Saturday, August 24, 2019

Injury (and other) questions loom over U.S. Open draw

Morningside Park (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)

I enjoy the U.S. Open. Too much. Because so many matches are available for me to watch, I sometimes resent that I have to do things like go to work and go to the gym because I am watching the U.S. Open, thank you very much.

The upcoming Open is going to be as interesting, I think, as the other majors were this year. Defending champion Naomi Osaka enters in questionable shape; she retired from her quarterfinal match in Cincinnati because of a leg injury. Simona Halep does enter as a big favorite, but there's a lingering question about her foot. If it has totally healed, her chances are excellent to claim the title.

And, speaking of health, as far as I'm concerned, if she's not injured or doesn't get injured, Bianca Andreescu has as good a chance as anyone of claiming the trophy. The other player who enters as a top contender is French Open champion Ash Barty.

Some players whom we expected to be favorites are not. Kiki Bertens isn't on fire the way she was last year, and Karolina Pliskova--though I still consider her a favorite--has lost some currency. There's quite a bit of talk about former runner-up Madison Keys, who just brilliantly won Cincinnati. With Keys, though, you just never know. Elina Svitolina has yet to win a major, and she's best on hard courts, but her performances are inconsistent, and--at this time--she can't be considered a top contender.

Petra Kvitova has always struggled at the U.S. Open because of her asthma (which is now under better control, but which still makes her vulnerable), but this year, she also has to contend with an injured forearm. In Cincinnati, she said that she was still dealing with occasional swelling, and she wasn't sure whether it was caused by scar tissue, or perhaps an issue involving her wounded hand. She then withdrew from the Bronx tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if Kvitova withdraws from the Open.

And then there's Serena Williams, who has historically had a hard time at the Open--not playing it, but staying within a circle of calm. We know never to count her out, but how much should we count her in? Unfortunately, before she even steps onto a court, there's drama surrounding her. First, there's the matter of last year's final and the fact that the media continues to deconstruct it. Granted, it was an unfortunate and complex event, but the continuing preoccupation with it is tiresome.

And as if that weren't enough, Williams' first opponent is Maria Sharapova, and the dynamics between them have been projected into overblown 21st Century sociological myth. In the age of reality television and gossip-as-news, both fans and the media will have a field day with this match.

The Osaka quarter includes Anett Kontaveit, Aryna Sabalenka, Donna Vekic, Julia Goerges (whose level has dropped, but she can still be dangerous), and Bertens.

The Halep quarter includes Andreescu, 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, Cincinnati runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova, Alona Ostapenko (you never know), Garbine Muguruza (you really never know), and Kvitova.

In the Pliskova quarter are Svitolina, Venus Williams, Sonya Kenin, and 2017 runner-up and Cincinnati champion Madison Keys.

The Barty quarter includes Serena Williams, Anastasija Sevastova, 2016 champion Angie Kerber, and Maria Sakkari.

First rounds of interest:

Aryna Sabalenka (9) vs. Vika Azarenka

Aleks Krunic vs. Alona Ostapenko

Alison Riske vs. Garbine Muguruza (24)

Jo Konta (16) vs. Daria Kasatkina

Serena Williams (8) vs Maria Sharapova

Angie Kerber (14) vs. Kiki Mladenovic

Maria Sakkari (30) vs. Camila Giorgi


colt13 said...

A bunch of good tilts. Now that qualifiers have been placed, add Rybakina/Muchova.

Diane said...

You know, I don’t know much about Rybakina, but there’s certainly some buzz about her. Muchova, I have an eye on.