By Ashley Marshall
With the clay- and grass-court seasons behind them, the members of Team USA are packing up and heading home to compete in the 2017 US Open Series.
Here’s a look at what to expect from some of the U.S.’s top women during the summer season:
Fresh off a run to the Wimbledon final, Venus has committed to play at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this summer. The top-ranked American woman has had success at US Open Series events in the past, lifting the title at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford twice and at the Connecticut Open in New Haven three times. Last year, Venus reached the final at the Bank of the West Classic, the eighth time she has played for the championship. She’s climbed back into the Top 10 and has a real chance at a being among the top eight seeds at the US Open to end the summer.
The 22-year-old will have a full schedule in the build-up to the US Open after announcing her plans to play in Stanford, Toronto and Cincinnati. Keys reached the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal last year, beating Venus en route to the championship match, where she fell to Simona Halep. That momentum carried over to the rest of the season; she made the fourth round in five of the six remaining events, including the 2016 Olympics and the US Open.
While Vandeweghe’s best performances have traditionally came on grass, don’t count out the big-hitting American during the hard-court swing this summer. A Fed Cup standout for Team USA this year, as well as an Australian Open semifinalist and Wimbledon quarterfinalist, Vandeweghe is scheduled to play in Stanford, Toronto and Cincinnati prior to the US Open. Vandeweghe played two of these three events last year, falling in the round of 32 to Garbiñe Muguruza in Cincinnati and retiring against fellow American Alison Riske in Stanford. She reached the final of Stanford in 2012, her best performance at a US Open Series event.
The youngest player in the Top 50, the 18-year-old Bellis is expected to play in Stanford, Toronto and Cincinnati. Expectations will be high for Bellis, particularly at the Bank of the West Classic, which is played a few miles from where she lives (and where she reached the quarterfinal last year). The rising star finished the 2016 season at No. 90 and will likely be among the seeds at a Grand Slam next year, possibly even as early as the Australian Open.
After a promising start to the year that saw her reach the final in the first tournament of the year in Shenzhen, China, and the third round of the Australian Open, Riske struggled before righting the ship at Wimbledon, where she advanced to the third round. Riske has committed to play in Stanford, an event where she has fared well in recent years. She made the semifinals there 12 months ago and reached the quarterfinals in 2015 behind a win over world No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro. All four of Riske’s wins over Top 10 players have been on hard courts, so the potential for another deep run is possible.
Lepchenko is expected to play at the Bank of the West Classic later this month as she looks to fine-tune her preparations ahead of the final Grand Slam of the season. Earlier this year, Lepchenko came through qualifying to reach the second round of consecutive tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, showing she has the chops to succeed on the concrete. She has five wins over players ranked higher than her this year alone, and a strong conclusion to 2017 could see her climb back into the Top 50. She was once ranked as high as 19th in the world, and a good run in California could see her trending upward once again.
Injury has cost Stephens the first half of 2017, and she’ll head into the US Open Series with few matches under her belt. She played her first competitive match in nearly a year at Wimbledon earlier this month and has not played a tour-level hard-court match since the 2016 Olympics in Rio last August. Stephens’ last hard-court win was over Dominika Cibulkova in the final of Acapulco, Mexico, in February 2016, when she was No. 24 in the world. The former world No. 11 used a protected ranking to enter Toronto – and received a wild card into New Haven – after slipping to No. 328 following left foot surgery in February.
Davis climbed back into the Top 50 for the first time in more than two years after winning her first tour-level title in Auckland to begin the year. A string of good results followed, including reaching the quarterfinals in Doha and Dubai and the round of 16 at Indian Wells. Davis is now inside the Top 32, so a good run in Toronto and Cincinnati should be enough to see her seeded at the US Open for the first time in her career.