We’re at the halfway point of the US summer hardcourt swing with the big events in Toronto and Cincinnati behind us and the US Open less than a week away. Play continues this week at the Connecticut Open in New Haven, but the halfway point seems a good time to look back at what’s happened to some of the biggest names so far this summer. Without further ado, here are my five winners and losers of the US summer hardcourt swing so far!
Best result: Cincinnati champion
Other results: Stanford SF; Toronto QF
The Spaniard is currently in the best form of her career. Since winning Wimbledon, she’s shown that she’s keen to repeat her success week-in, week-out. In winning the title in Cincinnati she was Azarenka-like, hitting huge shots but favouring accuracy over winners, and picked up important wins over Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova, two players against whom she has had very little success in the past. She’s a big favourite going in to the US Open and has a real chance of claiming the world number one ranking.
Best result: Toronto champion
Other results: Cincinnati 3R
The 2017 season has been a see-saw for the Ukrainian. She’s gone where no player has gone before, winning three Premier 5 titles in the same year in Dubai, Rome and Toronto, but has had poor showings at other big events. She was at her very best in Toronto, edging Muguruza in the quarters before crushing Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki consecutively to take the title. Her early loss to Julia Goerges in Cincinnati was a blip, but shouldn’t affect her confidence going in to New York, where she should better her previous Grand Slam best of a quarter final.
Best result: Toronto SF; Cincinnati SF
Other results: Washington DC 1R
The most heartwarming story of the US Open Series was the resurgence of Sloane Stephens. After losing her first two matches after a year out, to Alison Riske at Wimbledon and Simona Halep in Washington DC, the American came back big time. Racking up wins over Petra Kvitova (twice), Angelique Kerber, Lucie Safarova (again, twice), Ekaterina Makarova and Julia Goerges along the way, she made back-to-back semis in Toronto and Cincinnati, showing the tour that she’s capable of fulfilling her potential after years of inconsistency. She sensibly pulled out of New Haven to rest before New York, and despite being unseeded, could go far if the draw works in her favour.
Best result: Stanford champion
Other results: Cincinnati 3R
Another American success story was Madison Keys’ run to the title in Stanford, a run that saw her ignite her previously unhappy season and achieve straight sets wins over Muguruza and Coco Vandeweghe. Keys pulled out of Toronto to recover and lost an extremely tight three setter to Muguruza in Cincinnati after again beating Vandeweghe. If she can hold on to this vein of form, she could go far over the coming fortnight and would be my outside bet for the title.
Best result: Toronto final
Other results: Cincinnati QF
The Dane has been the most consistent player on the WTA Tour this season, making six finals and numerous other deep runs, however she’s struggled to perform at her best where it matters most – in finals. Six losses at this stage will hurt the former world number one, with the manner of her loss to Svitolina in Toronto, where she could barely make a dent on the Ukrainian’s game, being particularly bruising. However, she picked up her first win over a reigning world number one against Karolina Pliskova in the Toronto quarters and has had the best Grand Slam success of her career at the US Open. I certainly wouldn’t put it past her making a third final, but whether she can deliver if she does, who knows…
Simona Halep (Cincinnati F; Toronto SF; Washington DC QF) – great results on paper, brutal losses to Svitolina in Toronto and Muguruza in Cincinnati which could seriously knock her confidence.
Ekaterina Makarova (Washington DC champion; Toronto 3R; Cincinnati 3R) – after 18 months or so in the singles wilderness, the former top 10 player seems to be back-on-track working with Nigel Sears.
Julia Goerges (Washington F; Cincinnati QF; Toronto 2R) – has tasted similar disappointment to Wozniacki, losing in three finals this year, but picked up big wins over Svitolina and Radwanska in Cincinnati.
Results: Toronto 2R; Cincinnati 2R
The 20-year-old French Open champion has probably been the biggest disappointment of the US Open series so far. She lost a tight three setter to WTA veteran Varvara Lepchenko in Toronto but was poor in a straight sets defeat to qualifier Aleksandra Krunic in Cincinnati. An early US Open exit looks likely if she can’t rediscover her best.
Results: Washington DC 2R; Toronto 2R; Cincinnati 2R; New Haven 1R
One of the stars of the first half of 2017, Mladenovic’s form has plummeted since her rollercoaster run to the quarter finals of Roland Garros. Her lone win of the summer hardcourt period came over Tatjana Maria in the first round of Washington DC, with four consecutive defeats following at the hands of 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu, Barbora Strycova, Daria Gavrilova and former doubles partner Timea Babos. Once firmly on track to the make the WTA Finals, she now has her work cut out to mount a substantial challenge.
Results: Toronto 3R; Cincinnati 2R
After a disappointing first half of the season following her stellar 2016, Kerber’s form looked like it was turning round at Wimbledon. She pushed Muguruza much harder than anyone else could manage in a 4th round epic and afterwards shared on social media how the match had reignited her passion for the game. A second round win over Donna Vekic in Toronto signalled that she was finding her feet but she was thrashed by Stephens the very next day. She followed this up with a loss to Makarova in a tight and awkward three-setter in Cincinnati and the chances of a successful title defence in New York look extremely slim.
Results: Cincinnati QF; Toronto 2R
It’s probably a little mean to throw Konta into the losers’ category but I don’t think she or her team would have taken two wins, two losses as her record in Toronto and Cincinnati. Granted, she was probably rusty after taking some time off to get over the intensity of the British spotlight at Wimbledon, but she served for the match against Makarova in Toronto before going on to lose. Her results improved in Cincinnati with good wins over Kiki Bertens and Dominika Cibulkova before she lost to her 2017 arch-rival Simona Halep. However, I’d still place Konta in my top five or six favourites for the US Open, the tournament where she broke out back in 2015.
Results: Cincinnati SF; Toronto QF
Again, I’m being a little facetious labelling world number one Karolina Pliskova as one of the losers, but I don’t think she’ll be happy with her results in her first two tournaments in the top spot. She ran out of energy and ideas in her loss to Wozniacki in the Toronto quarters. She got her revenge over the Dane at the same stage in the Cincinnati quarters before being thoroughly outplayed by Muguruza in the next round. I picked the Czech to win two of the three Grand Slams this year, only to see her lose unexpectedly to inspired but inferior opponents. I still believe she’ll be there or thereabouts in New York, but I’m not convinced she’ll claim the title, which she almost certainly has to do if she‘s to remain at the top of the rankings.
I’ll be back in a few days with my US Open predictions blog and I’m extremely excited to see what happens at the final (and, in many ways, my favourite) Grand Slam of 2017!