US Open 2019: Previews & Polls

USO Saturday F Poll

USO Thursday SF Previews

Elina Svitolina vs. Serena Williams: Both Serena and Svitolina have made it back-to-back Slam semi-finals. For Svitolina, that is quite some feat having always struggled to get past the last eight hurdle at the Slams. This has also been Svitolina’s both dominant Slam run as she’s taken out a string of big hitters without dropping a set. Notably, Svitolina’s serve has been a weapon at this tournament. In the last two rounds, Keys and Konta have been unable to put consistent pressure on return. Serena has dropped just the one set and has looked in superb form through her last three rounds. Her 6-1 6-0 win over Wang Qiang was tied for shortest match of 2019! I was worried about the ankle but i’m guessing it’s doing OK?!

This will be a first career meeting between Serena and Svitolina since the Rio Olympics in 2016 where Svitolina scored a shock win, 6-4 6-3. I didn’t watch that match and all I remember is that Rio was a very slow court. Obviously it’s hard to look past Serena after her dominant quarter-final win. I do think Svitolina has a shot of at least making it competitive presuming she can get off to a good start, extend the rallies and turn it into a physical match.

Belinda Bencic vs. Bianca Andreescu: First time meeting and both going for a first Slam final! I’m whispering this because I have been so wrong in the past but I think this could be a thriller? Bencic backed up her win over the defending champ in the fourth round with a straight sets victory over Donna Vekic. Bencic played the big points better and served superbly. Andreescu extended her winning streak to 11 and won her 12th straight three setter with a come-from-behind victory over Elise Mertens. I haven’t watch Andreescu since the third round but from the scores, her ability to get up for the big points is just next level. Head says Andreescu, heart says Bencic.

USO Thursday SF Polls

USO Wednesday QF Previews

Belinda Bencic vs. Donna Vekic: I like this match-up! Both have had great seasons and I feel it is fitting one of them will reach their first Slam semi-final. In my opinion, Bencic’s win over Osaka was one of the best individual performances of the US Open. Bencic was so aggressive and sharp, and played an almost perfect second set as she knocked out the defending champion. While I wasn’t surprised at the result, I was taken aback by Bencic’s level and focus as she had been a bit quiet since the grass and kind of untested having received a walkover in the third round from Anett Kontaveit. Vekic’s fourth round match was an absolute battle. The Croatian player saved a match point to beat Julia Goerges in three tough sets. Unlike Goerges, Vekic could rely on her first serve when serving for the match and generally played a very steady match.

The pair are split at 1-1 in their H2H with Vekic winning their most recent match at Roland Garros and quite handily too, 6-4 6-1. I’m not sure how much to read into that result as clay is Bencic’s weakest surface. I want to honour my Vekic semi-final pre-tournament prediction but I do think Bencic is the favourite and it will be a tough ask if Bencic can channel her last 16 form. This is uncharted territory for Vekic so there’s no knowing how she will handle the occasion.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Elise Mertens: Ring the bells for a first time match-up! Andreescu is now riding a ten match winning streak after ending the wonderful run of Taylor Townsend. I think I underestimated Andreescu pre-draw as I wasn’t convinced she’d get past Halep. I had a moment of realisation (probably later than most) during her third round match against Caroline Wozniacki that she was a genuine title contender. Mertens has been totally under-the-radar and has dropped the fewest games of anyone to reach the quarters. Mertens has pitched it perfectly with her tactics showing streaks of aggression, but also moving and defending well. This is the best i’ve seen Mertens play in a long time although it is worth noting she hasn’t played a top 50 player yet.

Another fascinating match-up and I really don’t have a strong opinion about who will win. I quite like Mertens’s chances with her experience and how solid she has been this tournament, and generally feel she may get overlooked in this match-up because of Andreescu’s recent heroics. At the same time, I feel I may be underestimating Andreescu. I’m generally cautious about the up-and-comers. This is Andreescu’s first ever main draw appearance at the US Open and she had never previously advanced past the second round of a Slam before this tournament. However, Bianca is clearly a very special player and her rise has been extraordinary.

USO Wednesday QF Polls

USO Tuesday QF Previews

Elina Svitolina vs. Johanna Konta: I hadn’t realised when I wrote my post yesterday but both Svitolina and Konta completed their set of Slam quarter-finals on Sunday! Svitolina and Konta have been two of the most consistent Slam performers in 2019. I think that, so far, this has been Svitolina’s most convincing Slam run ever. She is yet to drop a set this tournament and has beaten Venus, Yastremska and Keys in the last three rounds. The serve has really held up. After a dicey opener against Daria Kasatkina, Konta has found her level. In the 4th round, Konta made it four straight wins against top ten opposition by beating Karolina Pliskova in a tight three setter. It felt like a huge win as she was undeterred by Pliskova’s fine serving in the third set and kept going after her shots. Ultimately, her bravery in the key moments won her the match.

