The final major of the 2014 tennis season is upon us, and the Bad Man Bureau is here to help you make your picks and fill out your draw. Will a long-established champion veteran once again hoist the trophy, or will a newcomer get a taste at tennis history? Which big names will fail to make the second week—or might even fail to make the second round? Who could be the breakout story of the 2014 US Open? The Bad Man Bureau is here to provide you with our insight on all of those questions and more. Today, we’ll look at the Women’s Singles draw, and tomorrow we’ll focus on the men, which you can now view here.
Seeds: (1) Serena Williams, (15) Carla Suarez Navarro, (24) Samantha Stosur, (32) Zhang Shuai
Serena Williams is the headliner in this quarter, and she’s got a relatively straightforward draw to start. She’ll open up against American wildcard Taylor Townsend, which is sure to be billed as a “Now versus The Future” match. On the other side, Carla Suarez Navarro was given a brutal start to her campaign, as she’ll have to deal with the not-a-Croat, not-yet-an-Australian Alja Tomljanovic in the first round, and then if she can get past that, she’ll have to tussle with the winner of two talented youngsters: Coco Vandeweghe or Donna Vekic.
Watch Out For: Samantha Stosur. She was blitzed off the court by Serena Williams in Montreal just a couple weeks ago, but a week later in Cincinnati, Serena had real difficulty against the former US Open champion. Sam is currently in the semifinals of the Connecticut Open, and it’s safe to wonder if she’s found her game again. If she can navigate through her first few matches, she could pose a very serious threat to Serena in the fourth round.
Quarterfinalist: Serena Williams.
Seeds: (8) Ana Ivanovic, (11) Flavia Pennetta, (23) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, (29) Casey Dellacqua
Ana Ivanovic highlights this section of the draw, where it would be okay if you would assume that there’s no one to trouble the Serb on the way to the quarterfinals. However, there are dangers lurking for Ana, and it starts in the first round against the American Alison Riske, who can hit with Ana. In fact, while there are no big names here, Ivanovic finds herself surrounded by players who play their best arguably on hardcourts. If Ana has an off day, she might crash out prematurely.
Youngsters to Watch: Shelby Rogers and Caroline Garcia. Both have had great 2014 seasons, reaching career highs, and they could potentially meet in the third round if both can pull an upset (potentially) in the second round. Shelby, who collected a topsy-turvy win over Eugenie Bouchard in Canada, will possibly have to take out Flavia Pennetta, who will be feeling the pressure of defending the semifinal points from her run last year. Caroline, meanwhile, will have to take out the tough but underperforming Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Quarterfinalist: Ana Ivanovic.
Seeds: (3) Petra Kvitova, (16) Victoria Azarenka, (20) Svetlana Kuznetsova, (27) Madison Keys
Were everyone at the height of their powers, this would be a deadly section of the draw. As it stands, it’s wide open because there’s no guarantee just who might come out of here. It’s going to be a war of attrition here, as even dangerous unseeded players such as Klara Koukalova (who’s played pretty decently this summer), Petra Cetkovska (a very hard-hitting Czech), Elena Vesnina (underrated), and Christina McHale (who performs best at the US Open of all the majors) are lurking.
Upset Alert: Kristina Mladenovic over (3) Petra Kvitova. Mladenovic has played decently during the summer hardcourt season, compiling an 8-5 record (though 1-2 in qualification rounds) in the events she played. This is more about Kvitova though, who seems to have difficulty in New York, as she’s just 10-6 in her appearances there. Can she stay focused and keep the ball in the court enough against a tough first round opponent? I’m not sure.
Quarterfinalist: Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Seeds: (7) Eugenie Bouchard, (12) Dominika Cibulkova, (17) Ekaterina Makarova, (30) Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
Eugenie Bouchard isn’t coming in with a lot of confidence, but she has developed a trend of playing far better at the majors than at the regular WTA Tour stops. She’ll need to get it together immediately for her own sake, as the early part of her draw places her against tricky opponents. On the other end, the Australian Open finalist could crash out early against a potential third round opponent, as either Ekaterina Makarova or a dangerous darkhorse Elina Svitolina could await.
Funky Match to Watch: Yaroslava Shvedova vs Monica Niculescu. Shvedova has weapons in her serve and forehand, but they’re liable to break down, and she can spray balls anywhere and everywhere. Niculescu, on the other hand, lacks power but makes up for it with funky groundstrokes with differing depths and spins, like her squash shot forehand and backhand slices. This one could easily go three topsy-turvy sets.
Quarterfinalist: Ekaterina Makarova.
Seeds: (6) Angelique Kerber, (9) Jelena Jankovic, (21) Sloane Stephens, (31) Kurumi Nara
The top seed of this section gets an easy start to her campaign, as Kerber will face qualifiers for her first two opponents. In the other section, Sloane got exactly the wrong seed she needed: Jelena Jankovic knocked Sloane out of both Montreal and Cincinnati this year. For Stephens to replicate her fourth-round result from last year, she’s going to need one of the potentially dangerous obstacles (Jovanovski or Knapp, in particular) in Jelena’s way to knock the Serb out.
Also here: Belinda Bencic. It’s not been a good summer for the Swiss, but she can turn her fortunes around with a strong result in Flushing Meadows. She opens against former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer and then takes on questionable seed Kurumi Nara or better-on-clay Aleksandra Wozniak before a possible encounter with Kerber.
Quarterfinalist: Jelena Jankovic.
Seeds: (4) Agnieszka Radwanska, (14) Lucie Safarova, (22) Alize Cornet, (28) Roberta Vinci
This section appears that it will easily be the top two seeds clashing in the fourth round. There simply aren’t that many threats to stop the encounter. Alize Cornet might have the biggest opportunity to stop it, but she hasn’t done much this summer. Daniela Hantuchova has done poorly all year, and the two Chinese women that could possibly hit Agnieszka Radwanska off the court—Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai—face each other in the first round.
Avoid this Match: (28) Roberta Vinci versus Paula Ormaechea. What do you get when you have two players face off that are a combined 4-7 on hardcourts this summer? A match you don’t want to watch. Roberta Vinci (4-4) is likely to win this match over Paula Ormaechea (0-3), but neither of these players can say that they have much confidence lasting beyond this round.
Quarterfinalist: Agnieszka Radwanska.
Seeds: (5) Maria Sharapova, (10) Caroline Wozniacki, (18) Andrea Petkovic, (26) Sabine Lisicki
Maria Sharapova has a good summer hardcourt record for 2014, but there are still serious questions about her form; she’s played a lot of tight three-set matches. To her supporters, that shows her grit and determination that she refuses to lose; to her detractors, it’s a sign that she’s an easy target to knock out and has managed to luck into some wins. One thing is for certain: if Sharapova wishes to stay in the singles draw long, she’ll have to be ready to fight from the first ball. A battle of the Marias (Sharapova versus former Top Ten player Maria Kirilenko) is going to be a first round popcorn match.
Underrated Match to Watch: (10) Caroline Wozniacki vs Magdalena Rybarikova. Wozniacki is likely to win this match; she’s played excellent tennis this summer. But Rybarikova might be able to make this a highly-contested match. The Slovak plays well during the North American summer hardcourt circuit. In previous years, she had won the event in Washington DC, and this year, she was a finalist this week at the Connecticut Open.
Quarterfinalist: Maria Sharapova.
Seeds: (2) Simona Halep, (13) Sara Errani, (19) Venus Williams, (25) Garbine Muguruza
A number of players that could have made deep runs in New York are all clustered together here: Halep, Venus, Muguruza, and Camila Giorgi. Venus Williams in particular has a difficult draw. She opens up against the ageless Kimiko Date-Krumm. These two met a few years back in an early round Wimbledon encounter that turned into an epic under the Center Court roof. From there she could get the erratic but hard-hitting Kiki Bertens and then one of retriever Sara Errani, the slicing and spinning Kirsten Flipkens, or the improving and powerful Camila Giorgi.
Upset Alert: Kirsten Flipkens over (13) Sara Errani. Errani isn’t the same player on a hardcourt as she is on clay, though she does have a US Open semifinal appearance to her credit. Still, she’s had difficulty this summer on the hardcourts, going just 1-3 during the US Open Series with two of those losses coming to the excellent serving Sabine Lisicki. Flipkens won’t necessarily overpower her like Lisicki and Murguruza (the victor over Errani in New Haven), but she can also prevent Errani from being able to use any pace against her. Kirsten’s been a little more successful on the hardcourts this summer, and it could result in an upset.
Quarterfinalist: Simona Halep.
Finals: (1) Serena Williams defeats (2) Simona Halep in two sets.
In the end, Serena defends her US Open title. Ana Ivanovic might trouble her in the quarterfinals—the Serb has given Serena trouble all year long, including that huge victory over Williams at the Australian Open—but Serena can recall the more recent memories of her wins over Ana (in Stanford and Cincinnati this summer). Once she gets past Ivanovic, I think she’ll cruise against either Russian in the semifinals and face Halep in the final. Simona has never beaten Maria Sharapova, who would be the predicted opponent in the quarterfinals here, but the Romanian is getting closer and closer with each encounter. She should have won in Cincinnati, and I think she takes it in New York. After that, she’ll take on a player more comfortable letting her be the aggressor; something Halep is not opposed to doing since she’s gone on this amazing run in the last 14 months or so. In the final though, there’s no denying Serena. Halep will try to make things difficult for her; she may even get up a break in a set or serve for it, but I think Serena will dig in and play the best tennis we’ve seen her play in 2014 to take home the title.