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, 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 some of the potential surprise challengers in the 2014 US Open women’s draw.
It’s been an unusual year in women’s tennis. The only player to reach the semifinals at all three Grand Slam events (Eugenie Bouchard) had never before reached even the fourth round at any Grand Slam event, while 17-time Slam champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams has yet to advance past the fourth round in any of the first three majors.
Also in 2014, a far-flung seed has advanced to the semifinals in each of the three Slams: No. 30 Bouchard and No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova at the Australian Open, No. 28 Andrea Petkovic at the French Open and No. 23 Lucie Safarova at Wimbledon.
So who could emerge from deep in the seeds to make some noise at the US Open? Here are a few potential candidates:
Alize Cornet: The 24-year-old Frenchwoman has quietly strung together one of the best seasons of her career, including two wins over Serena (one en route to the round of 16 at Wimbledon), a title in Katowice, Poland, a final in Dubai and a semifinal at the Paris Open. Surprisingly, Cornet has never advanced past the round of 16 in a Grand Slam event. But her performance this year indicates that a breakthrough is coming soon, and her consistently solid results on hard courts mark her as a candidate to make a run at this year’s Open.
Madison Keys: The first of two up-and-comers on this list, Keys is on the verge of becoming a regular Slam contender. It looked like she might make the leap at Wimbledon, but a thigh injury derailed her in the third round. Still, Keys claimed her first career WTA title in the lead-up to the All England Club, winning in Eastbourne, and the US Open’s hard courts reward her booming serve and attacking game. Throw in a little support from the home crowd, and this 19-year-old could be pounding aces into the quarterfinals or beyond.
Garbine Muguruza: Muguruza is best known for her prowess on clay – she swept aside Serena, 6-2, 6-2, and nearly toppled Maria Sharapova at this year’s French Open – but she has the game to win on all surfaces. The 20-year-old demonstrated that much earlier this year, winning her first WTA title at Hobart and backing that up by advancing to the fourth round at the Australian Open. Like Keys, many have pegged Muguruza as a future Grand Slam champion. Expect her to make a bold introduction to American fans at this year’s US Open, perhaps even playing deep into the second week.
Venus Williams: Yes, Venus is 34 years old and hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinals of a major since 2010, but anyone who watched her three-set thriller against eventual champion Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon knows she is still capable of a grand result. In Dubai earlier this year, for instance, she beat four players currently in the Top 25 to win the title without dropping a set, and her big serve remains one of the most potent forces in the women’s game. Her ongoing battle with an auto-immune disorder, Sjogren’s Syndrome, means she is vulnerable on any given day, but the two-time Open champion remains capable of stringing together a brilliant two weeks in Flushing Meadows.