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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, August 23, 2017


"I love Simona's game... It’s just her attitude that, to me, needs to improve," six-time US Open champion Chrissie Evert says of Simona Halep." 
Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza

"I love Simona's game. It’s just her attitude that, to me, needs to improve," says Chrissie Evert

Photo credit: Simona Halep Instagram


Times Square is called the crossroads of the world.

The US Open can sound like the Grand Slam commuter capital of the world.

More: Muguruza Backed By Bettors For US Open

The metallic bursts of cars buzzing by on the Grand Central Parkway mingle with the sounds of the No. 7 train rumbling past on nearby tracks, airplanes roaring overhead from Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and bikers, runners, and skateboarders race across pedestrian paths in the park.

The US Open is the most congested major.

This year, the Open is truly wide open on the women’s side.

Former world No. 1 Chrissie Evert asserts “eight to 10” different women have a legitimate shot to win the US Open.

In a conference call with the media to promote ESPN’s US Open coverage, which begins on Monday, August 28th at 1 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Evert says in the absence of Serena Williams the Open presents plenty of opportunities for a first-time Grand Slam champion to emerge.

“I don’t know how you can pick anybody on the women’s side,” Evert told the media. “I mean on paper, it’s Garbiñe Muguruza in her current form. How is she gonna deal with the pressure? In the past, she’s been a little fragile mentally, but at the same times she’s doing great at Grand Slam tournaments.

"So on paper, you’d have to pick her. But Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, there’s some other power players that can match Muguruza’s power and maybe have less pressure and maybe a little fresher than Muguruza.”



Second-ranked Simona Halep has been within one win of the world No. 1 ranking a few times this season.

Evert points to successive thrashing Halep absorbed at the hands of Elina Svitolina in Toronto and to Muguruza in Cincinnati as clear signs sometimes the Romanian’s fighting spirit is lacking.

“Simona has been a little disappointing this summer,” Evert told the media. “She had that lead at the French Open and let it slip away, definitely.

“The one thing I’m disappointed with is her fight. She just doesn’t seem to fight in the big matches recently—and even in the past in her career. And until she gets that fight back, she’s not gonna win Grand Slams and she’s not gonna be number one in the world.”

The six-time US Open champion loves Halep’s game, but believes the 25-year-old baseliner needs a major attitude adjustment to win her first Grand Slam title.

“The game is there,” Evert said of Halep. “I love her game. She hits a clean ball. She’s gonna win probably 75 percent of the rallies from the baseline. She moves beautifully. I love her game. It’s just her attitude that, to me, needs to improve. And it’s questionable right now as far as winning a major.”

While Wimbledon and Cincinnati champion Muguruza has emerged as the oddsmakers favorite to win the US Open, Evert believes the pressure the two-time Grand Slam champion will face—as well as the fact she’s yet to surpass the second round in four Flushing Meadows appearances—as indicators the Spaniard faces a severe test in New York.

“I admire Garbiñe to win Wimbledon…to win Cincinnati, I mean it would be a huge thing for her to win the US Open,” Evert said. “You can say she’s safely stepped up to the plate and really taken ownership for leadership of the number one role. I think there’s going to be more pressure on her at the US Open than any other tournament and I think when you look at someone like Madison Keys, who beat her, and won Stanford and then had three match points against her in Cincinnati, I think that there are people right at her heels.”

Australian Open and Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams, who won her last US Open title 16 years ago, 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and wild card Maria Sharapova join reigning champion Angelique Kerber as former champions in the field.

“Garbiñe’s gonna have to be eager and hungry and as sharp as she has been the past few weeks. It’s gonna be a difficult task, I think, for her to win the US Open," Evert said. "I really believe that because there are other players who are playing really, really well aside from Madison. Meaning Karolina Pliskova and Simona, if she gets her act together. So it’s gonna be tough for (Muguruza). But definitely, on paper, she’s the favorite going into the Open.”

At the 2016 US Open, Muguruza said the sheer size, crowds, congestion and noise of New York City makes Flushing Meadows the most draining major and trickiest tournament for her to navigate.

“I feel this tournament is the most tricky tournament because there is obviously a lot of things,” Muguruza said. “There is always traffic. There is always noise, people. I don't know. Everything takes a lot of energy.

“Yes, I feel like here is harder, because I don't know for whatever reason is more complicated. Just because it's more, I don't know, big city. Huge city. Huge everything.”



Hall of Famer John McEnroe rates Miami champion and Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta as a contender.

“I think Konta is a good competitor, she’s done positive things,” McEnroe said. “She’s made some real good strides. (She’s) a little mechanical at times to me. She’s someone I respect what she’s done. Where parts of her game were weak, like mentally, she seems to have gotten in touch or worked with the right people to get in the right frame of mind more often.

“She’s had a great week in Miami winning that on hard court. So to me her game is best-suited to hard courts, but I also believe that the emotional and physical toll at Wimbledon—more emotional than physical—took a toll and caught up to her. I’m guessing—it’s just an absolute guess—that she let down some maybe the body gets down some so she’s sort of got to get herself going again. But I saw her play Halep at Cincinnati and she looked like herself, she had some fire. She almost got herself back in that match. She’s certainly in that group of people that could do it.”



Evert points to 2016 finalist and WTA Tour ace leader Pliskova, Toronto champion Svitolina, who leads the Tour with five tournament titles, two-time finalist Caroline Wozniacki, Stanford champion Keys and Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko as contenders while giving American Sloane Stephens an “outside, outside” shot to win her first Grand Slam title in New York.

“I think Sloane’s got enormous potential. We always saw the game, we always saw the talent,” Evert said. “I think taking time off has given her a little more meaning behind her tennis and maybe made her a little more passionate about her game.

“Svitolina, Ostapenko has been a little disappointing on the hard-court season, which I’m surprised at because I thought maybe she would continue her run on the hard courts where her shots have a little more pace. So she’s dangerous but hasn’t really follow through on that momentum of winning the French yet.

"Svitolina has won more tournament than anybody this year. She’s young, you gotta give her a great shot also at winning the Open. CiCi Bellis has had a good summer, but as far as winning the tournament I think Sloane has an outside, outside chance. Ostapenko, on the hard court, needs to up it. Svitolina has proven herself.”


 

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