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Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, celebrates a point on her way to defeating Sofia Kenin, of the United States during the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, celebrates a point on her way to defeating Sofia Kenin, of the United States during the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis: Abrams picks 5 women to watch at the 2020 Grand Slam events – Andreescu, Osaka, Kenin, Anisimova and Svitolina

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

The U.S. Open has crowned a new Women’s champion, and we have all been treated to new talents, fresh personalities, and the excitement that only new competitors can inject into the arm of today’s professional tennis Tour. It goes without saying that American teenagers Caty McNally and Coco Gauff are future stars in the waiting. There are others to add to that list, including Katie Volynets and Whitney Osuigwe among others, but who can we reasonably expect to challenge for Grand Slam titles over the next 12 months besides Ash Barty, Serena Williams, and Simona Halep? Here are the five women to watch who can be counted on to make the rest of 2019 and 2020 fun, exciting, and bursting at the seams with excellent tennis (In parentheses are the FanDuel Futures Odds for the Australian Open in January - the favorite is Serena Williams at +440):

1. Bianca Andreescu (+750)

The world has been introduced to Canadian 19-year-old U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu. She has shown that she is already an elite player at such a tender age, and that she has the game and the temperament to compete with any woman in the world. She carries an all-court game with her which features a booming forehand, a consistent backhand, and enough chips, slices, blocks, and drop-shots to keep her opponents off balance and on the defensive. She possesses a nifty first serve, and a darn good volley, if she ever gets to net. She moves like Steffi Graf used to, and she fights like a tiger. Andreescu is the real deal.

2. Naomi Osaka (+480)

Let’s not forget about last year’s U.S. Open and Australian champion, Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Just from listening to her in press conferences or during on-court interviews, it was easy to see that Osaka is introverted, shy, quiet and uncomfortable in her environment. Her win last year thrust her into the limelight, something that she wasn’t quite ready for, but something she had to endure, particularly after she followed up her great triumph in NYC with an equally great one Down Under. Now you may call what has happened to her as a “sophomore slump”, but I don’t think that is the proper description of her last nine months. Rather, she reminded me of Pete Sampras after he burst onto the tennis scene in 1990 with his first U.S. Open title, also as a teenager, and it took two years for him to repeat. He had to get used to being in the limelight, and so does Osaka. Her game is certainly good enough. And she will become a very big entertainer world-wide as soon as she feels more comfortable in her own skin.

3. Sofia Kenin (+3500)

Aside from Andreescu, no one on the women’s Tour has made the progress both up the ranking ladder and on the tennis court like Sofia Kenin. Still 20-years-old, Kenin this year showed a complete all-court game, much like her Canadian counterpart, that allows her to dictate pace and cadence of play, and makes her oh-so-very dangerous. As she continues to mature, both physically and mentally, I expect Kenin to challenge for Grand Slam titles almost immediately, and I think she will become a fan favorite. It’s not so much that she’s a great athlete and a great tennis player, it’s also that she looks so stylish while she’s kicking ass.

4. Amanda Anisimova (+3100)

The 17-year-old New Jersey native who dropped out of this year’s U.S. Open because of the death of her father, is waiting in the on-deck circle to burst on the scene and into the public consciousness. You might argue that anyone who reaches the semis of a Grand Slam singles event has already burst onto the world’s stage, as Anisimova did this past May in Paris, but anything done in France is a little more under-the-radar than what's done in, say, London or New York. With this understood, I expect Anisimova, who runs like a deer, hits groundies as if they were shot out of a canon, competes like a warrior, and looks great while doing it all, to usher in the age of the teenager on the WTA Tour, and usher out all of those who have outlived their usefulness for the Tour. Goodbye Maria, Venus, Serena, and the rest. Hello young global influencers, all.

5. Elina Svitolina (+2100)

Although Svitolina played perhaps her weakest match of the summer in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open, she has arrived. Always viewed as a superior athlete with an endearing personality, Svitolina’s emergence may have been overshadowed by a few of the names above, but given time, she will not be outdone. Blessed with talent, charisma, and the fight of a junkyard dog, Svitolina will gradually bank enough confidence to never feel uncomfortable on the court again. She’ll rely on her considerable physical skills along with the fire that runs deep inside, to challenge for all the big titles, and to do so for a good decade, maybe longer. She’ll continue to work on her serve and her backhand. Her movement and forehand needs no further tweaks. And when she puts it all together, we’ll all be thrilled that we will be there to watch the birth of yet another champion.

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