It was the stuff dreams are made of as Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal at Rio 2016. Considering her deepest run in a slam was 4th round of Wimbledon in 2013, beating Grand Slam champions Muguruza, Kvitova and Kerber en route to achieving Olympic glory at the age of 22 was all the more spectacular.
So what’s the likelihood of the Puerto Rican following this up with a run at Flushing Meadows? Heather Watson recently quipped on the topic of Twitter’s trolling gamblers ”I don’t know why they bet on us because our results are all over the place”. To put it another way: while you’re unlikely to do too much damage at 33s, a repeat performance feels a step beyond the wildest of dreams.
Watson’s point was proven perfectly in last year’s US Open when Vinci took out Serena before losing to the now retired Flavia Pennetta in the final. And what about Serena? The one thing more consistent than John Inverdale putting his foot in it is Williams being overwhelming favourite to win a Slam. Though she is slightly odds-against on this occasion, it’s fair to say the market has barely batted a collective eyelid at her early exit from Rio – not to mention the citing of a shoulder injury this week in withdrawing from Cincinnati.
A look at some other traditional contenders brings us to Angelique Kerber, who has been hitting the mark time and time again. She may have looked fatigued when losing to an on fire Pliskova in Cinci, but her general form is as unshakeable as her motherland in a penalty shootout (okay, ignoring Schweinsteiger in Bordeaux perhaps). Beginning the year with her maiden Slam victory in Melbourne, she’s followed up with a Wimbledon final and Olympic silver, and we’re surprised she hasn’t found herself the clear second favourite. Instead she’s as good as sharing the honour with Muguruza and Halep, closely followed by Madison Keys.
But if you plan to hit the big-time before summer is out, you’ll have to do better than that. And Coco Vandeweghe might be a good place to start. She hits the ball with an intense ferocity on every point, in turn convincing she can hit through anyone on her day. At 100/1 she could prove more value than some consistently higher-ranked players that lack the aforementioned weapons.
And let’s not forget Svitolina. Her win against Serena with the weight of the Olympic pressure-cooker on her shoulders can’t be overlooked. Williams was under-par that day, but the Ukrainian is an undeniable talent and it’s the sort of victory that can inspire confidence in a promising youngster to reach new heights.
So if Heather has an eye for the unpredictable and one of these underdogs pulls it off, be sure to say something nice to them on Twitter.