I’m going to be honest. Predictions REALLY haven’t gone well for me this season. My Pliskova-Muguruza final in Melbourne ended when they both suffered shock quarter final exits, while Roland Garros was even worse. Neither of my finalists, Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova, got as far as the last eight. Wimbledon was a trainwreck. I chose a Pliskova-Sevastova final and both lost in the second round. But it’s fun so I’m doing it anyway… Who knows, maybe New York will be the city that my prediction dreams are made of?
The match everyone’s talking about is the final one in the women’s draw as Roland Garros runner-up, second seed and perpetual world number one-chaser Simona Halep takes on the extremely controversial 2006 champion and global megastar Maria Sharapova. The Russian was awarded a wildcard to a Grand Slam for the first time by the tournament organisers despite only having played one match since May, having struggled with a cocktail of injuries. Halep has never beaten Sharapova, and has been on the end of a couple of brutal thrashings by fellow top five players in recent weeks, but I find it almost impossible to back Sharapova to win given her lack of match practice.
The other big tie that has banana-skin written all over it is the match between defending champion Angelique Kerber and rising star Naomi Osaka. The Japanese had her heart broken at Flushing Meadows last year, having been tantalisingly close to beating home favourite Madison Keys in the third round, only for her form to desert her as she approached the finish line. She hasn’t kicked on as much as many hoped she would in 2017 but is still one of the most dangerous players in the game. Kerber’s season has been one of turmoil and frustration. After a poor start to the season, she’s shown on a number of occasions that her best form is almost there, only to fall backwards again in her next tournament. I’m backing her to shade Osaka, but it’s a 55-45 match in my mind. If the German takes it, I’d back her to put up a decent defence of her title.
My biggest hot take for the first round would be backing Germany’s Carina Witthoeft, who’s turning into a perpetual Grand Slam third rounder, to see off last year’s surprise quarter finalist Anastasija Sevastova. The Latvian has never progressed as far at a Grand Slam and having to defend such a tally of points brings new pressure. Her form over the past month has also been a little shaky, but expect it to be tight.
Ash Barty is having the time of her life in 2017, finally fulfilling the potential pundits have been talking about for years. However, she’s had a hard time with Grand Slam draws, especially at the French Open and Wimbledon, where she drew Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina in the first rounds. I backed her to cause shocks in both of those matches, but she didn’t manage to do so. Despite this, I’m backing her to see off a seed in the shape of Ana Konjuh. The young Croatian had an excellent run to the quarter finals in New York last year, but has been erratic so far this year. If Barty can find her best, I expect her to pull it off.
Elsewhere, I’m predicting three other seeds to suffer surprise first round losses. I believe Christina McHale will avenge her tight first round defeat against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in New Haven, while I see wins for Maria Sakkari over Kiki Bertens and Camila Giorgi against Magdalena Ryarikova.
I can foresee a number of seeds going out in the second round. The biggest upset would be French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, who’s been in poor form since Wimbledon, losing out to Sorana Cirstea. The Romanian can be excellent on hardcourts and could be a handful even if the Latvian was at her best.
I can see three other big names losing at this stage. Dominika Cibulkova’s season has been a big disappointment following her great 2016. She had the best result of her year in making the final this week in New Haven but could face the in-form Sloane Stephens at this stage. If it were to happen, I’d back the American.
Petra Kvitova has seriously struggled on the hardcourts this summer, losing twice to Sloane Stephens along with defeats to CiCi Bellis and Shuai Zhang. She could play Alize Cornet in round two, the Frenchwoman always a tricky opponent. While the Czech should win if anywhere near her best, I’d back Cornet to come through.
Kristina Mladenovic was one of the stars of the first half of 2017 but her form has nosedived in recent months. Romanian Ana Bogdan is in the form of her career and could consign the Frenchwoman to another early exit if she can hold her nerve.
I’m expecting four other seeds to go out at this stage. I see Kirsten Flipkens shading Elena Vesnina in a clash of two tour veterans. I think the improving Donna Vekic will edge out former semi-finalist Shuai Peng, and I believe Anett Kontaveit and Lauren Davis will lose out to youngsters CiCi Bellis and Natalia Vikhlyantseva respectively.
PLISKOVA (1) vs Gibbs
Ozaki vs ZHANG (27)
STRYCOVA (23) vs Petkovic
Bogdan vs MLADENOVIC (14)
RADWANSKA (10) vs Zhuk
Jabeur vs VANDEWEGHE (20)
KONTAVEIT (26) vs Bellis
Sorribes Tormo vs KUZNETSOVA (8)
SVITOLINA (4) vs Bouchard
Day vs GAVRILOVA (25)
VESNINA (17) vs Flipkens
Maria vs KEYS (15)
OSTAPENKO (12) vs Cirstea
Kasatkina vs McHale
TSURENKO (28) vs Kanepi
Peterson vs KERBER (6)
WOZNIACKI (5) vs Makarova
Suarez Navarro vs LUCIC-BARONI (29)
Sakkari vs Rodionova
Dodin vs WILLIAMS (9)
KVITOVA (13) vs Cornet
Alexandrova vs GARCIA (18)
Giorgi vs Kr. Pliskova
Liu vs. MUGURUZA (3)
KONTA (7) vs Tomljanovic
Van Uytvanck vs GOERGES (30)
Barty vs Sasnovich
Stephens vs CIBULKOVA (11)
Witthoeft vs Kozlova
Vekic vs PENG (22)
DAVIS (32) vs Vikhlyantseva
Babos vs HALEP (2)
I think the third round will go with the form book, with the exception of a couple of big wins for some home favourites.
