US Open Odds & Picks: Pegula & Muchova Have Value in Women’s Draw
Robert Prange, Michael Hickey/Getty. Pictured: Jessica Pegula and Karolina Muchova.
The US Open has arrived and players are heading to Flushing Meadows with the final Slam of the year in sight!
So, how should you consider outright selections for this year's US Open? Who are some other options to lift the winner’s trophy? Read on for my futures and bets as I analyze the US Open odds and deliver my picks.
US Open Odds & Picks
Outright: Jessica Pegula (+700)
Pegula is an incredible 25-7 on hard courts this season, with a strong 249-139 career-record on the surface. She is comfortable playing in New York City, having made the quarterfinals of the event last season and even pushing eventual-champion Iga Swiatek in their quarterfinal showdown.
The American doesn't do anything spectacularly, but she does the little things well. Pegula hits her spots on serve and her court positioning is superb, as she doesn't easily give up control of the baseline.
Pegula's shots cut through the court nicely and she's able to ramp up the pace on her groundstrokes when a target presents itself. Her point construction is superb, as she can spread the court effectively, moving her opponents around until she finds an opening to hit into.
The American's tennis IQ is very high and she understands the right times to move forward. And, the 2022 French Open doubles finalist is strong at the net, with excellent touch and precision when she moves forward.
This draw is very manageable for Pegula. The American starts out with Camila Giorgi. While Giorgi can be dangerous with her all-out aggression, Pegula's ability to absorb pace is crucial to her success in this matchup. Pegula leads the head to head 8-2 for a reason.
In the second round, Pegula would likely place Rebecca Marino. While Marino has a big serve and a lot of power from the baseline, her movement is extraordinarily sub-par. Pegula should be able to keep points alive, move the ball around the court and exploit the Canadian's lack of mobility.
Pegula's third-round draw should be No. 26 seed Elina Svitolina. Svitolina pulled out of Cincinnati with a foot ailment, so her health is uncertain. The American will likely be too solid for even a healthy Svitolina to hit through. Pegula leads the head to head 3-1, including a win in Washington earlier this season.
In the round of 16, Pegula would likely face either No. 14 seed Liudmilla Samsonova or No. 17 Madison Keys, with Pegula leading the combined head to head 4-1. While both players have a big serve and lots of power, Pegula's ability to absorb pace and consistent depth should give either player fits. Pegula should also keep the ball out of either player's strike zone and get lots of returns into play.
Pegula has a favorable potential-quarterfinal opponent in No. 7 seed Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman hasn't been at her best all season and had lost four matches in a row coming into Cleveland, where she played completely overmatched opposition.
And even if it's No. 9 seed and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals, Pegula was the closest of anyone at beating Vondrousova at Wimbledon, and now the American is on a surface that better suits her game with the home crowd behind her.
If Pegula can get over that quarterfinal hump, as she has not been to a Slam semifinal, then perhaps the confidence that she gained, along with a pro-American crowd, can propel her to wins over big-name opponents such as No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No. 1 seed Swiatek.
Outright: Karolina Muchova (+2200)
No. 10 seed Karolina Muchova is having a breakthrough season. The Czech is 33-12 overall in 2023, with a 23-8 record on hard for the year. Muchova's professional-record on hard courts is an impressive 135-65.
While Muchova hasn't won a title yet this season, she was a set away from her first Major at the French Open. And, Muchova did just make the round of 16 of Montreal, taking a set off of Swiatek, and the final of Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, the Czech beat an impressive list of players, including Beatriz Haddad Maia, Maria Sakkari and Sabalenka. Muchova also showed that she could handle the hot and humid conditions that occur this year in the United States.
Muchova's game translates well to hard. She has a well-placed serve and balances power and precision well from the baseline. The Czech is particularly potent with her forehand, hitting with great consistency into small targets and dictating from this wing.
She is also a cerebral player, understanding shot selection and point construction. Her variety is strong, whether it be her angles, touch shots or nasty backhand slice.
Muchova's draw sets her up for success. She starts off her US Open campaign with Storm Hunter. While Hunter has a big lefty serve and power on the forehand, she lacks rally tolerance. Muchova is one of the most athletic players on tour and should be able to keep points alive and put the ball in uncomfortable positions, leading to errors from the Aussie.
In the second round, Muchova would likely face Emma Navarro. While Navarro has a heavy forehand, she doesn't have the weapons to take the Czech out of her comfort zone. Muchova has many more weapons at her disposal and is the much more dynamic player, so it's very unlikely that Navarro could pull the upset.
Muchova's third-round opponent should be either Sloane Stephens or No. 19 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia. Muchova should have the confidence from just beating Haddad Maia in Cincinnati and her backhand is good enough to hang in there when Haddad Maia is peppering her forehand cross-court into Muchova's forehand.
And if Muchova plays Stephens, it's worth noting that the American doesn't have the level of controlled aggression to effectively hit through her. There's nothing that Stephens does on court that Muchova can't at the very least match, if not do better.
In the round of 16, Muchova would likely be set to face No. 8 Maria Sakkari, perhaps the best top-eight seed she could have drawn. Muchova has won the last four meetings between two, including twice this season. This includes at a major (Roland Garros) and on American hard court (Cincinnati).
The highest seed in this quarter of the draw is No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina. While Rybakina would typically be a scary opponent on the quicker US Open courts, she is clearly not 100% healthy, with a shoulder ailment wreaking havoc for the Kazakh. Rybakina also retired in Cincinnati against Jasmine Paolini in her second match.
If there was ever a time to be in Rybakina's quarter of the draw on a quicker court, it's now.
This feels like a very workable draw for an in-form player.
Leave: Coco Gauff (+900)
I will sell high on Coco Gauff. While her titles in Washington and Cincinnati were certainly impressive, I'm still not totally convinced her forehand is as good as it needs to be win a major, especially as she's landed in Swiatek's half.
Gauff's forehand still had moments of landing short and leaking errors in Cincinnati, although she steadied the ship in the latter stages of the tournament. She looked very weak from that wing in her loss to Pegula in Montreal.
And, Swiatek still is her likely quarterfinal opponent and holds a 7-1 head-to-head record over Gauff (15-2 in sets). Swiatek still had set points in the first set of their Cincinnati match and took the second set, despite playing one of her worst matches of the season.
Swiatek's forehand should still pummel Gauff's forehand and when the Pole is in slightly-better form, she should be able to better-take advantage of the short balls that Gauff often offers up from her forehand wing.
And, for this reason, along with me not truly buying that Gauff's forehand improvements aren't more of the "flash in the pan" variety, it's extremely difficult for me to see her winning this event.