US Open 2018 draw preview and predictions – Serena Williams to flourish once more as seeds fall in New York?

Hannah Wilks in US Open 23 Aug 2018
  • Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber among potential US Open champions
  • We break down the draw and predict the winner
Serena Williams

Serena Williams and world no. 1 Simona Halep could be set to clash before the quarterfinals at the 2018 US Open: Women’s draw preview.

From second seed Caroline Wozniacki opening her campaign against former champion Samantha Stosur to an early potential clash between defending champion Sloane Stephens and two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka, the draw at the 2018 US Open is packed with intrigue.

The Williams sisters have both landed in the same quarter of the draw with top seed Halep, former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2006 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, while Maria Sharapova – another former winner at the US Open – could be set to clash with Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Garcia and 2016 winner Angelique Kerber.

Who will come through this wild and wonderful women’s draw? Read on for our analysis and predictions. 

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Simona Halep (1) vs Karolina Pliskova (8) (6-2)

Also in this quarter: Garbine Muguruza (12), Venus Williams (16), Serena Williams (17), Svetlana Kuznetsova
Simona Halep comes into this US Open on great form after winning Montreal and reaching the final in Cincinnati – but those runs came at a price. She pulled out of New Haven citing Achilles pain, and even if that’s better, after expending so much physical and emotional energy to win the Rogers Cup and reach the final in Cincinnati, does she have the reserves of both left to try to make a big run in New York?

Simona Halep
Because the draw has not been kind to the top seed. She opens against Kaia Kanepi, a player who has made six Grand Slam quarterfinals in her career, two of them at the US Open and one as recently as last year. A powerful and hard-hitting player, streaky Kanepi could test Halep’s ability to take the initiative and run every ball down to its limits and beyond in the very first round.

Should Halep get through that, she should be fine to the last 16, with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – who pushed Halep to an uncharacteristic third set in Montreal, but still couldn’t beat her – the Romanian’s projected third-round opponent.

But there, she could well be meeting six-time champion Serena Williams. Williams’s ups and downs have been well documented this season, but let’s not forget that Serena would almost certainly have made the quarterfinals of the French Open were it not for injury, and she almost breezed to the final at Wimbledon. Opening against Magda Linette, Williams is projected to meet big sister Venus in the third round in what would be the sixth meeting of their careers at the US Open – but it looks doubtful that Venus will make that date, opening as she does against 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two are 5-5, but Williams has struggled to put a lot of wins together recently, while Kuznetsova won the title in Washington, D.C.

With Camila Giorgi a potential second-round opponent for Venus or Kuznetsova, it nevertheless looks likely Serena will come through to the fourth round – and if she meets Halep there, it’s difficult to envisage Halep repeating her one previous win over Serena in nine meetings.

The bottom half of this section is also pretty crowded. Karolina Pliskova has been struggling for form and with a shoulder injury of late, but has a nice draw, at least until a third-round clash with San Jose champion Maria Sakkari. Garbine Muguruza, now out of the top 10, is always at risk of an early Grand Slam exit and her preparations have been hampered by a right arm injury which saw her miss San Jose and Montreal; she’s lost to first-round opponent Zhang Shuai before. On the other hand, Muguruza can go on a tear when she feels like the pressure’s off. Eighteenth seed Ash Barty, should she survive a potentially tricky second round against either Lucie Safarova or Petra Martic, could be steady enough to come through. Either Muguruza or Barty making the quarterfinals won’t disturb Serena unduly.

Semifinalist: Serena Williams

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Sloane Stephens (3) vs Elina Svitolina (7) (2-1)

Also in this quarter: Julia Goerges (10), Elise Mertens (15), Ekaterina Makarova, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska
Sloane Stephens
How will Sloane Stephens handle the pressure of being the defending champion? Because she’s got a decent draw if she is feeling good about it. The American seemingly goes from strength to strength, with her Miami title and runner-up finishes at the French Open and Rogers Cup – but she’s also lost in the first round of two of the last three Grand Slams.

Let Stephens get a couple of wins under her belt and she’s a different player. She’s up against the hard-hitting Evgeniya Rodina, who played the best tennis I’ve ever seen from her to make the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier this summer, but who’s yet to win a match on hard courts this summer – and who should be a fairly straightforward opponent for Stephens – followed by a qualifier. Two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is a potential third-round opponent for the American, but Azarenka hasn’t beaten Stephens since 2015 and is on poor form of late (Daria Gavrilova, last year’s New Haven champion, is the projected third-round opponent by seeding – she loves a tilt at a top player but she doesn’t have the weapons). 

Let Stephens get through the first two rounds, and she’ll make the quarterfinals, exacting revenge on Elise Mertens for a Cincinnati defeat on the way; it’s a nice draw. For seventh seed Elina Svitolina, things are a little tougher. She could face Agnieszka Radwanska, never an easy opponent even if far from the form she once enjoyed, in the second round, with Magdalena Rybarikova – also tricky – in the third round, and the mini-section that will supply her fourth-round opponent is rife with more dangerous players: From ninth seed Julia Goerges, a Wimbledon semifinalist (albeit one who has to make a quick transition from New Haven, where she’s in the semifinals), to Goerges’s second-round opponent and former US Open semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, or Anastasija Sevastova, who is bidding to make her third straight US Open quarterfinal. I don’t think any of those players – including Svitolina, and excepting only perhaps Makarova – will beat Stephens.

Semifinalist: Stephens

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Caroline Garcia (6) vs Angelique Kerber (4) (2-5)

Also in this quarter: Jelena Ostapenko (10), Madison Keys (14), Maria Sharapova (22), Coco Vaneweghe (24), Johanna Konta
Angelique Kerber has generally excelled on American hard courts in her career, and the 2016 US Open champion might have the opportunity to do so again this year.

Angelique Kerber
Kerber has only won one match since Wimbledon, but she has a decent draw to find some rhythm, opening against Margarita Gasparyan with Alize Cornet – who beat her in Montreal but should emphatically not do so again – a potential second-round foe and Dominika Cibulkova, who has only played one match since Wimbledon, in the third round.

She is likely to come up against a big-serving American in the fourth, with Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe seemingly likely to clash in a third-round rematch of last year’s semifinals. Vandeweghe has had serious injury concerns recently, and Keys has had a few of her own, but the latter played well in Cincinnati, beating Kerber in fact – a result which one would expect the German to reverse in New York.

At the top of this section, sixth seed Caroline Garcia has a tricky opener against Johanna Konta, and with the Frenchwoman needing the trainer during her quarterfinal defeat in New Haven, that could be an early exit for Garcia (either that or a rematch with Monica Puig, who handed her that Connecticut Open defeat, in the second round). It’s Maria Sharapova who lurks meaningfully in this quarter. Her Wimbledon campaign ended ignominiously in the first round, her only warm-up event terminated in a straight-sets defeat by Garcia, but she’s got all the experience and competitiveness on these courts to come through to a third-round clash with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko – that is, if Ostapenko can even get past veteran Andrea Petkovic in the first round – and come through it, as well. A likely fourth-round clash with Carla Suarez Navarro for Sharapova, and a quarterfinal defeat to Kerber, if you ask me. 

Semifinalist: Kerber

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Petra Kvitova (5) vs Caroline Wozniacki (2) (8-5)
Second seed, reigning Australian Open champion and two-time US Open runner-up: We should be talking much more about Caroline Wozniacki, on paper, than we have been of late. The Dane comes into the tournament on a three-match losing streak (albeit to very quality opponents); more worrying are hints and rumours of injury and fitness issues.

Petra Kvitova
If Wozniacki is fit, however, she can be relied upon to find her best tennis in New York – and she might need it, facing as she is former champion Samantha Stosur in the first round. Stosur, with six defeats to players ranked outside the top 100 in 2018, is very far from her best, but still a formidable opponent with her weaponry. Alison van Uytvanck or Lesia Tsurenko in the second round are two very different but tricky opponents; Anett Kontaveit in the third is another, an extremely powerful and aggressive player. And should she get through all of that, Kiki Bertens could await in the round of 16.

Bertens is the toast of tennis at the moment after winning Cincinnati, and she has a nice draw, with Mihaela Buzarnescu, the San Jose champion who is having such a stellar season, the only potential bump in the road (and Buzarnescu has to try to bounce back from that horrible ankle injury in Montreal). If she can handle the spotlight, she should be a lock for the quarterfinals – but that’s a big ‘if’. 

An unpredictable, but fun, top section sees fifth seed Petra Kvitova trying to improve her dire record at Grand Slams this year – she’s lost in the first round of two of them, and the third round of the third – and with a tight transition from New Haven to make, and a first-round clash with former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer, it could be a third first-round exit for Kvitova at a major in 2018. The very talented Aryna Sabalenka is also in this section, but she has a very tricky first-round opponent in Danielle Collins, and might well be running out of gas after some big weeks (she’s into the semifinals in New Haven, too). 

Indian Wells champion and runner-up Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina are also in this section, but neither is having a lot of success recently. If Osaka can find her nerve to power through Laura Siegemund, Monica Niculescu and Kasatkina or perhaps Aliaksandra Sasnovich – all players who can drive her absolutely mad with variety – she has a nice look at a quarterfinal here. But this is the quarter that’s going to produce an unexpected semifinalist.

Semifinalist: Bertens

Semifinals: Williams d. Stephens
Kerber d. Bertens

Final: Williams d. Kerber

US Open tennis is live from New York from 27 August-9 September

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US Open 2018 draw preview and predictions – Serena Williams to flourish once more as seeds fall in New York?

US Open 2018 tennis is live from New York from 27 August-9 September with Serena Williams set for early clashes with sister Venus Williams, top seed Simona Halep. We break down the draw and predict the winner!

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