2022 US Open Women’s Singles Roundtable Predictions: Champion, Dark Horse and Early Exit

Naomi Osaka Australian Open

Ahead of the final Grand Slam of 2022, five Last Word on Tennis writers – Vithun (@VitIllankovan), Jakub Bubro (@bobrojakub), Shane Black, Damian Kust (@damiankust) and Glenys Furness – make their US Open predictions for the Women’s Singles tournament. We 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: Naomi Osaka [JPN]

Despite the many unheralded or surprise Grand Slam winners on the WTA side in recent times (most notably last year’s US Open), I actually think this Grand Slam is even more wide open pre-tournament. This is because you could genuinely make a case for why every player in this draw will not advance to the second week, highlighting the current lack of depth and quality in the WTA compared to previous eras.

However, I have gone with four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka as my pick for the title. Her previous four Grand Slams: 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open, 2020 US Open, 2021 Australian Open–it appears the 2022 US Open would be the next title in this sequence. The Japanese player may be unseeded but I believe that works in her favour as she never won a title at any level when she was ranked No.1 or defending champion.

Despite never beating a Top 20 player on either clay or grass, when it comes to hard courts Osaka’s peak has been the benchmark in recent years. Her draw may seem tough on paper (e.g. 19th seed and this year’s Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins in the 1st Round) but if you look at the context (e.g. Collins not having won a match since May), all the potential matches are very winnable. Therefore, I predict Osaka to win her 5th Grand Slam at this year’s US Open.

 Jakub: (6) Aryna Sabalenka [BLR]

This draw is just so insanely open, it is near impossible to pick out a winner. To me, Sabalenka is as likely to leave New York a champion as anyone. The World No. 6 came very close to lifting the trophy here last year, losing 6-4 in the third to Leylah Fernandez in the semifinals. Sabalenka is famously inconsistent but looked in decent form in Cincinnati as she reached the semifinals, albeit without a particularly impressive win. The Belarusian will likely have to face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the third round but the draw does not really matter with Sabalenka. On her day, she is simply unbeatable with the raw power she can produce.

Shane: (7) Simona Halep [ROU]

30-year-old Simona Halep, paired with new coach Patrick Mouratoglou, is on the hunt for her third Grand Slam title, and first in Flushing. The #7 seed has had a solid North American hardcourt swing and has seemingly found the form that made her a former world #1. Including her run to the Wimbledon semis, Halep is 13-2 in the last 15 matches she has taken the court in. Although she pulled out of Cincinnati with a thigh injury, I believe that was precautionary ahead of the final Slam of the season.

Halep is set to face a qualifier in round one and the winner of Magdalena Frech vs Rebecca Marino in round two. A third-round matchup against #30 seed Jil Teichmann may be tricky but is certainly one of the easier seeded draws. Coco Gauff could certainly cause some problems in round four, but I am not sure the young American makes it that far. Halep avoided Iga Swiatek’s side of the draw which is all you can ask for. It is fair to question if the Romanian’s body will hold up for two weeks, but I believe she has the form, fitness, and mental strength to find her way to the podium in Flushing.

Damian: (7) Simona Halep [ROU]

This one gave me quite a lot of trouble. I ended up thinking a lot about Caroline Garcia, but decided that the probability she goes on like this for another seven matches is a little too low for my taste, although I would love to see it for the talented Frenchwoman. My other ideas are all literally in one section- Simona Halep, Madison Keys, Cori Gauff. The Romanian felt like she had been close to a big result all year and finally got it in Toronto. I think she can follow it up at the US Open, beating one of Gauff/Keys in the fourth round.

Glenys: (3) Maria Sakkari [GRE]

The Greek made the semifinal here last year. The 27 year old will go all the way to the final this year and take her maiden slam. Sakkari has looked to be getting better all year, despite some early losses in the run up. Tight matches will build her confidence.

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Dark Horse – Which (other) player outside the Top 8 seeds will advance furthest?

Vithun: (10) Daria Kasatkina [RUS]

In my year-end predictions at the end of 2021, I predicted that Kasatkina would end this year in the Top 10 and so far it looks as if this is on course to happen! Ever since Wimbledon announced their ban of Russian/Belarusian players at this year’s tournament, they have been playing with extra motivation. This was seen at this year’s French Open where both the men and women performed well, including the WTA Belarusian No.3 and the ATP Russian No.3 eliminating the WTA and ATP British No.1s respectively. The Russian has won two titles (WTA 500 Silicon Valley and WTA 250 Granby) in the build-up to this years US Open and reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at this year’s French Open. I believe she can match the latter result at this year’s US Open, especially as recently opening up about her personal life seems to have enabled her to play with more freedom.

