5 Women Who Could Become Grand New Champions At US Open

Prim Siripipat and Greg Garber break down the women flying under the radar who may make a splash at the US Open.

If anything, Marion Bartoli should give a host of players confidence heading into the US Open. The Frenchwoman famously won Wimbledon a year ago. And though she had always been a talented player, hoisting a Grand Slam trophy seemed, well, far-fetched -- especially with names like Serena, Vika and Sharapova out there.

But Bartoli did her thing. In the past few years, a handful of players have broken through to win their first majors. Petra Kvitova won her first three years ago at Wimbledon, while Slammin' Sammy Stosur snared the US Open crown a couple of months later. In 2012, Victoria Azarenka leveraged her talent by winning the Australian Open.

And then there's this slice of information for those looking for a first-time spot on a Grand Slam podium: Serena Williams isn't a lock. Yes, it's true. She played fantastic tennis in Cincinnati and comes into the Open with a restored mojo. But as ESPN's Pam Shriver pointed out, Williams' opponents have had an easier time handling her serve, notably her second serve, this season. Which is telling when you consider Serena was nearly impossible to break a year ago.

What does this all mean? Well for five Slam-less wonders, perhaps a title is two-plus weeks away.

With help from Shriver and fellow ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, we take a look at what could transpire for these hopeful players at the US Open.

1. Eugenie Bouchard

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Since storming onto the scene at the Australian Open, Eugenie Bouchard has just stayed put at the top of the women's game.

After a stellar Euro Slam season in which Eugenie Bouchard reached the semis at the French Open and the final at Wimbledon, reality has hit -- and hard. Actually, the world No. 8 has crumbled. She failed to win a match at the WTA's two premier events this summer in Montreal and Cincinnati. But perhaps Bouchard's lull has given her time to rest before the New York crucible begins. Bouchard is the only player this season to reach the final four or better at the first three majors.

What do you like?

Gilbert: Her tremendous fortitude and belief, and she plays with relentless aggression, much like Maria Sharapova.

Shriver: She's proved she can win at the majors -- semis, semis, final so far.

What don't you like?

Gilbert: A Plan B. If you look at her year, if she makes it past the first round, she's had great success. She's had a lot of early losses and then success in other events. She needs a quick start.

Shriver: Her lack of getting back on track since Wimbledon is disconcerting to say the least. It's not the form she wants heading into the Open.

What do you expect in New York?

Gilbert: In 2014, what's separated her is her ability to perform at the Slams. Just that continued success there. Her carefree way in which she hits with aggression works for her in Slams because a lot of players get tight in the big events. So she needs to keep that process up.

Shriver: Getting her confidence back. This will be a fantastic test. If you can win one match in three tournaments following Wimbledon and then still go on to play strong or even win the US Open, it goes to show how tough she is.

2. Simona Halep

AP Photo/Michel Euler

Up until last year's US Open, Simona Halep had never been beyond the third round at a major. This year she's been to the quarters, the semis and a final.

Simona Halep boasts a game far bigger than her diminutive stature, as we saw in both Paris and London. She's a focused player with undeterred resolve. Only Serena has more than Halep's eight titles during the past two seasons. A potential date with Venus Williams in the fourth round of the US Open would be some made-for-TV stuff.

What do you like?

Gilbert: Best mover on the women's tour. She has sneaky power for her size at 5-foot-6. She also has an underrated serve. Her backhand is one of the best in the game.

Shriver Just about everything except her size. I love her footwork, her backhand, her forehand, her tenacity and her improved emotional consistency. I like the way she constructs points. I love the way she embraced the French Open final. The end result wasn't what she wanted, but she was one of the most positively reflective finalists we've had in women's tennis in years.

What don't you like?

Gilbert: She probably doesn't have that one big kill shot.

Shriver: Because of her size, her serve isn't a consistent weapon. She's small in stature but still has decent power. In this day and age in tennis, size does mean a lot. Through footwork and through her court savviness and point construction, Halep needs to make sure she keeps turning her size disadvantage into a positive and not a liability. Most of the women who have won majors in the past 10 to 20 years have done so with power being the main stamp of their game.

What do you expect in New York?

Gilbert: She's the No. 2 seed, so anytime you're the No. 2 seed, expectations have to be high. But she's proved she can win anywhere, against almost anyone. I don't see that changing at the US Open.

Shriver: She could end up winning her first major in New York. She can play really well on all surfaces. Look, all these first-timers are hindered now that Serena has played so many matches and heads into the Open with more confidence than she has in any other Slam this season. That's the way it is, but with Halep on the other side of the draw as Serena, she won't have to worry about that until the last day of the women's draw, if she makes it that far.

