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  1. Tennis

Tennis: Three women to look for on hard courts

This year's Wimbledon women's singles was one to remember with Iga Swiatek's winning streak coming to an end and Elena Rybakina claiming her maiden Grand Slam title.

Attention now turns to the hard-court season with the fourth and final Grand Slam of the season - the US Open - which gets under way towards the end of August.

What

US Open

Where

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, New York

When

Monday 29th August - Sunday 11th September 2022

How to watch

Amazon Prime and bet365's Sports Live Streaming

OddsIga Swiatek 5/2, Naomi Osaka 6/1, Aryna Sabalenka 12/1, Simona Halep 12/1, Elena Rybakina 12/1

Here is a look at three players on the WTA Tour who could really come into their own on the hard courts this season.

Raducanu bids to defend title

Emma Raducanu's title triumph at Flushing Meadows last year has to go down as one of the greatest moments in the history of women's tennis.

Beating Canadian starlet Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in the final of last year's US Open, British teenager Raducanu became the first qualifier in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title.

She saw off some big names, from Maria Sakkari to Belinda Bencic, on her way to glory in New York and she had warmed up for the Grand Slam event with a run to the Challenger Chicago final - in which she lost to Danish talent Clara Tauson.

It is fair to say Raducanu has struggled to cope with what are arguably unfair inflated expectations, having been knocked out in the second round of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.

But it was on the hard courts in New York where Raducanu made a name for herself as a player who likes to play expansive and open tennis and, at 14/1 to win the US Open, there is the feeling she could mount a decent title defence in New York this year.

Osaka a different beast on hard courts

It has been a tumultuous few years for Japanese ace Naomi Osaka, who has dropped to number 40 in the WTA rankings as a result of missing key tournaments and Grand Slams.

Osaka started 2021 with a title triumph at the Australian Open, before withdrawing ahead of the second round of the French Open as a result of off-court issues.

She then took an extended leave of absence, missing Wimbledon before returning for the US Open in which she crashed out in the third round, losing to eventual finalist Fernandez.

Most recently, she had to miss out on Wimbledon due to a leg injury, but she is 6/1 to return to the WTA Tour with a bang and win the US Open this year.

Osaka has been there and done it twice before, winning the hard-court Grand Slam in both 2018 and 2020, beating big names in Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in the respective finals, and she has a good record on the surface.

The 24-year-old has played on hard courts more than any other surface and can boast a 133-56 win-loss record, giving her a win percentage of 70 per cent.

That is higher than her winning percentage on both clay (57) and grass (55) and if she is going to return to her best anytime soon, it will more than likely be on hard courts.

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Confident Sakkari could build on semi-final run

Athens-born star Maria Sakkari (14/1) may not be one of the first names to spring to mind when thinking of players known for their hard-court prowess, but the Greek has taken her game to the next level in the last couple of seasons.

Currently third in the WTA rankings, Sakkari approaches the hard-court season in good spirits, claiming before Wimbledon that she is "one of the best players in the world".

She failed to make it beyond the third round at SW19, but grass is typically her weakest surface and the fact she reached the semi-finals of the Grass Court Championships in Berlin demonstrated her game is getting better by the week.

Last season, Sakkari made it to the semi-finals of the US Open before losing in straight sets to champion Raducanu, but having beaten the likes of former winner Bianca Andreescu and former runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the tournament.

That was a sign that she can do something special on hard courts, but it is her current sense of self-confidence and gradual rise up the WTA rankings which suggests she could be one to watch on the surface this season.

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