Simona Halep’s quarter
It is world #1 Halep’s section of the draw that will likely garner the majority of the attention, and not just because of the Romanian. She faces an immediate challenge in the form of Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, but it is one she should be up to. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who provided a stern test in Montreal, is seeded to meet Halep in the third round, but it is her potential fourth-round opponent who may inspire fear in the French Open champion.
For she may well face one of the Williams sisters. Serena and Venus are on course for a collision in the third round with the winner seeded to face Halep. Whoever emerges from that could face former world #1 Garbine Muguruza or former world #1 Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. But neither arrive in New York in particularly good form, and San Jose finalist Maria Sakkari or 18th seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia could well be poised to take advantage.
Quarterfinal prediction: Halep defeats Barty
Sloane Stephens’ quarter
Defending champion and third seed Sloane Stephens begins her title-defence against Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina, who has never been beyond the second round. She will then play a qualifier, but in the third round could face two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. The in-form Elise Mertens, who beat her in Cincinnati, is a potentially dangerous fourth-round opponent as is the veteran Barbora Strycova.
There is also no shortage of quality in the other half of the section. It is headlined by seventh seed Elina Svitolina, who has a point to prove at the Slams and begins her campaign against American young gun Sachia Vickery, and ninth seed Julia Goerges, a semifinalist at Wimbledon. 19th seed Anastasija Sevastova’s clash with Donna Vekic will be one to watch in the first round and both women will feel they could do some damage in New York.
Quarterfinal prediction: Stephens defeats Goerges
Semifinal prediction: Halep defeats Stephens
Angelique Kerber’s quarter
Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Angelique Kerber opens in New York against Margarita Gasparyan and could face Alize Cornet, who beat her in Montreal, in the second round. Former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova is the first seed she can face and the Slovakian could provide a real challenge. Last year’s runner-up Madison Keys is a possible fourth-round opponent, though the American will likely have to beat 24th seed Coco Vandeweghe to get there.
Also in the quarter are Carolina Garcia, the sixth seed, and Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 10th. Both are big-hitters capable of besting anyone on their day and a fourth-round battle between them could be a real thriller. But Ostapenko may well have to overcome Maria Sharapova in the third round. The Russian, seeded 22nd, won in New York in 2006 and after a promising season will be eager to repeat that triumph. She begins her tournament against a qualifier.
Quarterfinal prediction: Ostapenko defeats Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki’s quarter
Australian Open champion and world #2 Caroline Wozniacki has twice reached the final at the US Open. She opens her campaign against a former champion in Sam Stosur and if she can overcome that early test could face Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the third round. Kiki Bertens of Holland, who beat Halep in three sets in the final in Cincinnati, is her seeded opponent in the fourth round and will be targeting a deep run in New York herself.
There is plenty of talent also in the quarter, including fifth seed Petra Kvitova. The Czech hasn’t quite delivered at the Majors this year but can never be discounted from title-contention. Aryna Sabalenka, a potential third-round opponent for her, brings power and good form to Flushing Meadows. Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina, who earlier this season met in the Indian Wells final, will also consider themselves as in with a good chance of making the quarterfinals at least.
Quarterfinal prediction: Bertens defeats Sabalenka
Semifinal prediction: Bertens defeats Ostapenko
Final prediction: Halep defeats Bertens