3. Agnieszka Radwanska

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There always seems to be a little bit of magic waiting to spring off of Agnieszka Radwanska's racket.

Agnieszka Radwanska enters the US Open with soaring confidence after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal. She fell to an in-form Caroline Wozniacki a week later in Cincy, but all in all, the Pole is in prime position to finally take home an elusive Slam trophy.

What do you like?

Gilbert: The ninja. Tremendous guile, and she's the second-best mover on the women's tour. Very crafty game.

Shriver: The way she played the finals of Montreal. She's reached No. 2 in the world, so she can obviously win. The way she played the final set against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals in Melbourne and against Venus Williams -- who, by the way, played like the old Venus -- in Canada was telling. Aggie knows what she's about on the court -- spins and variety, anticipation and, every once in a while, sneaky power.

What don't you like?

Gilbert: Her second serve. No kill shot. She's knocked at the door but hasn't been able to go through the door.

Shriver: She makes really good decisions with her full repertoire. But that's not always enough, as we've seen. She can get overpowered by bigger hitters and lose focus like we saw at Wimbledon in the fourth round.

What do you expect in New York?

Gilbert: Her second serve is an issue for me, so unless she can get that going, she's going to find herself in trouble come business time.

Shriver: Play sharp early. Considering Serena looks like she's back to full strength, all the players, not just Radwanska, need to be ready from the start. For Radwanska, it's making sure she keeps making smart decisions so she doesn't burn herself out in the opening week.

4. Caroline Wozniacki

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Caroline Wozniacki is planning to run the New York City Marathon in November. Imagine if she does it as the US Open champion.

Well, look who's back. In relative terms, anyway. Woz won her first tournament of the year in Istanbul a month ago and played very well in Montreal and Cincinnati, where Serena beat her in both events. Wozniacki looked sluggish in New Haven, but after a three-set battle with the world No. 1 just days before, who can blame the Dane? Good things could be in the near future for a player we long thought would be a major champion by now.

What do you like?

Gilbert: She's an excellent competitor and usually makes you beat her. She has a tremendous backhand, too.

Shriver: When her forehand is not a liability and it's standing up to the pressure. Also, Wozniacki needs to mix in her great defensive skills, her lack of surrendering free points, with occasional offensive strikes. She needs to find a balance.

What don't you like?

Gilbert: Figuring out her style on a weekly basis. She has a lot of tools but doesn't always apply them the way she could.

Shriver: When Woz becomes just a defensive player, that's when her mindset changes and her forehand breaks down. Her forehand can get terrible at times. She needs to want to hit a forehand, even if it's part bluff. From the middle of the court, she needs to show her opponents she's willing to take a rip with her forehand, not just backhands. Also, her serve isn't always a weapon, but when it's on, she can garner free points.

What do you expect in New York?

Gilbert: About two or three years ago, she was in the mix at every major. But she's gone 10 straight Slams without a quarterfinal appearance. Wozniacki needs to start making the second week, and then she can move forward from there.

Shriver: Everything needs to work for her. Look, Wozniacki is going to get crowd support. She's been around long enough; she's likable and attractive. Besides the Americans, I think she'll have really strong crowd support and she needs to feed off that.

5. Sloane Stephens

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Sloane Stephens has never shied away from the big stage, so New York might be just the site to salvage her season.

Rife with talent, Sloane Stephens has looked disinterested in tennis for a good part of the year. She hasn't even been beyond a quarterfinal yet. But a first-round Wimbledon loss aside, Stephens has played decent ball at the Slams for a player with great potential.

What do you like?

Gilbert: Huge pop for her size and great speed.

Shriver: Her forehand, her foot speed, her serve -- when it's on. I like her ability to strike even when she's in a defensive position. She's one of the best in turning what looks like a defensive position into fast offense.

What don't you like?

Gilbert: Consistency. Or lack of, that is. I think for 2014, the two biggest disappointments are Jerzy Janowicz and Sloane Stephens. Stephens recently changed coaches and there is an air of uncertainty in her game.

Shriver: A little bit is missing from the maturity of a great competitor. I wish she were a grinder, someone who focused from week to week.

What do you expect in New York?

Gilbert: The way she plays, she can be aggressive. Like Bouchard, Stephens can be aggressive in Slams and have big results if she applies herself.

Shriver: A month ago, I would have said who in the world knows. Sloane will have crowd support, like Wozniacki. But how much will she focus? She's played big under the spotlight this year, so I expect the same even though she's had an all-around disappointing season.

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