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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, August 24, 2023


No. 2-seeded Aryna Sabalenka is playing for her first US Open final.

Photo credit: Pete Staples/USTA

Beneath the tennis ball eyes of Billie Jean King, tennis’ leading ladies will try to realize their US Open title vision.

The face of iconic champion and New York City resident King, complete with tennis balls reflected in her glasses, makes for striking 2023 US Open art accompanied by the tagline “Celebrating 50 Years of Equal Prize Money.”

The US Open singles draws were conducted today.

You can argue the women’s draw offers more true title contenders than the men’s draw and and a more unpredictable plotline.

“It’s obvious that one of six or eight women could win a major [in New York],” Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Chrissie Evert told the media in an ESPN Zoom call this week. “You look at Sabalenka winning Australia and Rybakina winning and Vondrusova winning. It's obvious there are players at a very high level that can win. It depends on the draw. It depends on the draw.

“Like Ons Jabeur had a very tough draw at Wimbledon, I think had two or three tremendous wins in a row over top players, and just didn't have enough left in the finals. I just think it has to do with winning seven consecutive matches and just being consistent, and I think having a good draw really does help.”

Hee are our Top 10 Takeaways from the draw.

Toughest Quarter

The top quarter offers first-rate fights.

Given their epic battle in Cincinnati that saw Coco Gauff snap a seven-match losing streak to Iga Swiatek and out-duel the world No. 1 for the first time, some regarded world No. 1 Swiatek and the sixth-ranked Gauff as pre-draw US Open favorites.

The US Open draw pits two top contenders on a quarterfinal collision course.

If it comes off it would be a blockbuster and perhaps a prelude to future Flushing Meadows meetings.

The 22-year-old Swiatek has made the quarterfinals or better in five of her last seven Grand Slam appearances.

After falling to Sofia Kenin in the Wimbledon first-round last month, the 19-year-old Gauff reconfigured her coaching team, hiring Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert as coaches, and revitalized her games. An assertive Gauff is 11-1 since that Wimbledon loss winning two of the last three hard-court events—Washington, DC and Cincinnati, her biggest career title.

Gauff opens against a qualifier with the dangerous Mirra Andreeva potentially looming in round two. Gauff beat Andreeva 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 at Roland Garros in June before the 16-year-old Andreeva qualified for Wimbledon and pushed Madison Keys to three sets in the round of 16. In fact, Andreeva was a few points from the Wimbledon quarterfinals in that match, but she didn’t play any of the prominent North American tune-up tournaments in preparation for the US Open.

The top-seeded Swiatek is playing to defend a hard-court major for the first time. Swiatek, playing with the Wilson US Open extra duty felt ball she vocally lobbied for last year, opens against Swedish veteran Rebecca Peterson.

Swiatek should have smooth passage to the fourth round. If seeds hold true, Swiatek would face Veronika Kudermetova, who has lost all eight sets they’ve played. In fact, Swiatek has force-fed Kudermetova bagels or bread sticks in six of those eight sets.

However, if there’s week one volatility, Swiatek could face 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round. Ostapenko is 3-0 lifetime vs. Swiatek and though they haven’t faced off since 2022 Dubai, the flat-hitting Latvian can play laser drives down the line to trouble Swiatek.

A Swiatek-Gauff quarterfinal rematch under the lights of the Arthur Ashe Stadium would be a blockbuster and the winner would be favored to reach the final.

There’s no guarantee though as 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who heads the second quarter of the draw, would be the semifinal opponent for the Swiatek-Gauff winner if they seeds hold true to form.

However, Rybakina’s got to be ready when the rubber meets the road as she opens against Austin champion Marta Kostyuk, who already beat the No. 4 seed on hard courts in Adelaide this year.

In Rybakina’s quarter reside several threats, including former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, No. 8-seeded Maria Sakkari and big-hitting Brazilian left-hander Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Kindest Quarter

The fourth quarter of the draw, headed by world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, offers the most room for opportunity.


Reigning Australian Open champion Sabalenka, 2020 AO champion Sofia Kenin, former No. 1 Venus Williams and 2021 Roland Garros singles and doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova are the only former major singles champion in that quarter.

Sabalenka opened the season winning her maiden major at the Australian Open and has a shot to bookened her Slam season with her first US Open final appearance. Still, Sabalenka must show she can close in New York.

The big-hitting Belarusian held a 5-2 lead and match point in the Roland Garros semifinals vs. Karolina Muchova before collapsing and losing 20 of the last 24 points in a 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 loss to the Czech.

