U.S Open R1: (2) Simona Halep vs Marina Erakovic
Simona Halep will begin her quest for a maiden Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows when she comes up against Marina Erakovic in the first round on Tuesday. The world number 2 looms as one of Serena Williams’s biggest threats over the next fortnight, the Romanian has proved that she has what it takes to match it with the world number 1. First, Simona will be looking to avoid another disastrous early round exit at a Grand Slam.
Simona Halep rebounded from a disappointing couple of months with a strong showing during the U.S Open series. The Romanian reached the final at the Rogers Cup and in Cincinnati. The Romanian’s run to the final at the Rogers Cup was particularly impressive, recording victories over Jankovic, Kerber, Radwanska and Errani before running out of steam in the final against Belinda Bencic.
Simona backed up her run to the final in Toronto with another strong showing in Cincinnati. Simona recorded hard fought victories over Mladenovic and Petkovic before comfortably beating Pavlyuchenkova and Jankovic to advance to the final. Simona came up against a fired up Serena Williams in the final, falling short in a 3-6 6-7 loss. Despite the loss, Simona showed that she can be a threat to Serena, the second set tiebreak was incredibly close, Simona really pushed the world number 1.
Marina Erakovic’s horror season continued during the U.S Open. Marina failed to progress through the qualifying draw in Cincinnati and New Haven, succumbing to Nara and Savchuk. Erakovic has only ever won one main draw match at Flushing Meadows in her 5 appearances at the event.
This will be the first meeting between Simona and Marian, this should be a straightforward victory for Simona. Nerves have been a problem for Simona in the early stages of Grand Slams, she may make a slow start to this one. Once Simona gets going, she will be far too good.
Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Marina Erakovic in 2 sets
U.S Open R1: (6) Lucie Safarova vs Lesia Tsurenko
Lucie Safarova and Lesia Tsurenko will go head to head for the second time in as many weeks. Safarova defeated Tsurenko in straight sets at the semi-final stage of the Connecticut Open last week and will hoping for a repeat performance when the two clash at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday. This is a tough first round match-up for Lucie, Tsurenko is in good form.
Lucie Safarova’s run to the final in New Haven will give her a much needed boost of confidence heading into the final Grand Slam of the year. Safarova didn’t really get going in Toronto or Cincinnati, picking up just two victories in those events. Safarova’s decision to accept a wild card into the Connecticut Open turned out to be a good one, defeating some quality opponents on route to the final.
Safarova advanced to the final with straight set victories over Gavrilova, Begu and Tsurenko. An extremely hard fought three set victory over Cibulkova in the quarter-finals was the highlight of the week for Lucie. The week did end in disappointment for Lucie, suffering her seventh consecutive loss to Petra Kvitova in the final, Lucie seemed to run out of gas late in the final, succumbing 7-6 2-6 2-6.
Lesia Tsurenko is one of the form players on the tour right now. Since Wimbledon, the Ukrainian has gone on three deep runs. Tsurenko dropped 1 set in 5 matches on route to claiming her first WTA title in Istanbul before coming through qualifying and defeating Garbine Muguruza to reach the quarter-finals at the Rogers Cup. Tsurenko’s solid form continued last week where she defeated Barbora Strycova and Karolina Pliskova on her way to the semi-finals in New Haven before succumbing to Lucie Safarova in straight sets.
Lucie holds a 2-0 head to head record over Lesia. Lucie’s 6-2 7-6 victory over Lesia last week in New Haven was a little easier than her three set victory over the Ukrainian at the U.S Open in 2013. Tsurenko had her moments against Lucie last week and will come into this match with nothing to lose, all the pressure will be on the sixth seeded Safarova. Lucie is much better at dealing with pressure these day and will be up for the challenge, Lucie should ultimately be a little too classy for Lesia.
Prediction: Lucie Safarova to defeat Lesia Tsurenko in 3 sets
U.S Open R1: Ajla Tomljanovic vs Karin Knapp
There were big expectations placed upon Ajla Tomljanovic heading into 2015, however the Australian has failed to fire. Ajla has one last big opportunity to make an impact in 2015, starting with a winnable first round clash against Italy’s Karin Knapp.
