Aug 25 (Reuters) – Five top contenders for the women’s title at the U.S. Open, which starts on Monday.
IGA SWIATEK (POLAND)
* World ranking: 1
Swiatek will be the favourite to win a second successive title in New York, but the Pole is no longer the indomitable force she was in 2022 and the top ranking she has held for 73 consecutive weeks is again hanging in the balance.
The 22-year-old has won a tour-leading four titles this year, including the French Open, but lost in the semi-finals of U.S. Open tune-ups in Montreal and Cincinnati.
Anything less than a successful title defence at Flushing Meadows opens the door for Aryna Sabalenka to become number one.
ARYNA SABALENKA (BELARUS)
* World ranking: 2
For the third consecutive major Sabalenka will have the opportunity to dethrone Swiatek as world number one. The Belarusian, who won this year’s Australian Open, has gradually reduced what once seemed an insurmountable gap to the Pole.
The big-hitting 25-year-old is 17-2 at Grand Slam events this year having reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
With her powerful serve now more reliable, she will be relishing a return to her preferred surface in New York, where she has reached the semi-finals in her last two appearances.
ELENA RYBAKINA (KAZAKHSTAN)
* World ranking: 4
Questions about Rybakina’s fitness remain before the U.S. Open but she is a proven performer on hard courts and has beaten both Swiatek and Sabalenka on the surface this season.
Rybakina beat both players during her title run at Indian Wells and also saw off Swiatek before reaching the Australian Open final. She finished runner-up in Miami but withdrew from the French Open due to illness.
The 24-year-old Russian-born Kazakh reached the semi-finals in Montreal before pulling out of the Cincinnati Open due to injury and has yet to make it past the third round in New York.
COCO GAUFF (U.S.)
* World ranking: 6
Gauff has been thriving on home soil and arrives in New York eyeing a Grand Slam breakthrough after notching her first ever win over Swiatek.
The teenager backed up her WTA 500 triumph in Washington by beating Swiatek and French Open finalist Karolina Muchova in back-to-back matches to claim her third title of the season in Cincinnati last week.
Since her first-round exit at Wimbledon Gauff is 11-1 on hardcourts, her only loss coming in Montreal to Jessica Pegula.
JESSICA PEGULA (U.S.)
* World ranking: 3
Pegula has won eight of her 10 hardcourt matches during the North American swing, beating Swiatek and doubles partner Gauff on her way to the Montreal title.
The 29-year-old reclaimed her career-high ranking after winning the WTA 1000 tournament and, despite an early exit in Cincinnati, will be the highest-ranked American at Flushing Meadows, where she reached the quarter-finals last year.
Pegula and Gauff are aiming to become the first American singles champion at Flushing Meadows since Sloane Stephens in 2017.
Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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