U.S. Open Preview: Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova strong challengers

Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old Florida native who surprised at Wimbledon, is a legit sleeper pick.

Simona Halep has admittedly struggled with the noise and distractions that come with playing the U.S. Open. She bowed out of the tournament with stunning first-round exits in consecutive years, losing as a No. 2 seed in 2017 and No. 1 seed in 2018. The former world No. 1 looks to avenge her early round struggles in Flushing Meadows with a deep run. After winning her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in July, Halep says all of the pressure is off her shoulders.

Andreescu, Barty, Pliskova have legit title aspirations

Unlike the top-heavy men’s side, the women’s singles field has a long list of players with legitimate title aspirations. Among the new names to watch: 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who started the year ranked 152 in the world and has risen to No. 15 with titles at Indian Wells and Toronto. No. 2 seed and 2019 French Open champion Ashleigh Barty is certainly capable of a title run in New York, but a potential fourth round matchup with Angelique Kerber and quarterfinals bout with Serena Williams could be difficult veteran challenges for the 23-year-old Aussie. A veteran to keep an eye on is the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova. The world No. 3 has been a model of consistency in 2019, winning three titles. Pliskova reached the U.S. Open final in 2016 and could be a dark horse pick to win her first Grand Slam title.

American teen Gauff could surprise

American teenager Cori Gauff was the darling of Wimbledon, shocking the tennis world with a run from the qualifying rounds into the round of 16 before falling to the eventual champion Halep. The attention she earned from Wimbledon might not make her a true sleeper pick, but it did land her a wildcard into the tournament. The 15-year-old Florida native could have a memorable first week in New York, considering the U.S. Open crowd loves to back a young underdog.  

Chris Longo