All summer long USOpen.org will take a look at who will walk away with this year’s men’s and women’s singles championship trophies at the 2014 US Open, broken down into those who could make a daring run from deep in the seeds (the sleepers) to those poised to break through (the challengers) to the ones most likely to bring home the trophies (the favorites).
This week we’ll take a look at the favorites on the women’s side who are likely candidates to hold the winner’s trophy this year.
Although players like Samantha Stosur occasionally produce surprise stories and lift the winner’s trophy at the end of the US Open, the last woman standing is typically one of the heavy favorites to win the tournament. In the last 25 years, a player ranked inside the Top 5 has won the women’s single title on all but four occasions.
With world No. 2 Li Na withdrawing from this year’s event due to a knee injury, the key players at the 2014 US Open will be well aware that their path to the title just got slightly easier. Whether they’re looking to cement their comeback from injury, produce a career milestone or turn a disappointing season around, check out the four favorites on the women’s side that will be more than eager to capture the final Grand Slam of the year.
Victoria Azarenka: An Open finalist in 2012 and ’13, the 24-year-old Azarenka has played sparingly this year due to a foot injury. Still, she retains some of the best hard-court bona fides on the women’s tour, having won two Australian Open titles (2012-13) to back up her two Open runner-up showings, in addition to the 16 WTA hard-court titles she has won since 2009. The Belarusian enters the summer dangerously close to dropping out of the Top 10, but a strong showing during this year’s Emirates Airline US Open Series – buoyed by renewed health – could vault Vika back onto the short list of US Open favorites.
Simona Halep: During last year’s US Open, Halep was a virtual unknown ranked outside the Top 15. Just 12 months later, the 22-year-old has added four tournament victories to her resume, reached her first Grand Slam final (at the French Open) and will soon ascend to No. 2 in the world. The US Open remains the one Grand Slam that the Romanian has yet to reach the quarterfinal of, but her results in Flushing Meadows have improved each year since her debut in 2011. It remains to be seen how she will handle being the No. 2 seed at a Grand Slam, but it’s likely that only a top player in full flight will be able to spoil her dreams of a maiden Grand Slam title.
Maria Sharapova: The 2006 US Open champion was forced to withdraw from last year’s tournament due to a right shoulder injury, but she has been making up for lost time since rejoining the tour in January. The 27-year-old Russian excelled during the clay-court season, posting a 19-1 record and winning her second French Open title. She’s always gone deep in tournaments during the Emirates Airline US Open Series, but surprisingly hasn’t won a title on outdoor hard courts since Cincinnati in 2011. If she can manage to avoid playing her nemesis Serena, Sharapova will be a strong favorite to win her second major of the year.
Serena Williams: The two-time defending US Open champion, Williams is always a favorite to win any Grand Slam she enters. However, her 2014 season has not been quite as successful as in recent years. Although she has already won four WTA titles, she has yet to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. Uncharacteristic early losses to Garbine Muguruza and Alize Cornet have left Williams’ opponents with the belief that they can beat her if they catch her on an off day. However, a motivated Williams isn’t someone that anyone will want to face at the US Open – and the 17-time Grand Slam champion will be determined to right the ship in New York.
For more in this series, please visit: