Not only is Martina Navratilova an advanced student of the game, but she’s a bit of a fanatic, too. The 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, talking earlier this month from Cincinnati, was scrolling through the Hologic WTA Tour rankings, rapidly assessing their games.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “The winner will be whoever gets hot. Could be Emma Raducanu again. I wouldn’t put it past her.”
Navratilova will be in New York, working as a studio analyst for Amazon’s Prime Video coverage. While much of the attention will be on the retiring Serena Williams, there is an actual tournament in play as well. Here are some thoughts from Navratilova:
In the past 10 majors since the start of the 2020 season, there have been five first-time champions, including Iga Swiatek (who won her first two), Sofia Kenin, Barbara Krejcikova, Emma Raducanu and, at Wimbledon this year, Elena Rybakina. Will this US Open produce another surprise winner?
Navratilova: This time, I don’t think we’ll have a surprise winner, but maybe another first-time [major] winner. Like Madison Keys, who made the semifinals in Cincinnati. It’s the best she’s played since the start of the season. Could be Coco Gauff, the way she’s playing, too.
Simona Halep, coming off the worst season of her career, wins Toronto. And seems to be confident again. Thoughts?
Navratilova: She’s hitting the ball well, but the courts here are fast. She’s struggled in New York with the crowd, that whole New York vibe. She more of a quiet person, suited to Wimbledon or the French Open. Yeah, she’s definitely a possibility, there’s no doubt.
Emma Raducanu struggled after winning the US Open, but looked better in Cincinnati, beating Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka handily. How much credit goes to her new coach, Dmitry Tursunov?
Navratilova: This is a good coaching situation for her. I hope she sticks with it. If I had that many coaches in a year, I would be struggling, too. Too many points of view, too many philosophies -- too much information. When you get information from one coach you can kind of sift through that, figure it out. But when you’re getting it from so many different people, how are you supposed to process all that?
Thoughts on Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked player from the United States and the leader in WTA 1000 hard-court wins the past two years with 24?
Navratilova: She flies under the radar, and I think it’s because she doesn’t have a big weapon. She’s very consistent. The way she played in Toronto [semifinals] and Cincinnati [quarterfinals], was something. She was hitting the ball really deep. Moving really well.
Maria Sakkari, the No.3 player in the world, made two Grand Slam semifinals last year, at Roland Garros and the US Open. This year it’s been more difficult for her. Why?
Navratilova: She’s fighting hard, but because she’s fighting so hard, she’s getting too tight. Not just emotionally but physically. She wants it so badly. Tennis is such a dichotomy; you have to be intense but free and relaxed at the same time. The body and the mind. Sprint and stop. Quiet. Sprint and stop.
Any dark horses you think might do some damage?
Navratilova: Daria Kasatkina, maybe? Jil Teichmann, she’s dangerous. Petra Kvitova, she played well in Cincinnati, but it hasn’t been that humid. She struggles in the humidity, so we’ll see what it’s like in New York. And Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia. She’s been playing great.