Ajla Tomljanovic’s form during the U.S Open was typical of her season, there were glimpses of brilliance but some incredible lows. Ajla picked up an impressive come from behind victory over Madison Keys to reach the quarter-finals in Stanford where she would succumb to Karolina Pliskova. Ajla played some stunning tennis in the final set against Keys, it’s a shame we don’t get to see her play at that level very often. Ajla’s preparation for New York ended on a sour note, thumped by Irina Falconi in the final round of qualifying in Connecticut.
Karin Knapp has shown reasonable form over the last few months, her ranking is steadily rising and she only just missed out on a seeding in New York. Knapp went on deep runs in Bad Gastein and Baku but her results during the U.S Open series weren’t so great. Knapp suffered a humiliating 0-6 0-6 loss to Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Rogers Cup before reaching the third round in Cincinnati where she was smashed by Serena Williams 0-6 2-6.
Knapp defeated Tomljanovic 7-5 6-2 in Hobart earlier this year in what was their only previous encounter. Both Ajla and Karin will see this as an opportunity for a rare Grand Slam victory, it’s a tough one to call. I’m going to side with Tomljanovic. Ajla’s upside is far greater, hopefully she will bring her a-game to Flushing Meadows, I have a feeling she will.
Prediction: Ajla Tomljanovic to defeat Karin Knapp in 2 sets
U.S Open R1: (20) Victoria Azarenka vs Lucie Hradecka
Victoria Azarenka looms as Serena Williams’ biggest threat over the next fortnight in New York. Azarenka is a two-time runner up at Flushing Meadows, coming agonizingly close to winning the title in 2012 where she failed to serve out the match against Serena Williams. Vika will be looking to go one step better in 2015, the Belarusian will start her 2015 campaign on Tuesday where she will come up against Lucie Hradecka.
Vika showed glimpses of her best during the U.S Open series, however injuries ultimately held her back yet again. Vika stormed through to the round of 16 in Toronto and Cincinnati but ultimately succumbed in a disappointing fashion at both events.
Vika recorded convincing victories over Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova in Toronto before playing a bizarrely poor match to lose to Sara Errani in the third round. Vika’s 6-0 6-4 victory over Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati was the highlight of the Belarusians lead up to New York. Vika played some incredible tennis in the first set, obliterating Wozniacki. The tournament ended poorly for Vika as she was forced to retire injured during her third round match with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Lucie Hradecka’s record at the U.S Open is in complete contrast to Vika’s. Lucie has just 1 main draw victory to her name at Flushing Meadows in 5 appearances at the event. Hradecka’s form during the U.S Open series was quite terrible, failing to get through the qualifying draw in Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven.
This should be a fairly routine victory for Vika. The Belarusian has a 3-0 head to head record over Lucie and should be far too good in New York, a city she loves playing in.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Lucie Hradecka in 2 sets
U.S Open R1: (27) Alize Cornet vs Kurumi Nara
Alize Cornet’s season has been disappointing, failing to replicate the extraordinary highs of season 2014 where she famously defeated Serena Williams on three occasions. Alize will kick-start her U.S Open campaign on Tuesday with a very winnable first round match against Kurumi Nara.
Alize Cornet’s form during the U.S Open series was lacklustre, Alize hasn’t been playing with the immense energy we know she can bring to the court. Alize failed to progress past the third round at all four U.S Open series events she entered. Cornet suffered a couple of worrying defeats, including losses to Chirico and Begu. Alize’s run to the third round in Toronto was a highlight, picking up impressive victories over Carla Suarez Navarro and Dominika Cibulkova before succumbing to Agnieszka Radwanska in a tight one.
Kurumi Nara is also struggling at the moment, as a result her ranking has dropped significantly in the last couple of months. Nara was defeated by Yulia Putintseva in the first round in Washington and was forced to retire against the same opponent in the final round of qualifying in Cincinnati.
This will be the first career meeting between Cornet and Nara. Alize should see this as a big opportunity to gain some much needed momentum as she looks to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows for the very first time. This is a bad match-up for Nara, the two are similar in a lot of ways but Alize does everything better and should be too crafty for Nara.
Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets