Ahead of the final Grand Slam of 2021, five Last Word on Tennis writers–Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Fraser Learmonth, Jack Edward (@jackedward1994), Niranjan Deodhar (@DeodharNiranjan) and Jethro Broughton (@JethroLWOS)–made their US Open predictions for the Women’s Singles tournament. We will also have a separate roundtable for the men’s singles.
US Open Women’s Singles Roundtable Predictions
Champion – Who will win the US Open?
Vithun: (7)Iga Swiatek [POL]
I am expecting absolute carnage in the women’s US Open this year. The three favorites for the title are the top three seeds but I think all of them will be out before the quarterfinals. (More on that in my early exit analysis!) The next favorite is Iga Swiatek, someone I can make a case to win this tournament.
Regardless of her build-ups, Swiatek always seems to bring her best to the Grand Slams. In fact, she is the only woman to have reached the second week of all three Grand Slams this year. Swiatek (who won the French Open last year) has already proven she can reach her peak level on hard courts with her title in Adelaide where she steamrolled her opposition. I would not be surprised to see the same thing happen in New York.
Fraser: (11)Belinda Bencic [SUI]
I know, a bit of a left field pick here. However, the Swiss is fresh off a Gold Medal run at the Tokyo Olympics. The field in Tokyo featured the vast majority of the best in the women’s game, and Bencic came out on top. Add to that the fact that she has faired well at Flushing Meadows in the past and she must surely like her chances at making a run for the title. Ashleigh Barty aside, the best in the women’s game–Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, and Bianca Andreescu to name a few–are either battling injury, out of form, or absent from the 2021 US Open altogether. All of those factors make Bencic my favourite to go all the way this year.
Jack: (1)Ashleigh Barty [AUS]
There are some tough customers for Barty early doors, but after her performance in Cincinnati, I have no doubt the Aussie is the favorite for the tournament. Even on her off-days, Barty is truly looking like the #1 player in the world, able to dispatch in-form players with her trusty serve. With Aryna Sabalenka and Angelique Kerber in the other half of the draw, two potentially tricky match-ups in the New York conditions, it could be smooth sailing until the final. With the pressure on, against anybody, I’d have to back Barty.
Niranjan: (1)Ashleigh Barty [AUS]
Ash Barty is one of the most complete players currently on the WTA Tour. Despite Barty facing a shock first-round exit at the Tokyo Olympics, she came back strong at Cincinnati, winning the title without dropping a set. Barty finds herself in the relatively easier side of the draw and won’t have a strong competition until the quarterfinal, where she will probably meet Olympic Gold Medal winner Belinda Bencic. Barty is mentally strong in addition to her strong physical game and on her current form, she starts as a strong favourite on the Women’s side of the draw.
Jethro: (1)Ashleigh Barty [AUS]
Barty hasn’t actually gone beyond the fourth round in the singles here before, but she’s really establishing herself as the dominant force on the WTA Tour right now. Despite a disappointing exit in Tokyo, the Aussie is in supreme form in the United States.
Naomi Osaka is the current and two-time champion, but her mental state at the moment unfortunately doesn’t suggest that she’s on for a third title here. She may make a great run and surprise us, but Barty is so strong physically and mentally right now.
If the two are to meet in their final as they are seeded to do so, the world #1 edges it for me.
Dark Horse – Who will go furthest in the draw, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?
Vithun: (24)Paula Badosa [ESP]
Badosa may only being seeded No.24 even after a few withdrawals ,but she is currently No.14 on the Race to Shenzhen (ranking points gained solely in 2021). She has also been having a great year in the Grand Slams, reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. If she is playing well, the higher ranked seeds in her quarter all all very beatable.
No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova is due an exit before the quarterfinals. (Again, see early exit analysis!) And No.14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova comes unprepared after visa issues, so Badosa could beat both of them to reach the quarterfinals. Then in the quarters, her opponent could be No.5 seed Bianca Andreescu, No.10 Petra Kvitova, or No.17 Maria Sakkari. Andreescu has not shown any promising form since she retired injured in the Miami final, Kvitova loses to anyone playing well nowadays, and Sakkari has struggled in big matches. Badosa is a popular player on tour who many fans think gives vibes of legend Maria Sharapova and so a maiden Grand Slam semifinal should be the aim for her with this draw.
Fraser: (6)Bianca Andreescu [CAN]
This is almost impossible given the depth in the women’s game. It seems like every major a bunch of new contenders emerges from the pack only to fall back in with the rest before the next one rolls around. I’m going to go with Bianca Andreescu here only because I can get away with calling her a dark horse and I don’t think that will be the case very often. The 2019 champion played no tennis on the tour in 2020 and has had no real results to speak of in 2021. However, there have been flashes of her old brilliance, particularly on hard courts. I think she may well shock the world and go all the way again in New York. Even if she doesn’t, I think she is a safe pick for at least a quarterfinal appearance if she really is fit and healthy once more.
