Serena Williams has been stuck on 23 singles grand slams for almost three years now. Of course, that’s a problem her first-round opponent, Maria Sharapova, would love to endure. The Russian is just one of several difficult opponents strewn through Serena’s section of the draw.
Any stumble from the American will open the door for usual suspects like Simona Halep, Ash Barty or Karolina Pliskova to walk through. Or could we have yet another breakout major winner on the women’s side? Below, I’ve given my favourites for the 2019 US Open and some outsiders with a decent chance.
Serena Williams: 5/1
I’ll put her down as chief favourite because she seems match fit, looked brilliant at times in Toronto and is…well…Serena. The 38-year-old first won this title 20 years ago when Monica Seles and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario were still in the draw. Two decades on, Williams is still playing and good enough to capture a seventh US Open. That said, the draw could have been a lot kinder. After Sharapova, more potentially tricky opponents surround her in the shapes of Timea Bacsinszky, Karolina Muchova, Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova. Williams will need to find her best form repeatedly if she hopes to track down that elusive 24th major.
Simona Halep: 7/1
It was a toss-up between the Romanian and Ash Barty for this spot. I’ve gone for the former because Halep has a slightly better draw and longer track record. The Wimbledon champion is in the second quarter and will start against Nicole Gibbs. Looking through her path, I think the 27-year-old would be disappointed not to at least make the fourth round. In the second week, she could face Caroline Wozniacki or Bianca Andreescu for a quarter-final spot.
Karolina Pliskova: 9/1
With eyes fixed everywhere else, don’t be surprised to see the 2016 finalist progress into the second week without fuss. Pliskova made the last eight in both Toronto and Cincinnati and has been handed a brilliant draw in New York. The 27-year-old is joined by out-of-form seeds Jo Konta and Caroline Garcia in an open section. Should she make it to the last eight, there may be a stern test from Elina Svitolina, Sofia Kenin or Madison Keys. However, the Czech would much prefer those options to the likes of Williams, Barty, Halep, Naomi Osaka or Petra Kvitova.
Kiki Bertens: 25/1
I rate the Dutchwoman’s chances based on an encouraging draw rather than recent form. Bertens didn’t gain much confidence from trips to Toronto and Cincinnati where she lost in the third and second round respectively. That may not matter though as she has a good route to the last eight in Flushing Meadows. The 27-year-old will start against world no.91 Paula Badosa and won’t be perturbed by the presence of Aryna Sabalenka, Donna Vekic and Julia Goerges in her section.
Bianca Andreescu: 14/1
If we were to do a straw poll of the most exciting young players on the WTA Tour, this bubbly Canadian would get significant backing. The 19-year-old possesses a wonderful arsenal of shots and impressive resilience. Andreescu will be in great spirits after lifting the Rogers Cup trophy this month, her second title of the season. The world no.15 finds herself in the second quarter here with Halep, Kvitova and Sloane Stephens. I think she has a great chance to make it through to the second week so long as she stays healthy.
Sloane Stephens: 33/1
Given that the American hasn’t won a title since Spring 2018 and has a match record of 21-15 this season, it’s clear that her mojo has gone AWOL. Unsurprisingly, the 2017 US Open champ split with coach Sven Groenveld in the past few weeks to try something new.
This new approach was to go back to what worked before in the shape of former coach Kamau Murray, who found a way to unlock the 26-year-old’s talents in the past. Stephens has also been given a good draw here as she searches for that old magic.