- Venus Williams is the elder stateswoman as the WTA Western & Southern Open main draw which begins Saturday. It is the biggest tournament so far in tennis’s return
- Top seed Karolina Pliskova has had only one good summer hard-court run in her career – way back in 2016
- After such a long break, historical form is only one of many considerations. We give you the scoop on the X factors at play for the tournament below
World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova is the No. 1 seed at the Western & Southern Open, relocated from Cincinnati to the US Open bubble during this unusual pandemic season.
She should not, however, be considered the favorite.
Since winning the tournament (in its traditional spot) in 2016 and going on to reach the US Open final that year, the Czech has not put together a serious run since – at either location.
WTA Western & Southern Open Women’s Singles Odds
|Player||Odds at DraftKings|
|Serena Williams (USA)||+500|
|Sofia Kenin (USA)||+600|
|Karolina Pliskova (CZE)||+700|
|Naomi Osaka (JPN)||+800|
|Petra Kvitova (CZE)||+1000|
|Elena Rybakina (KAZ)||+1000|
|Madison Keys (USA)||+1400|
|Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)||+1400|
|Jennifer Brady (USA)||+2000|
|Cori Gauff (USA)||+3300|
|Anett Kontaveit (EST)||+3300|
|Dayana Yastremska (UKR)||+3300|
|Amanda Anisimova (USA)||+4000|
|Johanna Konta (GBR)||+4000|
|Elise Mertens (BEL)||+5000|
|Karolina Muchova (CZE)||+6000|
|Iga Swiatek (POL)||+8000|
|Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)||+8000|
|Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)||+10000|
|Danielle Collins (USA)||+10000|
Odds taken Aug. 21
World No. 4 and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin is the No. 2 seed.
She can be considered a favorite. In fact, given Kenin is in the bottom half of the draw with a US Open-focused Serena Williams, a desultory Sloane Stephens and an inexperienced Coco Gauff, we’re picking her to sneak up on everyone – again – and win it.
The 21-year-old American got plenty of match play during the three-week World Team Tennis season. The format is just one set. But she won – a lot.
Kenin won six of her first seven sets in the WTT competition (losing only to 38-year-old Kim Clijsters – see above). She defeated Jennifer Brady, Venus Williams and Stephens – twice.
Venus Williams & Other Slam Champion Longshot Odds
|Prop||Odds at DraftKings|
Not many players in the Western & Southern Open draw know what it takes to win big titles. But golden oldies Clijsters, 38 and Venus Williams (40!) are two of them.
Clijsters injured her abdominal in the final stages of World Team Tennis a few weeks ago. Beyond that, she continued the run of tough draw luck she’s experienced since beginning her latest comeback. Clijsters opens against Brady, the most in-form player on the hard courts after winning her maiden WTA Tour title last week in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Belgian’s ball-striking remains top of class. But can she can serve?
(Update: Clijsters pulled out of the tournament Friday, citing the abdominal injury)
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) August 19, 2020
Grand Slam Champions’ Quarter
Venus Williams had the misfortune of running into sister Serena in the second round in Lexington. But the tweaking she did during the shutdown – including a modified service motion – showed promise. It’s hard to remember when she last made a strategic effort to … get better.
Her draw is challenging. The wild card is sandwiched in a quarter that includes 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. On paper, those two would meet in the quarterfinals.
But Osaka struggled before tennis shut down. And she has not been seen on the match court since managing just three games in a Fed Cup qualifier in early February against the fairly obscure clay-courter Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Kvitova has played exhibitions on clay and grass – not on hard courts. She has never thrived in the National Tennis Center’s heat and humidity; only twice in 12 US Open appearances has the Czech lefty reached the second week. And even then, she went no further and lost in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Venus Williams has spent the last month competing on hard courts. If her body holds up, she could emerge from that quarter.
Upsets and Predictions – Venus Williams a Spoiler
- Jennifer Brady over  Aryna Sabalenka in the third round
- Coco Gauff over  Maria Sakkari in the first round
- Gauff over  Serena Williams in the third round
- Venus comes out of the Osaka-Kvitova quarter and reaches (at least) the semifinals
- Brady (+3300) vs. [WC] Venus Williams (+10000) and Gauff (+3300) vs.  Kenin (+600) will be the semifinal matchups
Western & Southern Open Best Bet
With so little recent tennis to gauge form – and varying levels of fitness and comfort with the New York conditions – the favorites at the Western & Southern Open likely will be those who have played the most on hard courts, and who haven’t had the stress of traveling from Europe.
In other words, the Americans.
More specifically: the younger Americans for whom “Cincinnati” is a huge aspirational title, and who won’t have one eye on the US Open.
With the Williams sisters in their (tennis) dotage, the grind of five matches in seven days will be a test. And Serena may well be eyeing the big event – perhaps subconsciously conserving her energy in the heat and humidity as she looks to make history. Let’s not forget that after a tough battle against her sister in Lexington, she won the first set 6-1 against American Shelby Rogers, only to fall in a third-set tiebreak.
Champion Prediction: Sofia Kenin (+600)
Longshot Prediction: Venus Williams (+10000)