Who will win the US Open women’s singles in 2023? Check out the top contenders and key storylines in our tournament preview.
Alas, we’re at the last grand slam of the year. But in reference to a famous New Yorker, it’s been pretty, pretty, pretty good stuff in 2023.
Maintaining last year’s historic pace was always going to prove difficult for Iga Swiatek, but the world number one is still the benchmark in women’s tennis going into the US Open.
It’s been six years since home fans have been able to cheer on an American winner, but there are multiple players in with a chance of ending that run this year.
With such a competitive field, let’s not waste any time. Let’s examine the contenders to win the US Open women’s singles title.
How Strong Is the Case for Iga Swiatek’s Title Defence?
Swiatek is hoping to become the first player since Serena Williams in 2014 to defend the US Open title (it’s even longer since a men’s singles player had a successful defence).
But how strong is her case?
The 22-year-old has won the most matches (53) of any player on the WTA Tour so far in 2023 and, naturally, also has the highest winning percentage (85.5%).
Despite semi-final losses in Montreal and Cincinnati over the past month, it would be difficult to not regard Swiatek as the favourite at Flushing Meadows.
However, the aura of invincibility that surrounded the star from Poland last year has eroded a little. The question, logically, is why? Is it a case of plateauing on Swiatek’s part, the competition simply getting stronger and more familiar, or both?
The raw numbers suggest a slight improvement for Swiatek, overall. However, once separating matches against opponents in the WTA’s top 10 and opponents outside it, the picture becomes less murky. It also goes some way to explaining the difference between her astonishing 15-2 record in 2022 against opponents ranked in the WTA’s top 10, and her 6-6 record in 2023.
As obvious as it might sound, the basis of the disparity between the seasons is that her stronger competitors are starting to find more joy on Swiatek’s first serve.
The world number one will likely never blow opponents away from the service line, but on the WTA Tour in 2022, she won 66.2% of points on first serve against opponents ranked outside the top 10. Meanwhile, the figure was actually higher against top-10 ranked opponents last year, at 68.4%.
The differential of 2.2% in 2022 has trended negatively to -10.1% on the WTA Tour in 2023, winning an improved 72.5% of points on first serve against opponents ranked 11 or lower, but 62.4% against top-10 ranked opponents.
That can consequently build pressure on shot selection in tighter matches, and arguably, it has created a cumulatively negative impact. That pressure has contributed to a downward winner-unforced error differential per match (from -1.3 to -2.5 on the WTA Tour in 2023), while impacting one of Swiatek’s strengths – her return of serve.
Swiatek is seeing fewer opportunities per match on break point against top-10 opponents (9.4 in 2022 to 7.36 in 2023), while converting at a lower clip as well (52.1% to 48.3%).
Is Coco Gauff Legit?
One cannot help but be gripped by the storyline. Only two players from the United States have won the women’s singles title at the US Open before turning 20 in the Open Era – Tracy Austin (1979 and 1981) and Serena Williams (1999). And that also considers the fact Monica Seles was still representing the former Yugoslavia when she went back-to-back in 1991 and 1992, later switching to represent USA.
Reaching three finals in as many tournaments during the second American hard-court swing – while winning two at Washington and Cincinnati – Cori Gauff should be considered a real contender.
The nature of the victories and calibre of opponents Gauff managed to defeat were just as notable as the tournament victories in isolation, emphasising the kind of form and focus she is bringing into the US Open.
At Cincinnati and Montreal combined, only two players had more rallies of 10+ shots than Gauff (99) – Daria Kasatkina (148) and Marie Bouzkova (131) – and that kind of makes sense, given their respective playing styles.
Underpinning her force from the baseline, the speed and court coverage of Coco Gauff is her predominant strength and in this hard-court swing, the 19-year-old is visibly trying to maximise it.
Despite an eased run to the semi-final, it was in that third set against Swiatek in Cincinnati where Gauff, runner-up at last year’s French Open, was able to regroup amid adversity and close out. It was in a word, mature.
In order to reach the business end in New York, however, Gauff will need to display more of it – especially with the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd.
Sloane Stephens in 2017 was the last American to win the US Open women’s singles title and this is the first time home players have failed to win the event in a span of five years since 2003-2007.
In a statistic that will give hope to the likes of Gauff and Jessica Pegula, American players have never failed to win in a six-year span over the tournament’s history in the Open Era.
And 2023 was the first time in the Open Era that the events in Montreal and Cincinnati have been won by Americans in the same year (Pegula and Gauff).
US Open Women’s Singles: Who Else Can Challenge?
Naturally, the rest of the top five are worthy of consideration, but have their own potential snags to overcome.
While Aryna Sabalenka has been a force of nature on the WTA Tour this year, she’s seemingly been battling against herself more than the opponent at the business end of tournaments recently. She’s lost her last three semi-finals since taking a tournament victory in Madrid, with respective losses to Ons Jabeur and Karolina Muchova at Wimbledon and Cincinnati coming after taking the opening set.
While Elena Rybakina’s strong start to the year has gradually been undone by nagging injury, she is also among the contenders. Jessica Pegula impressively breaking her duck for 2023 in Montreal was met with a disappointing exit in Cincinnati to Marie Bouzkova, giving up her first bagel since this year’s Dubai semi-final against Barbora Krejcikova.
Since winning Wimbledon, the only two losses suffered by Marketa Vondrousova have come against elite opposition in Swiatek and Gauff, with Caroline Wozniacki among the players she has beaten.
As the Czech’s shock success this summer showed, and as evidenced by recent US Open finalists including Bianca Andreescu, Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, the chance of an upset winner emerging should never be discounted given the depth of the women’s game.
Data Slam: Can Sabalenka Match Kerber?
● Aryna Sabalenka could become the second female player since 2000 to win the Australian Open and US Open tennis titles in the same year after Angelique Kerber in 2016.
● No female player has spent more time on court in grand slam events in 2023 than Sabalenka at 1,840 minutes. Sabalenka is followed by Iga Swiatek, who has 1,581 minutes on court in majors this year.
● No women’s player has hit more aces in 2023 majors than Sabalenka, who has 108 aces this year and an average of 5.7 per match. Sabalenka also has the most double faults in grand slam events this year, with 69 and an average of 3.6.
● Sabalenka has hit more winners in 2023 grand slam events than any other women’s singles player, with 569 at an average of 30 per match. She also has the most unforced errors, with 511.
● Swiatek (73) has converted more break points in 2023 in grand slam events than any other women’s player.
● No player has won more matches than Swiatek in 2023, with 53 wins. She is followed by Sabalenka (44) and Jessica Pegula (41).
● Swiatek hopes to become the seventh player in the Open Era to win the title at the US Open and Roland-Garros in the same year on multiple occasions after Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, Monica Seles, Chris Evert, Serena Williams and Justine Henin.
● Among both male and female players in the Open Era, none have won the singles title at the US Open more than Serena Williams and Evert, who have won it six times each.
● With 108 wins, Serena Williams holds the most women’s singles match wins at the US Open, in the Open Era. It is one of the two grand slam events where there have been 100 or more women’s singles matches won by a player, along with Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon (120).
● This will be Venus Williams’ 24th main draw appearance at the US Open, the most of any male or female at the event in the Open Era.
● Navratilova, Seles and Kerber are the three left-handed players to win the women’s singles title at the US Open in the Open Era.
● Swiatek could become the first player to win consecutive titles at the US Open before the age of 23 since Venus Williams achieved the feat in 2000 and 2001.