With 23-time major champion Serena Williams, who is pregnant, and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, who is dealing with a custody case involving her son sitting out the action at Flushing Meadows. The 2017 US Open women’s draw will be typically open and unpredictable, and with just a few days to the start of the tournament, we present five players worth keeping a close eye on during the Flushing Meadows fortnight.
5. Maria Sharapova
Sharapova’s 15-month suspension expired in April 2017, and after being denied a wildcard into Roland Garros, and missing Wimbledon due to an injury, she looks set to return to the Grand Slam stage at the US Open.
The US Open will be her first Grand Slam since last year’s Australian Open.
On her return to the tour in April, Sharapova was bolstered by fans with “Welcome back Maria” signs in Germany and cheering support last month in Stanford, her first match in the US in more than two years.
She won the US Open way back in 2006, but if she is fit, she could be one of the most dangerous floaters on the tour.
4. Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber rounded off a wonderful 2016 season with victory over Karolina Pliskova in the women’s singles’ final of the US Open.
Kerber has had a difficult season, but could a return to the scene of last year’s success bring out the best in the former World Number One?
The German hasn’t gone past the fourth round at any of the Grand Slams this year.
She lost to Coco Vandeweghe at the Australian Open in the fourth round, and became the first WTA world no. 1 in history to be ousted in the first round of the French Open after falling in straight sets to Ekaterina Makarova.
Kerber went out in the fourth round of Wimbledon, losing to eventual champion Garbiñe Muguruza, surrendering the No. 1 ranking to Karolína Plíšková after the tournament.
It will be difficult for Kerber to retain her title, but we are not underestimating the powers of a reigning champion.
3. Karolina Pliskova
Pliskova staged her long-awaited major breakthrough at the 2016 US Open, defeating Venus and Serena en route to the final.
She has had a consistent season, reaching the quarter finals at the Australian Open, and the semi-finals at Roland Garros, while winning titles in Brisbane, Doha and Eastbourne.
However, Pliskova suffered arguably her most surprising defeat of the season when she fell to world number 87 Magdaléna Rybáriková in the second round at Wimbledon.
That didn’t prevent her from reaching the WTA world No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career, becoming the first female player representing the Czech Republic to achieve the feat.
With a big serve and penetrating ground strokes, Pliskova’s game is tailor made for the US Open’s cement floors.
2. Simona Halep
Halep quietly had an excellent 2016, winning three titles and finishing the year ranked No. 4, her third straight season in the Top 4. The next step for the 25-year-old is a major crown.
At the beginning of the year many thought if Kerber and Serena faltered, Halep could be next in line to dominant female tennis. But that hasn’t been the case as she has squandered the opportunity to become World No. 1 on four occasions in 2017.
Halep lost to Shelby Rogers in the first round of the Australian Open. It was her second first-round exit in a row. She later stated she was struggling with a left knee pain.
After a very good clay-court season, she went into the French Open as the favourite, and she looked set to justify that tag when she led youngster, Jelena Ostapenko by a set and a break in the final.
But with the Number One ranking up for grabs, the Romanian squandered that advantage, going on to lose to the young Latvian in three sets.
In Eastbourne and Wimbledon she also had the No. 1 ranking within reach, but lost each time, the latter loss coming in a thrilling encounter against Johanna Konta, with the Brit scoring yet another comeback win against Halep.
During the American hardcourt summer, she continued to chase and miss the seemingly elusive No. 1 spot in Washington DC, Toronto and Cincinnati.
After an impressive run of reaching the QFs at 10 consecutive tournaments, she was in need of one more win in Cincinnati to climb on the top of the WTA ladder, but she lost the Cincinnati final to Muguruza, leaving her merely 5 points behind Karolina Pliskova in the rankings.
She promised her fans to come back even stronger in the 2017 US Open. Can she finally win her first major title, and rise to No. 1 in the world after several failed attempts?
1. Garbiñe Muguruza
Garbiñe Muguruza has been arguably the most improved tennis player on the WTA roster.
Muguruza broke through with her first Grand Slam title at the 2016 French Open defeated then World No. 1 Serena Williams but struggled after that.
The Spaniard is supremely talented, however, and seems a solid pick to get back on track in 2017 and finally play deep into the US Open draw.
At the Australian Open, Muguruza beat Marina Erakovic, Samantha Crawford, Anastasija Sevastova and Sorana Cîrstea en route to her first ever quarterfinal at the tournament. She then lost to Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets.
Muguruza entered the French Open as the defending champion, where she reached the fourth round, losing to home favourite Kristina Mladenovic in three sets. Since she failed to defend her title, Muguruza fell from the top 10.
However, she stormed back with a vengeance at Wimbledon, defeating all comers, including Venus Williams in the final to win her second major title. She has since backed that up with the Cincinnati crown, recording statement wins over Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova to lay down a very strong marker for the US Open.
If Muguruza plays her best at Flushing Madows, she will be hard to stop!
The US Open holds from 28 August to 10 September, 2017.