Svitolina leads  Konta in their H2H, 4-0. Konta has won a set in two of those matches and retired hurt in Brisbane. I think it’s a very intriguing match-up between two different styles. Svitolina has handled the big hitters well this week but as I said in my last preview, i’m still concerned how she handles the occasion if one of them catches a hot streak. Svits the slight fave, but I think Konta is in a good place mentally as the underdog and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she peaks as she has looked locked in for the past few rounds. Excited to watch this one!

Serena Williams vs. Wang Qiang: Another first time meeting for Serena. That’s four in a row! Wang Qiang scored her best ever win with a solid and smart display against the world number 2, Ash Barty. Serena has been in excellent form this tournament and has had to handle three players in a row who play with bundles of variety. The biggest concern IMO is the ankle which Serena appeared to roll in her fourth round win against Petra Martic. Wang Qiang has been moving well this week but I do question if she has the staying power to threaten Serena. Barring any reaction to that injury, i’m going for Serena in straights.

USO Tuesday QF Polls

USO Monday R4 Previews

Naomi Osaka vs. Belinda Bencic: Osaka and Bencic will meet for the third time this year with Bencic winning their two previous meetings in Indian Wells (6-3 6-1) and Madrid (3-6 6-2 7-5). The latter was a really entertaining clash where Bencic saved match points to win. Osaka has had an eventful run in NYC so far and played her best match of the tournament against Coco Gauff. Bencic received a walkover from Anett Kontaveit to reach the last 16 of Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2018.

I haven’t watched Bencic yet this week and there are few data points since Wimbledon. I can’t gauge where her level is at right now. I wonder if Osaka could have a let-down from her third rounder against Gauff which was a high-key and emotional affair. In terms of the H2H, Osaka is a quick learner and normally puts losses to a player quickly behind her. Bencic is dangerous though IMO. I’m on the fence with this one.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Taylor Townsend: Oh this could be mega… a dreamy clash in styles! A first Slam quarter-final is on the line for the pair. Townsend’s second round upset win over Halep was the most memorable match of the tournament IMO. I’m equally impressed that she managed to back it up in the third round with a straight sets victory over Sorana Cirstea. Andreescu is yet to drop a set this tournament as she extended her winning streak to nine. This will be a first career meeting so no data points. I’m absolutely fascinated to see how Andreescu handles Townsend’s net rushing tactics. Townsend is owning it right now but instinct is with Andreescu who has so many facets to her game.

Julia Goerges vs. Donna Vekic: A first US Open quarter-final is up for grabs. For Vekic, it would be a first Slam QF period. This is her third last 16 appearance at a Slam and the second time up against Goerges. Vekic is yet to drop a set this week and has navigated her way past two tricky and completely different opponents in Kaia Kanepi and Yulia Putintseva. This is Goerges’s best Slam result of the year and it comes after she saved match points in her opener against Natalia Vikhlyantseva. Goerges cruised past an out-of-sorts, Kiki Bertens in the third round.

Goerges leads Vekic, 3-0 in their head-to-head with Vekic winning her first set against Goerges in Luxembourg last year. I’m going against the H2H on this one and sticking with my slightly wild SF prediction of Vekic. I think Vekic has made steady and meaningful progress over the past year or two, and I think it is her time to make that next step…

Elise Mertens vs. Kristie Ahn: Again, a first US Open quarter-final is on the line for the winner. Ahn has had a glorious week and had never won a main draw match at a Slam before this week! With wins over Kuznetsova, Kalinskaya and Ostapenko, Ahn has broken new ground and then some. I was impressed with how Ahn closed out her win over Ostapenko and she really owned the moment.

Mertens is sneaking under-the-radar as she posted yet another solid Slam result. It’s generally been a bit of a quiet year for Mertens but she has kept her ranking elevated by making the 3rd round and 4th round of all the slams. Mertens has dropped just 14 games through three rounds and played some of her most clinical tennis of the year in the 3rd round against Petkovic.

The pair are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head and it’s a very interesting one. Mertens beat Ahn in the final round of US Open qualifying back in 2016. Ahn won their most recent meeting just a few weeks ago in San Jose. Despite that result, I’m going for Mertens in this one with her greater Slam experience.

