Tennis predictions - Can Serena finally win major No. 24 at U.S. Open?

Serena-Williams-Cincinnati
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Ricky Dimon

Tennis · 2 years ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

History could be made at the 2020 U.S. Open and there will not be any fans to see it in person. A most unusual Grand Slam begins on Monday in New York City, where sports continue to be played behind closed doors due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Serena Williams used to close just about every tournament to all other competitors, but she is 38 years old now and has been stuck on 23 major singles titles since winning the 2017 Australian Open. Since giving birth to a daughter later that year, Williams is 0-4 in slam finals (0-2 at the U.S. Open and 0-2 at Wimbledon).

Can she go one step further at Flushing Meadows following those runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2019? She is favored to do so, but not to the overwhelming extent that she has been on more than a few occasions at Grand Slams over the years. Part of that has to do with the competition level. Unlike on the men’s side, there is a ton of parity at or near the top. Simona Halep is skipping this event along with 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, but among the challengers to Williams are Cincinnati runner-up Naomi Osaka, world No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, Cincinnati champion Victoria Azarenka, and 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

The draw

Serena and her sister, Venus Williams, are on a collision course for the semifinals. They just faced each other in an extremely high-quality contest at a tournament in Lexington a few weeks ago, but it will obviously be difficult for both of them to make it all the way to the last four in New York. Venus’ draw is especially tough, as she opens against No. 20 seed and 2019 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova. The 40-year-old could also run into Cincinnati semifinalist Johanna Konta as early as the third round. Kenin and fellow American Madison Keys, as well, find themselves in a loaded bottom half of the draw along with two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, former U.S. Open title winner Sloane Stephens, Cincinnati semifinalist Elise Mertens, and an in-form Ons Jabeur.

Osaka is an obvious favorite to reach the final from the other side of the draw, but she heads into the fortnight with question marks. The 22-year-old from Japan sparked a one-day pause in play during the Cincinnati event in protest of social injustice after she announced that she would not play her semifinal match on Thursday. She eventually played and made it to the final but then withdrew due to a hamstring injury, handing the trophy to Azarenka. Pliskova is the U.S. Open’s top seed, but she has never captured a major title and therefore would probably be considered an underdog in a potential semifinal against either Osaka or two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

The odds

Outright favorites

Serena Williams (+450) – Can Serena finally surpass Margaret Court and stand alone with 24 Grand Slam singles titles. At her best, the 38-year-old is still the best and most dominant force on the WTA Tour. However, she is coming off alarming losses in both Lexington (to Shelby Rogers) and Cincinnati (to Maria Sakkari).

Naomi Osaka (+600) – Osaka won the U.S. Open in 2018, upending Serena in a controversial final. She won the next major, too (2019 Australian Open). As such, it is clear that Osaka has the potential to rack up a lot of slam titles–but she has been dealing with a lot recently and the hamstring injury could be especially problematic.

Karolina Pliskova (+1200) – These relatively long odds on a No. 1 seed cannot be overlooked under any circumstances. Sure, Pliskova has never won a slam title and has been to only one final (2016 U.S. Open). But she is one of the most consistent players on tour and perhaps less pressure without fans in attendance could help her.

Victoria Azarenka (+1800) – Azarenka soared up the list of title favorites with her surprise triumph in Cincinnati. Still, for someone ranked 27th in the world this could be a bit of an overreaction. Kenin, Konta, and Muguruza also check in at +1800 and probably have better value in this spot.

Quarters

Pliskova’s quarter is wide open, as the two biggest names–Pliskova and Angelique Kerber–are not in particularly good form at the moment. It might be worth taking a stab at Ajla Tomljanovic (+1600). In the second quarter of the bracket, Osaka’s injury opens the door; so does Kvitova’s early loss in Cincinnati to Marie Bouzkova. Anett Kontaveit (+550) could be the one to capitalize and secure a semifinal berth. If Serena stumbles early, watch out for the woman who beat her in Cincinnati. This could be Sakkari’s time to make an even bigger her name for herself, and she has good value at +1100 to advance to the final four. And why not take Venus in the last section when you can get her at +2500? If she can get past Muchova in round one, the two-time U.S. Open champ just may be off to the races.

Be sure to check out our daily expert tennis picks throughout the U.S. Open.

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