Why is Sabalenka such a threat in New York?

No. 1, she’s on the bottom half of the draw opposite leading contenders Swiatek, Gauff and Rybakina.

Secondly, she’s reached the US Open semifinals in each of her last two appearances and is riding a streak of semifinals or better at four consecutive Grand Slams.

"I feel really strong physically and mentally probably because of amount of matches I play this year, even stronger than before," Sabalenka said. "I have my physio and I have my team. They doing well in managing this amount of practicing and the recovery. So physically, mentally I feel ready. I feel motivated. I feel strong."

American Aim

Legendary champion and New York City resident Billie Jean King’s face is emblazoned on some of the official 2023 US Open artwork.

Will we see a homegrown champion hoist the US Open title trophy?

Sloane Stephens, who swept buddy Madison Keys to capture the 2017 US Open title, is the last American woman to rule New York.

Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, is the last American woman to win a Grand Slam singles crown.

Three top American contenders–third-seeded Jessica Pegula, sixth-seeded Coco Gauff and No. 17-seeded Keys–are all capable of going deep in the draw though all three women face stumbling blocks.

The red-hot Gauff, who has won 11 of her last 12 matches, including title ryan in Washington, DC, and Cincinnati, is on that quarterfinal collision court with No. 1 Swiatek with the winner possibly facing former Wimbledon champion Rybakina in a semifinal.

Pegula, who opens against the hard-hitting and wildly unpredictable Camila Giorgi, carries the confidence that comes from winning her third career title in Montreal, but has yet to reach a Grand Slam semifinal posting an 0-6 record in major quarterfinals.

Keys, who is coming off the Wimbledon quarterfinals, has failed to survive the third round in her last three US Open appearances but possesses the power to hit through the court if conditions are quick.

Prior to the draw, ESPN analyst Chrissie Evert picked Gauff as the American woman most likely to break through and reach the final or win a maiden major in New York.

“I'm going to pick Coco Gauff as far as over Jessica, although I have tremendous respect for Jessica and her game, and she has beaten the No. 1 player in the world,” Evert said in an ESPN Zoom call with the media on Wednesday. “I feel like Coco just has a few more weapons that are needed, I think, to win a major, and she is going to be -- she can win freer points, easier points on her serve when it's on.

“I don't know; I see a different Coco Gauff, and I think with the new team, with Brad Gilbert on the team giving her some expert advice, as he has been one of the most accomplished coaches out there over the last 30 years, I think that has given her an edge that she didn't have before. Her attitude and I just think her confidence now has grown to the point where yes, she has been to the finals of a major, but now I firmly believe that she believes that she can win it. So she's my pick.”

Comebacks to Watch

Caroline Wozniacki famously completed the New York City Marathon and will try to make an extended run returning to the US Open for the first time since 2019.

A two-time US Open finalist, Wozniacki fell to Kim Clijsters in the 2009 US Open final and faced off against Clijsters recently in legends doubles at both Wimbledon (where former No. 1 Martina Hings, Clijsters’ partner, was the best player on the court) and again at the US Open this week in a mixed doubles legends match. Wozniacki, who was wearing taping around her calf at Wimbledon, opens against a qualifier with a possible second-round match vs. two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova looming.

"I don't know how long I'm going to play for. I don't know if it's going to be a year, two years, three years," Wozniacki said. "I also realize that I'm not that young anymore. I'm 33. Obviously you have Venus still playing. She's older than me. You have older players. At the same time I think what I've learned most is that you can't predict the future.

"I'm just enjoying being here in the moment. I hope for a great tournament. I'm definitely planning on playing a lot more next year, playing more of a full schedule."

The 2020 US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady is back after being sidelined by knee surgery and a chronic foot injury. It will be Brady’s first major match since the 2021 Roland Garros. The 2021 Australian Open finalist Brady, who opens against a qualifier, resides in the top quarter of the draw along with No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Kvitova, Wozniacki and sixth-seeded Coco Gauff.

Welcome back Barbora Strycova.

The Czech veteran retired in 2021, announced her comeback this spring and made a major mark partnering Hsieh Su-Wei to the Wimbledon doubles title last month. It was Strycova’s second Wimbledon doubles crown. This will be her first US Open singles and doubles appearance since 2019.

Strycova opens against Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi.

Former Champions in the Field

Reigning champion Iga Swiatek aims to defend a hard-court major for the first time in her career.