CiCi Bellis has backed up the hype by delivering some fantastic results in 2017. If she makes it as far as the third round for the second year in a row, the 18-year-old could face eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has struggled to find much form at Flushing Meadows since winning the title in 2004, only making it past the fourth round on one more occasion. Bellis beat her in Toronto and, backed by a partisan crowd, I can see her repeating that result here.
The crowd could make a huge difference in the third round tie between Agnieszka Radwanska and Coco Vandeweghe. The head-to-head between the two reads 5-1 in the Pole’s favour, but she’s struggled with her game this year and Vandeweghe could hit her off the court if at her best.
Elsewhere, I can see top seed Karolina Pliskova and third seed Garbiñe Muguruza facing tough fights against Shuai Zhang and Camila Giorgi, while seventh seed Johanna Konta will have
PLISKOVA (1) vs ZHANG (27)
STRYCOVA (23) vs Bogdan
RADWANSKA (10) vs VANDEWEGHE (20)
Bellis vs KUZNETSOVA (8)
SVITOLINA (4) vs GAVRILOVA (25)
Flipkens vs KEYS (15)
Cirstea vs Kasatkina
TSURENKO (28) vs KERBER (6)
WOZNIACKI (5) vs Suarez Navarro
Sakkari vs WILLIAMS (9)
Cornet vs GARCIA (18)
Giorgi vs MUGURUZA (3)
KONTA (7) vs GOERGES (30)
Barty vs Stephens
Witthoeft vs Vekic
Vikhlyantseva vs HALEP (2)
I predict that three of the top eight seeds will meet their makers in the round of 16. The highest ranked player to go out will be fourth seed and Toronto champion Elina Svitolina, who’ll go up against a revitalised Madison Keys, champion in Stanford. If the American can find the form she’s shown over the North American hardcourt swing, she can add to the Ukrainian’s disappointing run of Grand Slam results.
The big name match of this round could be Caroline Wozniacki versus Venus Williams. The American, champion in 2000 and 2001, has only made it past this round once in the past six years, while the Dane was runner-up in 2009 and 2014 and made the semi finals last year. However, Williams dominates their head-to-head and I’d back her to edge a tight three-setter.
Johanna Konta broke through to the big leagues with a fantastic run to this round two years ago and repeated that run last year. She could face Sloane Stephens at the same stage this year and the American, a Toronto and Cincinnati semi-finalist, has the game and belief to see her off.
PLISKOVA (1) vs STRYCOVA (23)
VANDEWEGHE (20) vs Bellis
SVITOLINA (4) vs KEYS (15)
Kasatkina vs KERBER (6)
WOZNIACKI (5) vs WILLIAMS (9)
GARCIA (18) vs MUGURUZA (3)
KONTA (7) vs Stephens
Vekic vs HALEP (2)
The biggest match of the quarter finals could see a repeat of the Wimbledon final, with Venus Williams taking on Garbiñe Muguruza. That match was fairly one-sided and I’d back the Spaniard to come through that one relatively straightforwardly.
A quarter final match between world number one Karolina Pliskova and Coco Vandeweghe could be extremely close. Unless she wins the title the Czech is very likely to lose the top spot at the end of the tournament while Vandeweghe showed her Grand Slam prowess with a semi final run at the Australian Open. I’d back Pliskova to edge it, but it could be a tantalising match.
Simona Halep is in prime position to take the mantle from Pliskova, though she’s struggled in her biggest matches this year. If she comes up against Stephens I’d back her to edge out the American as long as her nerves don’t hold her back.
I predict the final quarter final to be between Keys and Kerber. The two have had some great matches in the past and I think Keys could dethrone the defending champion in front of her home crowd.
PLISKOVA (1) vs VANDEWEGHE (20)
KEYS (15) vs KERBER (6)
WILLIAMS (9) vs MUGURUZA (3)
Stephens vs HALEP (2)
If the semi finals see a repeat of the Cincinnati final, with Muguruza taking on Halep, I fear the outcome could be worryingly similar. If either of these players win the tournament, they will become world number one for the first time. While Muguruza seems to have hit her groove, Halep’s attitude fluctuates wildly from match to match. With that in mind, I’d put money on the Spaniard to come through in straight sets.
In the other semi, I think Keys will end Pliskova’s reign in the top spot in front of an adoring crowd. With Lindsay Davenport in her corner, I think the American’s hitting will be slightly bigger than the Czech’s. Keys, however, has never got past the semis of a slam, so would have to keep her emotions in check if she’s to pull it off.
If these results occur, Muguruza would be he new world number one going into the final.
PLISKOVA (1) vs KEYS (15)
MUGURUZA (3) vs HALEP (2)
If this is the final, there’s potential for it to be a blockbuster. The two have met twice this summer, in Stanford and Cincinnati, with one win apiece. Keys has had a lot of success against the Spaniard, but the fact that Muguruza beat her for the first time in their last encounter could be the decisive factor.
I’d back Muguruza to do it in three, to go with her Wimbledon title and world number one ranking.
KEYS (15) vs MUGURUZA (3)