It takes a brave person to predict the winner of the women’s U.S. Open. Or a foolish one. Fortunately we at Popcorn are up for the challenge. Here are the players some of us think could be holding the trophy on September 10th:
Simona Halep seems to be the player most of us have as the marginal U.S. Open title favorite. She’s not that out there as an option, given she is a former semi-finalist from 2015. Halep will also like the quick conditions, being a Wimbledon champion. Her run to the fourth round last year despite still recovering from injury was highly impressive so with a better buildup this year, she is in prime position to go further. What gives her the edge over the field for me, though, is her recent form, winning in Toronto despite not being at her best at points. Traditionally, the U.S. Open women’s champion has at least reached the final of an American hard court event during the season, and Halep’s Toronto title definitely puts her in the mix. She does have a tough section, having to come through Madison Keys and Caroline Garcia most likely, but she has a favorable head to head against both. I can definitely see her winning the title, which would give her a major on all three surfaces. –Nick Carter (@nick_bcarter)
Iga Świątek is the obvious choice. She’s the world number one and the dominant force in women’s tennis right now. She’s won at least one match in every tournament she’s played bar one and when she has lost, it’s usually been to an eventual finalist. Świątek has an alright draw, so she could well go deep. While her recent form has been more patchy since the famous winning streak, she has got a couple of things in her favor. First, she is the Indian Wells champion, and the last two times the event was held in March (2018 and 2019), the eventual winner went on to lift the U.S. Open trophy as well (Osaka and Andreescu). Secondly, despite quicker conditions not suiting Świątek on paper, she was pretty strong on the New York courts last year when she reached the fourth round, in what was a strong performance overall. She’s very much still in the mix. –Nick Carter (@nick_bcarter)
It’s easy to forget that Osaka – when she’s fit and in the right mindset – is still the best hard court player in the world. She has one of the best serves of all time which goes a long way. Her angles, power off the ground, movement on a hard court, and her resume so far must not be underestimated. She also doesn’t mind playing big hitters, because they give her rhythm, and she is comfortable absorbing their pace and turning it back onto them.
Osaka is a four-time major champion who has won a hard court major every year since 2018. Additionally, she’s won the US Open every even year, which bodes well for 2022.
There are a couple of other points to consider with Osaka. Last year at the U.S. Open, she was really struggling with her mental health & her happiness on court. Yet, even so, she was still good enough to serve for a straight-set win against the eventual runner-up Leylah Annie Fernandez in the third round. Secondly, Osaka is not being talked about as much as usual and isn’t really a contender according to analysts. The attention and spotlight is placed on Serena’s final chapter, Raducanu’s title defense, Nadal’s health & chances. This means she can go under the radar a bit, which might allow her to play without pressure. In terms of her form coming into the U.S. Open, specifically on hard courts, Osaka has been looking pretty decent. Since losing a tight 3 setter to Anisimova (had 2 match points) at the Australian Open this year, she made the Miami final a few months ago. More recently, she beat Qinwen Zheng in San Jose, and lost a tight straight-setter to an opponent in Cincinnati (Shuai Zhang) who played extremely well and has always caused her trouble. She was injured in Canada and retired with a back problem vs Kanepi, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue now. Looking at her draw, she does have a seemingly tough opener against Danielle Collins. However, Collins hasn’t played for six weeks due to a neck injury and Osaka has a 3-0 head-to-head against her, including an easy victory in Miami this year. After that, the draw will get better up to the quarter-finals, and once Osaka has got to that stage historically, she’s never lost! All to say, her level is still there. She just has to believe! –Vansh Vermani (@vanshv2k)
Garcia is having the season of her life. With titles on the grass in Bad Homburg, the clay in Warsaw and the major WTA 1000 title last week in Cincinnati. Garcia has shown major consistency in her game this year. The wild hitting off the backboard, beyond the sidelines and the net have been non-existent over the past three months and this has shown with some big wins. Now is the time for Caroline to take her form to the next level and win a singles Grand Slam title, with Flushing Meadows being the perfect place given the conditions and court speed. James Steel (@Tennisranter)
Despite the women’s draw being wide open, this might seem like a bold prediction: Jabeur has never made it past the round of 32 in all her previous outings at the U.S. Open. She went out in the first round at Roland-Garros. She didn’t even get her Australian Open campaign off the ground, withdrawing with a back injury before the first ball was played. But she did have an incredible run at Wimbledon this summer and I think she’ll be keen to wipe the disappointment of that final loss from her mind and go for the top prize in New York. Her win/loss ratio this year is 38/13 – I’m placing my bets on that figure changing to 45/13 by September 13th. She’s won two tour-level titles this year, and I think this is her time to add a slam to her tally. –Claire Stanley (@brooksybradshaw)
This was a spur of the moment pick whilst doing a draw preview on Talking Tennis, but I’m sticking with it. When Paula Badosa is playing her best, it is breathtaking. Thinking about her 2021 Indian Wells run, her level was incredible. She played so well, with some insane ballstriking from the baseline, producing one of the best matches of the year against Victoria Azarenka in the final. She can clearly produce her best on a U.S. hard court, so if she hits form in New York then she’ll be super dangerous. And while her level this season has been patchy, she’s had some good performances recently. Her match at Wimbledon against Petra Kvitová, who seems to be finding her mojo again, was a particular highlight. It’s a long shot, but I’ve got a good feeling about Badosa this U.S. Open. –Jethro Broughton (@Jethro_sb)
If you were to ask the casual tennis watcher who is the top-ranked American woman on the WTA tour, few might be able to muster up the name of Buffalo, New York native Jessica Pegula. However, that’s the exact status she brings into this year’s U.S. Open. 2022 has out and out been the most consistently impressive season the 28-year-old has strung together. She broke into the top 10 early this summer off the back of impressive runs to the semifinals of Miami and finals of Madrid. Although she’s seen respectable amounts of success outside of the hard courts, they are still where she has proven to shine the brightest. That was even more evident as she took her consistent and no-nonsense game into the semifinals of a WTA 1000 tournament yet again just a few weeks ago in Toronto. With the U.S. Open producing some of the most unlikely winners over the past several years, this home state favorite may be riding just enough under the radar to lift her first major title when all of the dust settles. –Myles David (@missingpointpod)
The U.S. Open on the WTA side is as open this year as I can remember it being. It feels like it’s set up for a surprise winner. Prior to Wimbledon, it seemed as if Świątek would simply keep on winning, but as we all know tennis never works like this. A few defeats later, she’s not looking anywhere near as invincible as she was. As it so happens, when I was making my predictions for the tournament, I had her losing to Amanda Anisimova in the last 16. Now I can’t say I’d given the American too much thought before this, but she has shown signs this year (albeit not very recently) of really putting a strong run together. Were she to beat Świątek, the draw could open up for and with the added bonus of being a home favorite, she could be primed for a real breakout run all the way to the final. I actually have her beating compatriot Coco Gauff in the final, simply because as the older of the two, she may deal with the pressure of the occasion slightly better. –Owais Majid (@Owais_LTU)