Sunday, August 24, 2014

The official On the Rise (a tennis blog) US Open 2014 WTA preview post!

We are super pleased to bring you the first-ever On the Rise (a tennis blog) US Open WTA preview!! This time we're going to change things up a bit and compare each player to the cartoon/comic book character she or he most resembles, in the opinion of this blog, starting with the women.

First I will predict the total number of matches US women will win.  Overall I will note that the draw is extremely uneven, with 13 of the 17 women on top with only 4 on the bottom.  Draws are the worst. Anyway, I'm going with 26 wins over the fortnight.  (They won 22 last year.)

Here's how I see it unfolding:

Serena Williams (1)

Character: Wonder Woman (the pre-eminent super heroine)
Rank (as of 8/25/2014): 1
First-round opponent: Taylor Townsend
Best result: Champion (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013)
My pick: Champion
Fun Fact: Serena has reached at least one final in every year in which she's played three majors since 2000.
Overview: It's been a rough year for the best player in the world, by her standards.  She has yet to reach the quarterfinal of a major, and has lost prior to the semis in several other premier events.  Her road isn't easy - assuming she gets to the fourth round it could be Stosur then Ivanovic then Kvitova/Azarenka - but as she showed in Cincinnati, she's still the player to beat when she's rested and focused.  And if she gets to the final, well, she's 11-2 in those in the last decade.

Venus Williams (19)

Character: Storm (A force of nature, regal, a true leader)
Rank: 20
First-round opponent: Kimiko Date-Krum
Best result: Champion (2000, 2001)
My pick: Quarterfinal
Fun Fact: Date-Krumm had already retired by the time Venus made her US Open debut in 1997.
Overview: CBS (and a lot of the rest of us) desperately hope Ms. Williams makes the first weekend, where a match-up with her and French Open finalist Simona Halep would be must-watch viewing.  Montreal showed that Venus is still a major force on hardcourts.  And Simona is struggling.  If she survives that, Sharapova or Wozniacki or Petkovic or Lisicki is a very tough quarterfinal.   I'm gonna go with the upset to reach her first QF since 2010.

Sloane Stephens (21)

Character: Catwoman (alluring, agile, and kind of naughty but also kind of nice)
Rank: 24
First-round opponent: Annika Beck
Best result: 4th Round (2013)
My pick: 4th Round
Fun Fact: Although not thought of as a "fighter," Stephens is 22-12 in the past two years in third sets.
Overview: Sloane has a decent path (Annika Beck, then Razzano/Larsson) to the 3rd Round, where she would meet her bete noir, Jankovic.  I'm going to say this is the tournament where, with new coach Thomas Högstedt, she turns the corner against Jelena.  But then I think she'll get upset by my foolish, foolish pick to reach the quarters, Belinda Bencic.

Madison Keys (27)

Character: Starfire (tall, extremely powerful, friendly & popular)
Rank: 27
First-round opponent: Jarmila Gajdosova
Best result: 2nd Round (2011)
My pick: 3rd Round
Fun Fact: Keys once had to take an earthquake break during a match at the Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica.
Overview: Gajdosova (who is 16-3 since the start of the grass court season) will not be a pushover but if Keys gets past her, and she should, the stage is set for a 3rd Round encounter with Petra Kvitova.  If, of course, Petra gets past Mladenovic.  Given Petra's form it's foolhardy to pick Madison to get past her, and I won't, but let's just say upsets happen and if MK makes into next week I wouldn't be all that shocked.

CoCo Vandeweghe

Character: She-Ra (Princess of Power)
Rank: 38
First-round opponent: Donna Vekic
Best result: 2nd Round (2011, 2013)
My pick: 3rd Round
Fun Fact: CoCo's grandmother was Miss America in 1952.
Overview: CoCo just needs to hold serve vs. Vekic, who is certain to donate at least one game per set via double faults.  Assuming she does that she'll set up a rematch of last year's 2nd Round encounter with Carla Suarez Navarro.  The thing is, CoCo is a better player than she was a year ago, by a fair piece.  That could set up a 3rd Round with Samantha Stosur, which to me is nearly a toss-up, with the slight edge going to the Aussie.  (4th Round would be Serena.)

Christina McHale

Character: Cheetara (fast & bold)
Rank: 44
First-round opponent: Chanelle Scheepers
Best result: 3rd Round (2011, 2013)
My pick: 2nd Round
Fun Fact: McHale's coach speaks in Spanish to her during changeovers (McHale's mother is Cuban).
Overview: Tuesday will provide us with a rematch of Christina's 1st Round at Wimbledon, where she lost 3 & 3 to the 30-year-old Scheepers.  Scheepers then went on to a final (on clay) in Bastad.  It's really a toss-up but these are McHale's home courts and I think she'll be very much up for this match.  The 2nd Round would be Azarenka (or Doi) and if Vika is truly playing without pain, I think it will be the end of the road for McHale.

Alison Riske
Character: Bubbles (Powerpuff Girls: super nice but also capable of taking down monsters singlehandedly)
Rank: 45
First-round opponent: Ana Ivanovic
Best result: 4th Round (2013)
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: Riske had 0 main draw wins in her first 13 majors, but has had 10 in her past 5, including at least one in each.
Overview: Seriously? Ivanovic? Bah.

Lauren Davis

Character: Buttercup (Powerpuff Girls: small but a no-nonsense battler)
Rank: 49
First-round opponent: Samantha Stosur
Best result: 1st Round (2011, 2013)
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: My first-round win at Gay Games took place at the indoor club in suburban Cleveland where Davis started playing tennis.
Overview: We all know that Stosur can get upset. But I was  concerned about Lauren's form from what I saw in Cincinnati against Svitolina.  And Stosur seems to have found something of a groove again.  I'm just not seeing this one, but I'd be happy to be wrong.