 Jakub: (21) Petra Kvitova [CZE]

With just how wide open the draw is, picking one dark horse is quite difficult as the final eight could be made up of truly almost anyone in this draw. That said, Kvitova is coming off a stunning final run in Cincinnati that included wins over the likes of Ons Jabeur and Madison Keys. The 32-year-old has never made it past the quarterfinal stage in New York but this might very well be her year. Jessica Pegula is the toughest opponent in her way though Kvitova has won both their previous meetings in straight sets including US Open two years ago. Top seed Iga Swiatek has been struggling in the lead-up so don’t be surprised if Kvitova pops up in the semifinals here.

Shane: Marie Bouzkova [CZE]

I really like unseeded Marie Bouzkova’s chances to make some noise these next few weeks in Flushing. The 24-year-old Prague native made her first deep Slam run this year at Wimbledon. Now that she has that taste of success, I believe the hard-hitting Bouzkova will be highly motivated to elongate her stay in New York. Bouzkova has always favoured the hard courts as her best surface, holding a career-winning percentage of 70.4 percent on the surface. She won her first WTA title in late July in her hometown of Prague and has been playing with great confidence over the past two months. Bouzkova matches up against a qualifier in round one before a likely meeting with compatriot Karolina Pliskova in round two. Bouzkova bested her elder compatriot just four months ago and should feel as if she can do it again. Do I think the 24-year-old has a podium-level ceiling this year? No, but I do think she could find herself in the final eight as an unseeded player which is a great accomplishment.

Damian: Qinwen Zheng [CHN]

Picking a dark horse on the women’s side wasn’t easy as there are so many possible title contenders. The player I’m going for is certainly a risk as she plays Jelena Ostapenko in the first round. But the Chinese has been constantly proving that she’s got basically unlimited potential, and I believe a big run is just around the corner for her. Will it happen here? It could, especially as she’s coming off a quarterfinal run in Toronto. Her potential third-round foe Amanda Anisimova hasn’t been doing well in the warm-ups and if she meets Iga Świątek, I think she’s more than capable of eliminating the top-seeded Pole.

Glenys: (14) Leylah Fernandez [CAN]

Last year’s runner-up will be wanting to go one better. The Canadian is still young, but with her fitness and stamina she should be able to reach the latter stages of a Slam again. Fernandez is growing in the sport and learning all the time – this will be another opportunity for her.

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Early Exit – Which of the Top 8 seeds will suffer the earliest exit?

Vithun: (3) Paula Badosa [ESP]

There are significant doubts over many of the Top 8 seeds so we were spoiled for choice to be honest! However, I have decided to pick Badosa. Despite her passionate on-court persona gaining her fans, the Spaniard being ranked so high is one of the key pieces of evidence that the WTA is in treacherous times. Badosa has only ever reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal (2021 French Open) in her career and I expect it to stay that way after this year’s US Open given she enters the tournament on a three-match losing streak.

Jakub: (2) Anett Kontaveit [EST]

The World No. 2 has rarely played to her ranking this season, only having one strong run at a tournament since February. Kontaveit’s fortunes did not shift on the North American hard courts, going 1-2 with losses to Jil Teichmann and Zhang Shuai. Awaiting the Estonian in the second round will probably be Serena Williams and if Kontaveit overcomes her, it could be Karolina Muchova or Ajla Tomljanovic in the next round. The combination of poor form with a difficult draw will likely cause Kontaveit to be an early out in New York.

Shane: (6) Aryna Sabalenka [BLR]

Aryna Sabalenka is the most untrustworthy player on the WTA Tour when it comes to on-court performance. This makes her a prime candidate to have an early exit at any event she competes in. The 24-year-old Belarusian has by far the worst serving woes on tour. Some may even say she has the yips. In 41 matches this season, Sabalenka has hit 339 double faults (8.3 per match). This is 140 more double faults than Coco Gauff, who has the second most on tour during that span. These serving woes can really affect a player’s mental and have cost Sabalenka matches time and time again.

The former world #2 was 5-3 during the North American hard court summer swing, but her inconsistencies make her the most likely top eight seed to go down early. She is set to face a qualifier in round one and the winner of Kaia Kanepi and Tereza Martincova in round two. If she does advance past that matchup, I see her 2022 US Open run coming to an end against this year’s Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina.

Damian: (2) Anett Kontaveit [EST]

Let’s go crazy with this one. I think Anett Kontaveit might lose to Serena Williams in the second round. The American will be fired up for this event like never before and ready to give everything in her last US Open showing. She’s got an opening round against Danka Kovinic, who’s struggled with her health recently. In many ways, drawing Kontaveit so early might be a blessing in disguise. Everyone will be watching, the crowd will be vivacious, and Williams can grab one of her last-ever wins against a big name, but a big name who generally hasn’t been that much of a threat at Grand Slams.

Glenys: (1) Iga Swiatek [POL]

Although the Pole should get through her first round match, I’m not sure how much deeper in the event she will go this year. Having struggled in the lead-up events, Swiatek, although the top seed, won’t find the going easy and will not go deep in the event.

Main Photo from Getty.