Jack: (19)Elena Rybakina [KAZ]
Rybakina has shown everyone this year that she is a dangerous opponent, having split her head-to-head this year 3-3 with Top 10 opposition. With Simona Halep coming back from injury, Elina Svitolina in spotty form ,and Naomi Osaka far from her best, Rybakina could make a comfortable run to the quarterfinals. I think her run will end there at the hands of Kerber but I’d love to see the big-serving Kazakh go one step further.
Niranjan: Jil Teichmann [SUI]
Jil Teichmann surprised everyone with her run to the final at the Cincinnati Masters, defeating Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic en route. If she hits the top gear as she did in Cincinnati, one can expect Teichmann to get better of Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula (or Belinda Bencic) to reach the quarterfinals, where she would most probably meet Ash Barty. It is hard to imagine Teichmann getting past the No.1 seed Barty, though.
Jethro: (21)Coco Gauff [USA]
Coco Gauff may not be in the limelight as much as when she burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, but she’s still a highly impressive talent with plenty of potential to go far this year. Her impressive firepower and movement around the court could cause plenty of problems for players in her draw.
A huge advantage for her will be being in the U.S. Though she is adored around the world, the home crowd will be huge for her, especially as a seeded player. A potential third round meeting with Kerber would be very interesting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gauff came through this one.
Another potential meeting with Osaka in the fourth round is also on the cards, which was a very tight match in Cincinnati. There’s a difficult draw around her, but she’s surprised us before and I’m sure she can do it again.
Early Exit – Who will suffer the earliest exit, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?
Vithun: (2)Aryna Sabalenka [BLR]
There are many big names that I think are due early exits, but I have gone for Sabalenka. As the No.2 seed, Sabalenka would be projected for the final, but I have her going out in the third round to No.26 seed Danielle Collins. The American’s on court persona that was once hated by tennis fans on Twitter is now cheered, for a variety of reasons. In addition to this newfound online support, Collins has been in great form as of late with a 16-2 record in completed matches since Wimbledon, including titles in Palermo and San Jose.
In fact I expect all Top 4 seeds to be out before the quarterfinals. Sabalenka, Pliskova, and Barty all reached the semifinals or better at Wimbledon, but for the last six Grand Slams none of the quarterfinalists had made the last eight of the previous Grand Slam. In addition for Barty, recent Wimbledon champions have had a poor showing in the US Open, with the Wimbledon champions from 2017-19 all losing prior to the quarterfinals in New York in their respective years.
In the case of Osaka, she has never successfully defended a title. I also think she will lose prior to the quarterfinals to maintain that unbeaten streak in Grand Slam matches from the quarterfinal onwards. This 12-0 streak in these matches is meant to show her being clutch, but to me it shows a severe lack of Plan B if her A-game isn’t working, as she hasn’t never been deep in a Grand Slam outside of her peaks. Anyway, expect a depleted women’s field at the later rounds of a Grand Slam once again!
Fraser: (3)Naomi Osaka [JPN]
The Japanese star is a two-time US Open champion and loves playing here. However, she simply hasn’t played enough tennis and has no form to speak of going into this tournament. She underperformed at the Olympics and has been uninspiring so far on the hard courts of America. At her best she is often unplayable on this surface, but her best hasn’t been seen since Melbourne and neither has she. Off-court issues often play a significant part in an athlete’s performance and Osaka has had her fair share of those this year. She has a kind draw which works in her favour, but I’d be surprised to see her in the tournament past the fourth round given her lack of matches. That is an early exit the player who has won more Grand Slams since 2018 than anyone else on the women’s tour.
Jack: (3)Naomi Osaka [JPN]
There is so much going on in Naomi Osaka’s life off the court, it’s no wonder she has been suffering difficult losses recently. I can’t see her losing her first few matches but in the fourth round, I think Kerber’s resurgent form will be too much for the dispirited Japanese.
Niranjan: (11)Belinda Bencic [SUI]
The Olympic Gold medal winner Belinda Bencic will probably lock horns against 23rd seeded Jessica Pegula in the 3rd Round at New York. The American has been remarkable so far on the tour this season. She has already recorded wins over some big names like Elina Svitolina, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pilskova in 2021 and was a semifinalist at the Canadian Open earlier this month. The 2019 US Open semifinlaist Bencic has been quite inconsistent this season and might suffer an early exit at the hands of Pegula at this year’s US Open.]
Jethro: (7)Iga Swiatek [POL]
Swiatek is still very young and hasn’t quite managed to develop her game to be as good outside of the clay, where she is exceptional. Though she’s no scrub on the hard courts, she’s got some really tough competition on her side of the draw.
She should come through her first two rounds with relative ease but this is where the problems may begin. Kontaveit or Stosur will pose a sizable threat in the third round, and if she does come through this then she’s seeded to face 11th seed Bencic next.
Bencic recently won Gold in the singles at the Olympics, and she will be very tough for most players to beat, especially on these quick courts. If she reaches this far, Swiatek will most likely struggle in this encounter as Bencic is the better hardcourt player. Overall, it’s hard to see her progressing beyond the Third or Fourth Round.
Another early exit could well be Garbine Muguruza, who hasn’t been in any good form of late.
Main Photo from Getty.