Twenty-four years after her US Open debut, Serena Williams will bow out of tennis at the 2022 US Open.
He recent retirement announcement means the all-time great will be the focus of attention in the early stages of the event but it’s unlikely she’ll still be making the headlines come finals weekend at Flushing Meadows.
After all, Williams, now 40, has played just four matches since last year’s Wimbledon, winning only one.
Emma Raducanu provided a Fairytale of New York 12 months ago but it’s surely too much to ask for Williams to dance to a same tune.
That said, the American sporting superstar has made the semi-finals in her last 11 visits to this tournament so if there’s one place that can draw the best out of her, it’s Flushing Meadows and the 23,000-capacity centre court which is Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In reality, we need to look elsewhere for our potential champion and that search is a tough one with the draw looking wide open. The market is led by world number one Iga Swiatek, the Pole who earlier this season won 37 matches in a row on the WTA circuit.
But as we head into the US Open, that feels a long time ago with Swiatek having failed to shine since her run was ended at Wimbledon and she’s actually now lost four of her last eight matches having got nowhere near a title since her smooth success at the French Open. Given that form, plus the fact she’s been a vocal critic of the ball choice foe this year’s tournament, it’s not hard to avoid Swiatek at 7/2.
There are certainly many alternatives and, with Raducanu’s incredible victory at a triple-figure price still fresh in the memory, it’s not easy to write many of them off.
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With no player having emerged as a firm favourite, it’s worth giving plenty of weight to recent form.
And once that’s taken into account then the conclusion is fairly simple – Caroline Garcia has plenty of that in the bank.
The Frenchwoman has won three titles in the last two months and while two of those came on non-hardcourt surfaces, there’s no doubt she’s playing well and with great confidence.
Of most relevance in terms of this event was her victory in Cincinnati where she defeated Maria Sakkari, Jessica Pegula, Aryna Sabalenka and Petra Kvitova to lift the trophy.
Swiatek and Raducanu have also fallen to Garcia during her impressive recent run and it’s now just four defeats in her last 30 matches for a player once touted as a future world number one by Andy Murray.
The success has been based on Garcia being the aggressor on court and it was interesting to hear her talking in Cincinnati about having to commit fully to that game style.
“You have to go 100% in it,” she explained. “Sometimes (in the past) I did doubt about it, because it was not always working, and you try to forget about what people are saying, but it’s always coming to your ears one way or another, and sometimes from people who are well known.
“Then I doubted. And then I did it kind of half and half, and it was not working anymore. You try to do less unforced error, you go back, but then you do less winners because you are less inside the court.”
Given how things have been going, you can be sure Garcia will look to continue with a similar game plan in New York and at 16/1, she looks to hold good claims.
Looking to the opposite side of the draw – that of Swiatek – Jessica Pegula is another who has delivered good results on hardcourts this season.
The home hope will certainly be keen for Williams to win a few rounds as that would keep the spotlight off the American number one.
Still, regardless of whether that happens or not, the eighth seed should fancy her chances. In the first part of the season, she reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semis in Miami. Recent hardcourt form includes runs to the last four in Toronto and the last eight in Cincinnati.
OK, Pegula will probably need to find a bit extra if she’s to go all the way in a field such as this but with so many doubts surrounding those above her in the market, odds of 20/1 look to provide some value.
Roared on by a partisan home crowd, expect Pegula to mount a title challenge.
Given the open nature of the tournament, it surely also makes sense to look for someone at bigger odds.
We’d all love to find another huge-priced winner in the mould of Raducanu but ensuring head rules heart, we’ll go with Veronika Kudermetova at 50/1.
She’s been drawn into bottom quarter where both Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur look vulnerable leading seeds. Kudermetova actually beat Jabeur, who has struggled since reaching the Wimbledon final, in San Jose recently where she reached the semi-finals.
She’s one of the best servers on the WTA, currently ranking sixth for total aces across the season, while she sits 12th for percentage of service games won among players who have played at least 20 matches.
Earlier in the campaign, the Russian made the final of the hardcourt event in Dubai and it’s worth taking a deeper look into that.
Dubai is the only other WTA event to use the US Open balls which have proved so controversial over the past week – Swiatek hasn’t been the only one to complain about them with world number four Paula Badosa also a vocal critic. Both have said the balls are too light and difficult to control so it’s not a big step to suggest that a player who has proved she can get good results playing with them could go well here. Of course, Kudermetova will need more than that to deliver an upset or two in New York but she has beaten seven top-20 players this season.
The draw provides her with an opportunity to progress deep and fuelled by the feeling of injustice at being banned from Wimbledon, she’s definitely worth consideration at the price, while 10/1 about the Russian in the quarter betting (the same price as Williams) is also an option.
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How to watch US Open
📅 When is Day 1 of US Open? / Monday 29th August 2022 (4pm)
🏟 Where is Day 1 of US Open? / Flushing Meadows (New York)
📺 What TV channel is US Open on? / Amazon Prime