FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, file photo, Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic returns the ball to Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during a match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Pliskova is scheduled to play in the U.S. Open, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 2020.
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, file photo, Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic returns the ball to Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during a match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Pliskova is scheduled to play in the U.S. Open, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 2020.| AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File
Tennis

Bet U.S. Open Tennis: Abrams previews the 2020 women's draw – with three top players out, the tourney is wide open for an upset

The U.S. Opens begins Monday in Queens, New York.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2020 Women’s U.S. Open Preview

Ya ever play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”at a party? First you’re blindfolded and then you’re given an apparatus that acts as a “tail” that you are supposed to pin on a hanging “donkey” after you’ve been turned around in your tracks three or four times to disorient you. If you play the game properly, just finding the donkey is a move towards success, and actually pinning “the tail” on the butt end of the donkey only comes with a lot of luck or a lot of practice. And that’s what we’re looking at here in picking an eventual champion from a stripped women’s draw that will begin tomorrow in New York City at the 2020 U.S. Open. Feel disoriented in trying to pick a winner? Join the crowd.

The world’s #1, the defending Wimbledon champion, and the world’s #2 are all gone from the proceedings. The draw resembles a really good Challenger Event where there are a bunch of good players but absolutely no one that actually stands out. Picking Australian Open champ and #2 seed Sofia Kenin? Check out how she did last week here in New York and you might change your mind. Rooting for Serena Williams to finally win her 24th Grand Slam event? Check out the scale and you might change your mind from betting on her to just rooting for her. Her serve appears intact, but she’s slow, she’s aged, she’s inconsistent, and you can count on her dumping the fourth shot of every rally right into the net. How about putting some money on the top seed? You’d put money on Karolina Pliskova to win this year’s U.S. Open?

Well, who’s left?

Nobody that makes my heart skip a beat, that’s for sure. There are some players I like and some players I enjoy watching play, but there’s literally nobody that I would bet on to win. In the bottom half, Maddy Keys has no shot, nor does Sloane Stephens. Kim Clisters is still injured and way out of playing shape (by maybe 30 pounds!!). Kenin is too inconsistent. Vika Azarenka won last week’s Western and Southern Open, but it means nothing when your opponent doesn’t even show up for the Finals (Naomi Osaka pulled out with some phantom injury that didn’t seem to bother her in her semi-final match). Aryna Sabalenka, The Warrior Princess, hits a ton but still can’t control the ball well enough to win big matches. I love Lauren Davis, Arnet Cornet, Amanda Anisimova, Kristi Ahn, Monica Puig, and Caty McNally, but none of them have a snowball's shot in hell to make the semis. Guess what? That leaves Heather Watson and Johanna Konta (who square off in Round 1) with Serena and Maria Sakkari from the bottom half. Your guess is as good as mine.

The top half is equally as weak and just as unpredictable. The only three names that jump out at me are Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka, and Angie Kerber, none of whom I’d bet good money on. Marketa Vondrousova is there as is Carmela Giorgi, but they’re strictly pretenders, not contenders. THIS is where you’d really want to see Ash Barty, Bianca Andreescu, and Simona Halep. The one thing they’d assure you of would be top notch tennis, total effort, and the competitiveness of a wild snake. The rest of the bunch? Get ready to add that asterisk after the champion’s name, because this year’s champion will be by default.

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