Martina Navratilova is the WTA’s all-time leader with 167 titles. Additionally, she’s won a total of 59 Grand Slam titles (18 singles, 31 doubles and 10 mixed doubles). The four-time US Open champion will be calling matches next week for Amazon UK. From her take on World No.1 Ashleigh Barty to her quick-hitting thoughts on other star players from American Coco Gauff to Barbora Krejcikova, here is what Navratilova expects in the fortnight ahead.

Q: Recently, the US Open has produced some surprising champions – Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004), Samantha Stosur (2011), Flavia Pennetta (2015), Sloane Stephens (2017) and Bianca Andreescu (2019). Could it happen again?

Navratilova: Let’s see who catches the form when it matters the most. Because quite often at the US Open, it’s who gets hot the two weeks, and maybe they don’t do much the rest of the year or the next. Maybe they win another major a few years later. Iga Swiatek, we haven’t talked about her, but she’s gone off the boil a little bit. Still dangerous – it will depend on how the courts play.

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Q: What do you like about Ashleigh Barty’s game?

Navratilova: Consistency. You have to play a really good match to beat her, you have to think. Because she’s a thinker, right? She finds places on the court where most players don’t. She has the variety that no one else has, with the slice and the drive and running around. The powerful forehand, big serve. She’s leading the WTA in aces [with 297]. She moves so well, it’s hard to find openings against her. Just bashing won’t do it, because she can hang back and neutralize the big shot with her slice, brings you in, now you don’t have any court to work with, really.

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You have to think things through, you can’t just hit corners and hope because eventually you will probably beat yourself. It takes more than getting hot against her. You have to work your way through points. Her bad day is better than most other player’s bad days. That gives her a lot of confidence. There’s really nothing in her game that can break down, she doesn’t red-line her shots. She works into points, she hits into safe spots and opens up the court, where hitting the winner is a safe shot. Whereas for many others, hitting the winner is a risky shot.

Q: Naomi Osaka has won three matches in three months. Can she put it all together in New York?

Navratilova: Absolutely, absolutely. She’s done it before, where she was like, “Uh, what’s going on with her?” – and then she wins. Wins Australia, wins the US Open. You cannot underestimate her; she is too good for that. She’ll be ready. The Olympics was a lot of pressure for her. I don’t know if I could have walked up those steps to light the Olympic torch. Talk about pressure, right? Talk about being out of your comfort zone. The whole world is watching, you really don’t want to trip at that point.

Maybe after that, she can just relax, play her best tennis. Shine. She’s done it the hard way against Serena the first time [2018], she’s done it the hard way again with no crowd [2020]. Now maybe she can finally do it with the crowd and no drama, just play her game. It’s all about tennis. The drama is behind her with the French Open, didn’t play Wimbledon and the Olympics had to be such a pressure cooker for her. 

Q: There have been 20 different semifinalists in past five important tournaments. How wide open is US Open?

Navratilova: I mean, the women’s field has always been open, and it still is now, obviously. There’s some new possibilities, major winners, champing at the bit. Barbora Krejcikova, Belinda Bencic. And others who have been close, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka. Petra Kvitova, if the weather’s good – that surface should suit her well, too. Ash Barty has to be the favorite, and Naomi Osaka plays her best tennis there. The only person who’s had a great run-up is Ash. But on the other side, the other guys should be fresh and ready to go.

Q: Your quick-hit thoughts on a few players. World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka?

Navratilova: Dangerous – and improving.

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Q: Seventeen-year-old Coco Gauff?

Navratilova: Ah, talk about dangerous and improving. With such a great road ahead of her.

Q: Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, who’s lost six of eight coming in?

Navratilova: Enigma. She looks so sturdy, but she’s so vulnerable. Mentally, I think she’s a rock, but I hope her body holds up.

Q: French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova?

Navratilova: Wow. Talk about a complete package. She’s really put it together this year. Impressive. She’s a Barty, right up there with shot-making, precision and thought process.

Q: Belinda Bencic, winner of Tokyo Olympics?

Navratilova: She’s hot now. Unfulfilled promise until now, but with the gold medal that should bring her a lot of confidence.

Q: Camilla Giorgi, the winner in Montreal?

Navratilova: She was such a big basher, but now she’s tamed the bashing. She’s much more thoughtful out there, and it’s very nice to see that progress. Her improvement is impressive that she was able to change that mentality and expand her game so much.

Q: If they win the US Open – Osaka (Australian Open champion), Barty (Wimbledon), Krejcikova (French Open) or Bencic (Tokyo Olympics) – are they the Player of the Year?

Navratilova: They each would have two majors, or Bencic would have the Olympics and  major – yeah, maybe that’s right. Or the WTA Finals would decide that, right? That person would have a big leg up. Even though they might not finish No.1, they’d be Player of the Year.

Q: So, who wins?

Navratilova: So, it’s wide open but you have to think it’s like 50-50, Barty against everybody else, the way she’s been playing. She’s been super-solid.