It feels like forever since there’s been a women’s tennis player you can trust in a big spot, outside of Serena Williams of course. The 23-time grand slam champ will miss the 2017 U.S. Open, which begins on Monday (Aug. 28), because of her pregnancy. So where should bettors place their trust? Should we look to the less heralded Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, who have both captured two recent slams? Should we put our money on the aging, old guard like Venus Williams? Or perhaps take a flyer on the comeback of Maria Sharapova?
The odds have shifted slightly from Stuart’s early look at the tournament back in July. Let’s take a look at the new numbers, recent performances, and U.S. Open track-record for the main favorites and find the best value. Then check out the men’s draw, where you’ll be equally frustrated at the lack of dependability.
A very tepid favorite, Muguruza is having a good year, but she has never gotten past the second round in New York. A two-time major winner, she reached the quarterfinals in Australia, the fourth round at the French Open, and won Wimbledon this year. She has been solid but not spectacular since Wimbledon.
Before losing to Kerber in last year’s U.S. Open Final, Pliskova had never been past the third round of a major. She parlayed her success in the Big Apple into a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, and a semifinal berth at Roland Garros. After a second-round exit at Wimbledon, Pliskova has been average during hard-court play.
In a sport that lacks consistency, Halep almost always gives you a solid performance. She’s rarely performed well in Australia, but she has reached the fourth round and finals at the French Open the last two years, while also making the quarterfinals two straight times at Wimbledon. She enters the U.S. Open after a semifinal appearance at the tournament in 2015 and a quarterfinal berth last year. Unfortunately, Halep has never won a major. She’s playing well, but there are serious questions about her mental fortitude under the brightest lights.
This has been the best year of Konta’s career. She made a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open and earned a semifinal spot at Wimbledon. The last two years Konta has gotten to the fourth round of the U.S. Open. But, like many on the women’s side, she has had mixed results since Wimbledon.
After many years as a good but not great player, Kerber finally put herself among the elite last year at the age of 28. She won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016, and reached the final at Wimbledon. She previously had never gotten past the semifinals of a major. This year Kerber has regressed, only reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. She has not played well in two U.S. open warm-up tournaments, either.
A two-time French Open quarter-finalist, Svitolina has reached the third round in New York the last two years. Just 22 years old, she made the fourth round at Wimbledon, and beat Halep, Muguruza, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki to earn the title in Toronto a couple weeks ago. While that sounds like a great pre-U.S. Open resume, she immediately went on to an early-round exit in Cincinnati last week.
Out for 15 months because of a doping suspension, Sharapova returned to the court in April, but got injured and has played sparingly. She was awarded a wild card into the U.S. Open in large part due to her five major titles. Her lone win in New York came over a decade ago (2006).
A seven-time major winner, Williams last hoisted a meaningful trophy in 2008. She had not reached a major final since 2009 before reaching falling in the title match at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. She has now reached the fourth round in six of her last seven majors. Her U.S. Open warm-ups have not gone particularly well.
Without Serena Williams, the tournament — like women’s tennis in general — is wide open. It is hard to love anybody, so looking for a price is the play. Sharapova and Venus are intriguing, but just haven’t done enough recently to warrant a wager. Svitolina is young, talented, and playing as well as anybody in the field. She’s the value play at 10/1.
Photo Credit: Tatiana from Moscow, Russia (Elina Svitolina) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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