The top-seeded Swiatek is joined by these three former US Open singles champions in the field:

Venus Williams (2000 and 2001), Sloane Stephens (2017) and Bianca Andreescu (2019).

Swiatek opens against Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Venus Williams plays Paula Badosa in her opener. Sloane Stephens takes on 19th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia in round one and Bianca Andreescu will meet Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in round one.

Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, continues her recovery from multiple wrist and ankle surgeries and recently started hitting again. Two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber are both aiming to launch comebacks in 2024 after each gave birth to their first child this year.

First Round Matches to Watch

Marta Kostyuk (UKR) vs. (4) Elena Rybakina (KAZ)
Head-to-head: Kostyuk leads 1-0.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina knows the danger Austin champion Kostyuk poses. Last January, Kostyuk toppled Rybakina 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 in Auckland weeks before Rybakina went on to knock off Iga Swiatek and reach the Australian Open final. Last month, Kostyuk upset No. 8-seeded Maria Sakkari in her Wimbledon opener 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 and owns hard-court wins over Bianca Andreescu and Caroline Garcia this month.

Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. (19) Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA)
Head-to-head: Haddad Maia leads 1-0

The left-handed Brazilian can bang the ball from the baseline, while Stephens is quicker around the court and a skilled counter-puncher. Since she swept compatriot Madison Keys to win the 2017 US Open championship, Stephens has failed to survive the third round in four of five Flushing Meadows appearances. Still, the 38th-ranked Stephens, who reunited with coach Kamau Murray, is coming off successive round-of-16 appearances in Montreal and Cincinnati and clearly knows how to win in New York.

Alycia Parks (USA) vs. (8) Daria Kasatkina
Head-to-head: First meeting

In a match of power vs. consistency, former Indian Wells finalist Kasatkina will try to drain errors from the explosive and sometimes erratic Parks. The skillful Kasatkina can carve up opponents with sharp angles though her second serve remains suspect. When Parks’ volatile first serve is landing she can make misery for opponents and when it’s not she can hit herself into oblivion. The 43rd-ranked Parks owns just one career major main-draw win but knows she has major opportunity here.

(WC) Venus Williams (USA) vs. Paula Badosa (ESP)
Head-to-head: First meeting

Two talents who have both battled injuries this season. Just 16 months removed from her rise to world No. 2, Badosa has not played since retiring from the Wimbledon second round vs. Marta Kostyuk. Meanwhile 43-year-old Venus Williams upset Veronika Kudermetova in Cincinnati for her first Top 20 win in four years.

Rare Double

Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova could rise to rare air in Flushing Meadows.

The last time a woman won Wimbledon and the US Open back-to-back was 10 years ago when Serena Williams did it back in 2012. The 2023 US Open marks the 22nd anniversary of Venus Williams winning Wimbledon and the US Open in succession for the second straight year.

Oddsmakers Favorites

Oddschecker lists defending champion Iga Swiatek as the favorite to capture her fifth Grand Slam crown in Flushing Meadows.

Leading US Open favorites as of Thursday, August 24th, according to Oddschecker, here:

Iga Swiatek 13/5

Aryna Sabalenka 5/1

Elena Rybakina 17/2

Coco Gauff 12/1

Jessica Pegula 14/1

Karolina Muchova 20/1

Marketa Vondrousova 25/1

TV Coverage

ESPN’s first ball to last ball US Open coverage starts on Monday, August 28th at noon on ESPN.

Daily weekday coverage begins on ESPN at noon.

Studio coverage starts on ESPN on Sunday, August 27th at 4 p.m. Eastern time with a special 90-minute SportsCenter at the US Open preview show.

This is the ninth consecutive year ESPN has exclusive US Open coverage and it touts it will present “more than 260 hours of coverage will air on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes, with over 550 main draw matches on ESPN+ and ESPN3.”

For the first time ever, ABC will air the US Open live, with the Round of 16 on Sunday, September 3. Dual network primetime coverage on August 29 and 30 includes action from Arthur Ashe Stadium on ESPN and from Louis Armstrong Stadium on ESPN2.

ESPN Deportes will air 98 hours of play in Spanish—up 12 hours over last year—including the Women’s and Men’s Semifinals and Finals.

Daily marathon coverage from all courts – first ball to last ball – will culminate with the Women’s Singles Championship on Saturday, September 9th and the Men’s Singles Championship on Sunday, September 10th, both starting t 4 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.



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