Naomi Osaka headlines players to watch in US Open women’s draw

With the 2021 U.S. Open set to begin on Monday in Flushing Meadows, here are five players to watch for in the women’s draw.

Ashleigh Barty

The Aussie missed last year’s U.S. Open and was in her home country refusing to watch the fan-less event. After taking seven months off the tour during the pandemic, Barty, 25, came back with a vengeance and won three hard-court titles — Yarra Valley, Miami and Cincinnati. She has separated herself with efficient, crisp groundstrokes. Nothing fancy here, but the 25-year-old is a solid favorite to win her first U.S. Open.

Naomi Osaka

With Serena Williams past her prime and not even playing in this Open, Osaka has become the hardest ball-striker on the tour. The defending U.S. Open champion and 2021 Australian Open titlist loves the Flushing Meadows atmosphere. Despite a lack of matches and victories this summer, what a spectacular comeback story it would be if the former Queens resident won her third Open in four years after a controversial summer.

Coco Gauff

The 17-year-old isn’t wasting time entering the fashion world. She introduced her first athleisure collection, with a 1990s motif, in Midtown on Thursday. The teen sensation has cooled off since making the quarterfinals of the French Open. She needed to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19 and had a bad draw in Cincinnati, losing early in a tough three-setter to Osaka. She probably doesn’t have the match fitness to make her first Grand Slam semifinals and could be out in Week 1 if she faces veteran Angelique Kerber in the third round.

Bianca Andreescu

Special things were predicted for the hard-hitting Canadian after she routed Williams in the 2019 U.S. Open finals. Her steely grit and return of serve offered hope she could dominate. But the 21-year-old disappeared during the pandemic, and since her return, hasn’t shown the moxie and shotmaking that made her a force. She has won just one match in a major this year, but it’s her first time back at Flushing Meadows since winning against a hostile crowd.

Belinda Bencic

The Swiss groundstroke master won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo and flashed solid form here in 2019 when she lost to Andreescu in a tight Open semifinals. She knows what it takes to make a deep run.

New York Post

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