The US Open 2022 qualifiers are underway! Iga Swiatek will compete as the number one seed in New York for the first time, Emma Raducanu will compete as defending champion, and Serena Williams may well play her final match at the stage where it all began.
First quarter – Iga Swiatek faces early tests
The first quarter sees Iga Swiatek, Jessica Pegula, and Garbine Muguruza as the top-seeded players. Following her epic 37-match win streak earlier this year, the world No.1 Swiatek will be looking to reclaim some form that has been lost over the months. Meanwhile, home favorites Sloane Stephens, Amanda Anisimova, and American number one Jessica Pegula are expected to do some damage with the backing of the crowd in their arsenal.
Despite winning multiple consecutive tournaments, including the French Open this year, Iga Swiatek has had her fair share of upset losses since then. A series of early exits starting with a third-round loss at Wimbledon saw the Pole’s plummeting results continue all the way up to her third-round exit at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. While it is likely Swiatek will get through to the second round at the US Open, she is likely to struggle against the home favorites in her quarter such as Sloane Stephens, Amanda Anisimova, and the eighth-seed Jessica Pegula.
Having broken into the Top 10 for the first time in her career in June, Jessica Pegula has been producing some promising results. The American No.1 reached the semifinals at the Canadian Open and the quarterfinals at Cincinnati, where she downed US Open champion Emma Raducanu in straight sets. She also had a great run at the Australian Open and French Open this year, going down against the eventual champions on both occasions, but not until she reached the quarterfinals.
Predicted winner: Jessica Pegula
Second quarter – Emma Raducanu looks to defend her title
Having set astonishing records as the first British woman to win the US Open since 1977 and the youngest to do so since 2004, Emma Raducanu skyrocketed to the top of the tennis world before she could even complete her first season in the WTA main draw. Now, having gone full circle, we are back where we started, and needless to say, Raducanu has experienced her fair share of ups and downs. The events that took place between 2021 and 2022 could be seen as a “hardening” phase for the British teen who had overcome a series of injuries and first-round upsets to return to the US Open as the world No.11.
Despite exiting every Grand Slam in the second round this year, the period between Wimbledon and the present US Open has seen some promising results from the 19-year-old. In particular, her most recent victories at Cincinnati saw Raducanu take down tennis legends Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka consecutively, serving up bagels in the process. She managed to hold her own against crowd favorite Jessica Pegula in the third round but ultimately went down in a tight contest.
Emma Raducanu will look to draw on her experiences over the last year, as well as the confidence and form she produced at last year’s US Open. Right off the bat, the British teen will have to face the likes of Alize Cornet who notoriously put an end to Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak at Wimbledon. Other notable threats in Raducanu’s quarter of the draw include Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, fourth seed Paula Badosa and sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Predicted winner: Emma Raducanu
Third quarter – Halep and Gauff favorites, Garcia to shake up the competition
Coco Gauff may not be the American No.1, but she may well be the crowd’s most loved. The 18-year-old sits as the 12th seed this year for the first time at the US Open. The teenager has recently earned the top spot as the world No.1 for doubles while maintaining her singles position at No.12, just behind fellow teen and defending US Open champion Emma Raducanu. Gauff’s most notable triumphs in recent times came at the Canadian Open, where she defeated Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka in consecutive matches.
The American teen’s run at the Canadian Open was halted by none other than Simona Halep, who went on to win the event. Simona Halep reached the semifinals of Wimbledon this year, while Coco Gauff was the French Open runner-up. Nevertheless, weighing up each of these players against one another, we can see that Simona Halep dominates the head-to-head with four wins over Coco Gauff and no losses. A possible dark horse for this quarter is Madison Keys, who defeated Simona Halep in their most recent encounter at the 2019 Western & Southern Open round of 16.
While Halep remains the likely winner for the third quarter, we cannot overlook the recent breakthrough from Caroline Garcia. The world No.17 from France had an incredible run at Cincinnati, taking down the likes of Sakkari, Sabalenka, Pegula, and Kvitova en route to claiming the WTA 1000 title. Garcia also recently won the Poland Open, where she defeated world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals. The Frenchwoman has had an impressive last few months, to say the least, but her lack of Grand Slam success has seen her unable to ever move past the third round at the US Open.
Predicted winner: Simona Halep
Fourth quarter – Serena Williams’ final Grand Slam appearance?
Since announcing her retirement from tennis, Serena Williams has hinted that this could be the last time she competes. Having begun her legendary Grand Slam count at the US Open back in 1999, it is quite a poetic feat to see the 23-time major champion competing 23 years later at the same tournament in New York. She may not have the same form as her prime days, nor does she have the rank or the recent results to be a tournament threat, but perhaps these special circumstances combined with the support of the home crowd could see a positively unexpected outcome for Serena Williams.
Looking at the top seeds for this quarter, Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur, and Daria Kasatkina rest at the top. Finishing as the runner-up at Wimbledon this year, Ons Jabeur will be looking to repeat her successful run in London but with a different ending. With her crafty and versatile drop-shot game, the Tunisian is likely to frustrate the competition and test their stamina. The number five seed will be battling Madison Brengle in the opening round, an opponent she managed to defeat in their only clash back in 2020.
Other threats in this quarter include Ajla Tomljanovic, who reached the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, and Leylah Fernandez, who finished as US Open runner-up at last year’s iconic clash of the teens. Another home favorite who could stir up the quarter is Shelby Rogers, who finished as runner-up at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic but not before downing Bianca Andreescu, Maria Sakkari, and Amanda Anisimova in the process. Regardless, not even Rogers has ever been able to get a win over Jabeur, and that is unlikely to change given the new career highs the Tunisian has reached in 2022.
Predicted winner: Ons Jabeur
All-in-all, the US Open always brings the most diverse range of champions across both the WTA and ATP, after all, who could have predicted Emma Raducanu’s victory last year? Despite the turbulent results we often see in women’s tennis, it would not be unreasonable to see Jessica Pegula, Emma Raducanu, Simona Halep, and Ons Jabeur make it to the semifinals this year. One thing we can be sure of, however, is the 2022 US Open will mark a historic moment for one of the sport’s all-time greats Serena Williams as the curtains draw to a close on her wonderful tennis legacy.