All summer long USOpen.org will take a look at who will walk away with this year’s men’s and women’s singles championship trophies at the 2014 US Open, broken down into those who could make a daring run from deep in the seeds (the sleepers) to those poised to break through (the challengers) to the ones most likely to bring home the trophies (the favorites).
This week we’ll take a look at the rising elites of the women’s game, candidates on the brink of career-altering success.
The depth in women’s tennis is currently at one of its greatest marks, with players emerging from all parts of the draw to make noise during this year’s Grand Slam season. With a full bench of players who could contend, predicting the outcome of this year’s US Open is indeed a perilous practice. But the six challengers below possess the merits of youth, plentiful Open experience – or both. These are the women to watch out for at the 2014 US Open:
Victoria Azarenka: An Open finalist in 2012 and ’13, the 24-year-old Azarenka has played sparingly this year due to a foot injury. Still, she retains some of the best hard-court bona fides on the women’s tour, having won two Australian Open titles (2012-13) to back up her two Open runner-up showings, in addition to the 16 WTA hard-court titles she has won since 2009. The Belarusian enters the summer dangerously close to dropping out of the Top 10, but a strong showing during this year’s Emirates Airline US Open Series – buoyed by renewed health – could vault back onto the short list of US Open favorites.
Eugenie Bouchard: The only player, man or woman, to make the semis at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, Bouchard is now the “It” girl in tennis. The first-ever Canadian major finalist has risen from outside the Top 30 to inside the Top 10 since the outset of the year. Bouchard’s game is mature beyond her years; opponents say she is incredibly difficult to play against because she’s almost always switching up her pattern of play, controlling the tempo in her matches. Now, a strong summer would go even further in proving her readiness to become the youngest Open winner since a 19-year-old Maria Sharapova claimed the title in 2006.
Ana Ivanovic: One of two Grand Slam champions on the list (along with Kvitova), Ivanovic is playing in her 10th US Open despite being just 26 years of age. The Serb hasn’t registered a semifinal appearance at a Slam since she won the 2008 French Open, but her first career victory over Williams – plus a victory over 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur – at this year’s Australian Open indicates that a deep run may in New York be imminent. In fact, increased confidence, plus a powerful serve, solid backhand and veteran poise, could add up to a potentially winning package at this year’s Open.
Angelique Kerber: Kerber, 26, has been a reliable presence in the Top 10 for the last three years and remains one of the toughest outs in tennis. She reached the semifinals in Flushing Meadows in 2011 and advanced to the fourth round each of the last two years. She is also enjoying a solid 2014 that includes a round-of-16 showing at Roland Garros and a run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Overall, the German is a quality player with a stout defensive game; an upset or two or a favorable draw and don’t be surprised to see her back in Finals Weekend in 2014.
Petra Kvitova: With a 10-6 lifetime record at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Kvitova has not been a strong US Open performer. But the Czech’s talent belies her results. The 2014 Wimbledon champion has reached the semis or better at all majors but the US Open, and she has posted results on hard courts in her career, having won the Emirates Airline US Open Series title in 2012. Now a little older and wiser, Kvitova has the lightning-fast lefty serve and heavy ground strokes to soar to greater heights in Flushing Meadows.
Agnieszka Radwanska: If there’s an identifiable “all-court” player in these ranks, it’s the 25-year-old Radwanska, who has been a No. 2 and 3 seed the past two years at the Open. And while she’s yet to advance past the fourth round in New York, she has reached the quarterfinals or better each of the last four years at the Australian Open and took home eight hard-court titles between 2011 and 2013. Radwanska is one of the best in the world at disguising her shots and moves about the court smartly – all of which should make her a player to watch at this year’s Open.