the tennis to be somewhat wild though! Giorgi is on a four match losing streak and Bouchard has looked to have the measure of her Italian opponent in prior encounters with wins in Strasbourg (6-3 6-0, 2013) and Hobart (6-3 6-2, 2016).
Kristina Mladenovic v Samantha Crawford: Liking the sound of this one between two big hitters. Crawford announced herself with a booming run in Brisbane to the semi-finals in the first tournament of the year. Although she has been quiet since then, Crawford was out of action after Charleston due to a broken hand. The American player returned at the French Open and won a round at Wimbledon, struggling for consistency on serve in a second round loss to Lucie Safarova. Mladenovic has generally been playing better of late but the loss to Sasnovich at Wimbledon was a surprising one. A potential upset alert? Crawford’s certainly capable…
Monica Niculescu v Christina McHale: It’s always fascinating to see how players deal with Niculescu. McHale has a pretty decent record, winning three of their four previous matches. Niculescu did bag her first win in Hobart at the start of 2016 in a tight two setter, 7-5 7-5. I’m leaning towards McHale this time round…
Washington tweets and videos
Internationals are always fun so expect the unexpected! I like Stephens’s draw although Putintseva could potentially be a handful in the quarters. From the top half, I have Puig coming through. She’s had a decent break after the grass court season and has a steely and grounded determination about her right now.
Quarter-Final Predictions: Wozniacki v McHale, Puig v Bouchard, Brengle v Crawford and Putintseva v Stephens
Final Prediction: Puig d. Stephens