Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 US OPEN: (Women's Draw Analyzed) Azarenka-Serena Final Likely

Serena Williams is the World #1, the #1 seed and the defending champion as the 2013 US Open approaches. The last time Serena defended a major title was in 2010, when she did it at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Neither time was she the #1 player in the world. The last (first, and only) time she defended a title while being World #1 was in 2003 when she defended her 2002 Wimbledon title (beating sister Venus in both final matches).

So, although she is the prohibitive favorite to win in New York on Sunday September 8th, there is a fairly good chance that she won't. In terms of hard court records this year, 2013 Australian Open champion and #2 seed Victoria Azarenka has the better win-loss percentage, with 25-1, while Serena is at 29-3 (with two of those losses coming to Vika, in tough 3-setters in the finals of Doha and Cincinnati and the third loss coming to Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open quarterfinals). The only player to beat the Belarussian on  a hard court this year is 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, who did it in Carlsbad.

Vika and Serena and a reprise of last year's final is the generally expected result. However, if form holds, the draw indicates that the quarterfinal match-ups would be: Williams versus Angelique Kerber, Agnieska Radwanska versus Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki versus Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova versus Azarenka. However, Williams starts off her title defense playing a fellow grand slam champion in Francesca Schiavone and could also face Magdalena Rybarikova in the 3rd round and Stephens in the 4th. If she gets through those contests I think she will most definitely make it to the final for the 3rd consecutive year.

Azarenka, on the other hand, has a much easier draw and really only has to worry about either Kvitova or Stosur in her quarter and  in the unlikely event that Wozniacki or Errani make it that far, her semifinal should be relatively easy. The only other potential big hitter that could have caused her trouble is Maria Sharapova, who withdrew with a shoulder injury. That section of the draw will almost certainly have a surprise semifinalist, who should end up being dismissed by Azarenka.

First round matches to watch: Heather Watson versus red-hot Simona Halep, Madison Keys versus Jelena Jankovic, Monica Puig versus Alisa Kleybanova, Sabine Lisicki versus Vera Dushevina, and Kirsten Flipkens versus 7-time major champion Venus Williams.

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