Varvara Lepchenko

Character: Invisible Woman (great fighter who is invisible to most casual tennis fans)
Rank: 52
First-round opponent: Alison Van Uytvanck
Best result: 3rd Round (2012)
My pick: 3rd Round
Fun Fact: Lepchenko is 8-1 against players from Belgium & the Netherlands, but 0-2 against Luxembourgians.
Overview: Varvara and Alison have played twice this year and Varvara has only lost 4 games each match.  I think she'll get this one and will have a better-than-even chance against Barthel or #32 seed Shaui Zhang.  But then comes Serena.

Vania King

Character: Jessica Rabbit (Glamorous and a *great* singer. Plus her over-the-shoulder WTA profile picture reminds me of Roger's wife.)
Rank: 81
First-round opponent: Francesca Schiavone
Best result: 3rd Round (2009, 2011)
My pick: 2nd Round
Fun Fact: I was there in person when Vania won her final round of qualies, 64 67(1) 64 over Edina Gallovits-Hall, at the US Open in 2005 to reach her first WTA main draw.  I remember her mom, next to whom I was standing, just being soooooo happy.
Overview: This will be the first meeting between the two veterans. A healthy King should get past Schiavone on hard courts.  But then comes Serena.

Shelby Rogers

Character: Clobbergirl (super strong!)
Rank: 86
First-round opponent: Maryna Zanevska
Best result: 1st Round (2010, 2013)
My pick: 4th Round
Fun Fact: Rogers' first-ever professional match was a three-tiebreak win over Malika Rose.
Overview: Yes, I think this will be Shelby's breakout tournament.  Yes, her last two matches have been blow-out losses, but she showed in Bad Gastein and Montreal that when she's at her best she can blow you off court.  Her 2nd Round match is likely Flavia Pennetta, who is the favorite and who has had some of her best success at the Open (two QFs plus last year's SF).  But Flavia has had so many questionable losses since her title at Indian Wells that I think Shelby can pull it off and go one further by beating Pavs or Garcia in the 3rd Round.  I think Ivanovic in the 4th is where it comes to a halt.

Taylor Townsend

Character: Tiana (smart, gorgeous, hard working, left-handed)
Rank: 103
First-round opponent: Serena Williams
Best result: n/a
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: I just can't. Not with that draw. I can't!!
Overview: We all wanted Taylor's US Open debut to be memorable, but not for this reason: literally the world possible draw.  "At least she'll get the spotlight for this match," you say.  "Hopefully she'll make it competitive," you say.  Well to all that I say "BLERG!"  Taylor was primed for something big here in New York, and I suppose we'll just have to wait another year for that to happen.  Blerg.

Grace Min

Character: Rogue (she's from the South, and can sap opponents of their strength)
Rank: 105
First-round opponent: Ekaterina Makarova
Best result: 1st Round (2013)
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: Grace Min's opponents in the 2011 US Open Girls' Semi and Final were Nicole Gibbs and Caroline Garcia, respectively, who will face each other in the women's 1st Round this year.
Overview: Makarova is just playing really well these days, and is my pick for the Quarterfinalist in that section.  I could see Grace taking a set but tough to see her winning the last point.

Madison Brengle

Character: Batgirl (Without any obvious weapons she perseveres and often triumphs using her guile)
Rank: 123
First-round opponent: Julia Glushko
Best result: 1st Round (2007)
My pick: 2nd Round
Fun Fact: Madison's Pinterest page is suuuuuper girly.
Overview: Glushko is a winnable match for Brengle, which is a wonderful gift given how long she's worked to make a major main draw.  She would then face the winner of Lisicki and Abanda (who straight-up tore through the qualies).  Also winnable, but I'm not gonna put my money on it.  Third round would be Sharapova.

Nicole Gibbs

Character: Belle (smart girl from a provincial town (in her case, Cincinnati) who wanted to see the world)
Rank: 135
First-round opponent: Caroline Garcia
Best result: 1st Round (2012, 2013)
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: Nicole's major at Stanford was Economics.
Overview: It's entirely possible she can beat Caroline Garcia - a lot depends on which Caroline shows up.  We know which Nicole will show up: a very determined, competitive player who will fight until the end.  If Gibbs does come out on top, her 2nd Round could be much of the same: big-hitting Pavs, who can also hit her way out of any match.

CiCi Bellis

Character: Hit-Girl (Young, small, and ruthless)
Rank: 1208
First-round opponent: Dominika Cibulkova
Best result: n/a
Best case scenario: 3rd Round
1st Round: 1st Round
Fun Fact: At 15 years old, Bellis is the youngest winner of the USTA Girls 18s National Championships since Lindsay Davenport in 1991.
Overview: Bellis has gone 49-7 in ITF juniors events since last year's US Open but Cibulkova will be another kettle of fish entirely.  Still, it will be fun to see her compete.  The winner faces Diyas or Tsurenko.

Danielle Collins

Character: Firebrand/Danette Reilly (She's pretty obscure, and clearly has the ability to catch fire!)
Rank: n/a
First-round opponent: Simona Halep
Best result: n/a
My pick: 1st Round
Fun Fact: Collins had wrist surgery three days after winning the NCAAs. I know that's not actually very fun.
Overview: I mean ... I hope she gets a couple of games.  She'll the first match on Ashe on Monday morning.  At least she'll get some airtime :)

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