USO Monday R4 Polls

USO Sunday R4 Previews

Karolina Pliskova vs. Johanna Konta: Two of this year’s most consistent Slam performers will meet for a place in the quarters of the US. Konta hadn’t won a match since Wimbledon heading into the US but seems to have found some form with a pair of comprehensive wins over Margarita Gasparyan (6-1 6-0) and Zhang Shuai (6-2 6-3). Pliskova has gone a bit under-the-radar so far, perhaps because this is the only Slam of the four where she didn’t win a tournament in the week or two before. Pliskova looked fatigued in her third rounder but survived a flashy, Jabeur to prevail in three sets,

Pliskova leads Konta, 6-1 in their head-to-head although five of those seven matches have gone the distance.  Konta’s performances have been much more impressive leading into this match but that doesn’t automatically mean she’s going to win this match. If it goes the distance, i’d favour Pliskova.

Elina Svitolina vs. Madison Keys: Svitolina and Keys met at this stage of the US Open back in 2017 where Keys rallied to win 6-4 in the third set. Svitolina won their most recent meeting at the Australian Open, a lopsided three setter in what was Keys’s first tournament of the year. Svitolina is yet to drop a set this tournament with two impressive wins over Venus Williams and Dayana Yastremska. Keys wasn’t feeling her best in her third rounder but still looked sharp, particularly in the first set, where her first serve was huge.

I’m torn on this one. Svitolina’s form has been encouraging this week but I am still curious as to how she handles going up against an in-form big hitter who is consistently finding the court. Keys has shown flashes of brilliance through her Cincy and NYC run so far and is clearly riding a big wave of confidence. I’m going for Keys.

Ash Barty vs. Wang Qiang: Like this match-up for Barty (2-0 H2H lead) because Wang Qiang likes rhythm from the baseline and Barty will do everything to disrupt it!

Serena Williams vs. Petra Martic: Third round in a row where Serena meets a player she has never played before and one that produces bundles of variety. This has been another great Slam run for Martic but i’m not feeling an upset alert in this one.

USO Sunday R4 Polls

USO Saturday R3 Previews

Naomi Osaka vs. CoCo Gauff: Ringggggg the bells! First time match-up and it’s a blockbuster. I haven’t had the chance to watch Gauff this week who has toughed out two entertaining three setters against Anastasia Potapova and Timea Babos. The 15-year-old is so damn impressive. Osaka’s not had it easy this week but she’s into the third round with wins over Anna Blinkova (6-4 6-75) 6-2) and Magda Linette (6-2 6-4). I can’t quite figure out Osaka right now but I think she’s in a good place mentally. I really don’t know what to expect from this match. I’m tending towards the world number one who is playing pretty decent ball and has all the experience, even just playing on Ashe before. But Gauff is just next level so who knows.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Caroline Wozniacki: This match-up feels huge after the loss of Simona Halep from this section of the draw. Andreescu has yet to drop a set with straight sets win over Katie Volynets and Kirsten Flipkens. In stark contrast, Wozniacki has had to work hard to reach the last 32, coming from a set down in her first two matches to beat Wang Yafan and Danielle Collins. In their only previous meeting at the start of the year, Andreescu stunned Wozniacki, 6-4 6-4 in Auckland. Andreescu is the higher ranked player and the favourite heading into this match. I wouldn’t write off Woz though who I feel is flying very much under the radar this week. I’m intrigued to see how this one goes down with Andreescu playing her first match of the tournament on a show court.

Belinda Bencic vs. Anett Kontaveit: This is a fascinating match-up and even more so for the fact that they have never played each other before. Both Bencic and Kontaveit were forced the distance in the second round – Bencic beat Alizé Cornet, 6-4 1-6 6-2, while Kontaveit came from a set down to beat Ajla Tomjanovic. Bencic was playing some of the her best ever tennis in the early part of the year. While she’s had her most consistent year for a while and stayed mostly injury-free, i’m still not entirely convinced by her recent form. Kontaveit had a tough loss to Ash Barty in Cincy but generally, has picked up her level after a quiet spell between April and June. This feels like a 50-5-0 coin toss of a match. I had Kontaveit going deep in my Draw Chal. I can’t really explain why but I just fancied Kontaveit’s chances of a good run in NYC.

USO Saturday R3 Polls

USO Friday R3 Polls

USO Thursday R2 Previews

Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Karolina Muchova: Of all the potential second rounders, this is the one I had my eye on! While i’m glum that they meet so early and one of them will be out on Wednesday, i’m glad we get to see this Hsieh-Muchova match-up which should bring buckets of variety. Hsieh won her first round match over an aggressive, Jana Ceplova. Hsieh had her chances to win in two but got the job done in three. Muchova enjoyed a straight sets win over Elena Rybakina. It was a solid, no-nonsense win for Muchova against a dangerous opponent who hits a very heavy ball.

Muchova beat Hsieh in their only previous meeting in Doha earlier this year, 6-2 6-4. I think Muchova should have a neat balance of variety and power to handle Hsieh’s funkiness. The winner could potentially meet Serena in the third round. Serena-Hsieh is my dream match-up from this first week but i’d happily settle for a first ever Serena-Muchova meeting!

Anastasija Sevastova vs. Iga Swiatek: Ohhh this could be delightful! Swiatek only played her first main draw WTA-level event at the Australian Open earlier this year and is already in the world’s top 50! Building on a strong summer, Swiatek dropped just the one game in her opening round win over Ivana Jorovic. Sevastova won a home title in Jurmala post-Wimbledon but hadn’t won a match on the hard courts prior to the US. Sevastova beat Eugenie Bouchard in the first round, 6-3 6-3.

I’m fascinated to see if Swiatek can topple Sevastova at her most successful tournament. Sevastova has reached at least the quarter-finals of the US Open for the past three years and is defending semi-final points. Sevastova has all the experience AND the pressure. As i’ve written before, Sevastova is one of the most unpredictable players on tour – her best level is absolutely stunning (see last year’s US Open run) but she can throw in some shockers! Swiatek has improved so, so much in such a short space of time and she’s playing all these players for the first time so she’s got the unpredictable/unknown vibe. I’ll take a whirl with Swiatek on this one!

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Danielle Collins: Wozniacki looked to be heading to a third straight loss after quickly going down 0-5 in the first set against Wang Yafan. Wozniacki rallied to win, 1-6 7-5 6-3 in what was an impressive comeback. I assumed Woz was struggling with the scoreline but when I started watching the match, I thought the quality was decent from both players. Collins was forced to skip Cincy and Bronx due to injury but came back with a solid three set win over Polona Hercog in the first round of the US.

The pair played earlier this year in Rome where Collins won via retirement after winning the first set on the tiebreak. When I was filling out my draw and saw this potential match-up, I instantly thought Collins for the upset. However, I ended up going for Wozniacki when I thought about Dane’s excellent record at the US Open. I think Collins definitely has the bold game to put Woz on the defence, but i’d go for Woz after watching how she played against Wang on Tuesday.

Donna Vekic vs. Kaia Kanepi: It doesn’t matter what form Kaia Kanepi brings into a Slam, she’s always going to be a tough opposition for anyone. Kanepi saved three match points in her opening round win over Tatjana Maria, 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3. If possible, I think it makes her more dangerous! I’ve been impressed with Vekic’s steady rise this year. While Kanepi is a rough draw, I feel there are opportunities in this draw if she can get through this one. Slight edge to Vekic because of the improved consistency this year but it’s still a 50-50 match IMO against someone who can zone like Kaia.

Alison Riske vs. Jelena Ostapenko: Ring the bells for a first time meeting! This match-up fascinates me. Ostapenko won her first match at a Slam since last year’s US Open (!) with a straight sets win over Aleksandra Krunic. While Krunic has been quiet this year, it still felt like a dangerous match-up considering Krunic’s history at the US. Riske came from a set down to win for the ninth time in two months. Riske’s level was superb through the final two sets as she knocked out Garbiñe Muguruza, 2-6 6-1 6-3. Riske now gets a shot at another former French Open champ! I think it’s going to be a streaky, big-hitting and fun clash between the pair. I’m sold on Riske’s spirit and positivity, and her ability to dig in so i’d have more faith in the American player if this does go down to the wire.

USO Thursday R2 Polls

USO Wednesday R2 Previews

Elina Svitolina vs. Venus Williams: Venus’s first rounder against Zheng Saisai looked like a tricky one on paper with the Chinese player’s recent form but Venus was in absolutely superb form as she dropped just the one game and hit 25 winners to just 11 unforced errors. Svitolina came from a break down in the second set to beat Whitney Osuigwe. I liked how Svitolina was hitting and redirecting the ball in the first set.

Svitolina leads Williams, 2-1 in their head-to-head, and has won their last two matches in straight sets. They last played in the first round of Roland Garros where Svitolina won, 6-3 6-3. I think the match-up favours Svitolina with her defence and movement, and ability to track down so many balls. I think both are playing at a higher level compared to Paris, especially Venus. Intrigued to see what Venus can do in this one after such a bright opener.

USO Wednesday R2 Polls

USO R1 Previews

Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova: The US Open has produced another blockbuster first round match as Serena and Maria are set to play each other for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open. It will be their fourth consecutive meeting at Slam and their first at the US Open ever.

I was impressed with how Serena moved in Toronto and I thought it was a wise move to play in Canada. I guess the biggest concern is whether she can get through the two weeks physically. Sharapova has posted a 1-2 W-L record since Wimbledon but the biggest positive is that she made it through Toronto and Cincy unscathed without any obvious injury concerns.

There’s no secret with this match-up. Sharapova hasn’t beaten Serena since the 2004 Tour Championships and Serena has won their last seven meetings in straights sets. Serena always gets up for these clashes and is clearly highly motivated to win so I wouldn’t expect anything different this time around. Despite the one-sided head-to-head, I still find their matches fascinating to watch and to witness two of the most influential players on the tour battle it out on the court.

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka: Ring the bells, ring the bells! We’ve got a first time meeting and an all-Belarusian clash. I felt Azarenka was starting to find her mojo on the clay. I was convinced she’d be seeded by the US and even a dark horse pick for the title. Sadly, it hasn’t clicked since Wimbledon with a 3-3 W-L record and straight set losses to Donna Vekic (x2) and Dayana Yastremska.

Sabalenka has been unable to build on her breakthrough season of 2018 and looked devoid of confidence at times. On a positive note, I was encouraged by her performances in Cincy where I felt she was hitting the ball more freely. Sabalenka reached the final of San Jose and the third round in Cincy. I want to pick Azarenka to win this one and i’d love to see her have a deep Slam run but I have my doubts based on her recent form.

Johanna Konta vs. Daria Kasatkina: Since this time last year, Konta and Kasatkina have completely flipped in the rankings. Konta has had a much improved year, perhaps propelled by the Fed Cup heroics earlier in the year, and generally shown more variety and purpose on serve. After making back-to-back Slam quarter-finals, Konta is winless on the hard courts this summer.

Kasatkina has looked lost for much of the year after splitting with her coach, Philippe Dehaes. I think Kasatkina has been playing better of late – her game isn’t so centred around the vulnerability on serve and she’s finally hitting through the forehand with more intent. Still, it feels like this season is a bit of a write-off with the focus perhaps more on building belief in her game for 2020.

Kasatkina leads Konta, 2-1 in their head-to-head and won their most recent match in Moscow. I’m torn on this match-up. Kasatkina has assets to her game that can cause Konta some problems but I still question her mental toughness if this match goes the distance. I’m favouring Konta on this occasion.

Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Alison Riske: Muguruza heads into the US Open having played just twice since the US Open. The Spaniard, who has now split with long-term coach, Sam Sumyk, has been injured since Wimby and made her comeback in Cincy. While she lost to the eventual champ, Madison Keys, I thought it was a very passive display from Muguruza.

Since Roland Garros, Riske has been on an absolute tear. Always at her best on the grass, Riske enjoyed her best run at Wimbledon with a series of gutsy and fearless displays. Even back on the hard courts, Riske’s results have been solid. Her last three losses on tour have been against Serena, Ka.Pliskova and Sharapova. Even Sharapova, a ruthless competitor, is not a bad loss at all.

Muguruza leads Riske, 2-1, in their head-to-head. All of their matches have been decided in straights and Riske won their most recent meeting in a Tokyo for the loss of just three games. I find Muguruza one of the most intriguing players on the tour right now. I jut can’t figure her out! I remain hesitant to write her off at the Slams where she’s sprung into life before without any warning but her increasing tendency to defend from the baseline is unlikely to see her challenge for Slams anytime soon. I’m going for Riske.

Dayana Yastremska vs. Monica Niculescu: I’m excited by the prospect of the Hsieh-Muchova-Serena section (😍) but in the meantime, this first rounder caught my eye as the hipster pick from the slate of first rounders. After reaching the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career at Wimbledon, Yastremska has built some impressive results on the hard courts with straight set wins over Jo Konta, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. I’m just wondering how the ankle is which she appeared to injure in three set loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova in Cincy, a match where she held two match points.

Niculescu’s schedule has been rather muted this year, presumably due to injury. The Romanian player did win a $100K ITF on grass and won a round at Wimbledon, but hasn’t played singles since the grass. Niculescu did reach the doubles final in Bronx with partner, Margarita Gasparyan. I’ve always thought Niculescu is a litmus test for the up-and-comers because she’s such an unorthodox player to play. Uncertainty around both but tend to think Yastremska’s raw power and aggression will prevail.

USO R1 Polls

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