Top Seed Performance at the US Open

Only 2 top-seeded women in the last 15 US Opens have taken home the title

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For the past 129 years, hundreds of thousands of people gather in August and September to watch one of the most celebrated and anticipated events in tennis: the U.S. Open. Since 1978, the U.S. Open—known more formally as the U.S. National Championships—has been held in Flushing, NY, but over the years has seen nine different locations from Rhode Island to Pennsylvania.

Just as the location of the Championships has changed, the event itself has evolved over the years. At one point in the early history of the US Open, it was a mere entertainment event for high society, but now, the US Open is a battle of champions and skill. Even though it's the gathering of the world's best, there are still wildcard wins when top seeded players don't end up taking home the prize.

While in the last 15 years, the top seeded man has won the US Open singles title six times, for women, it’s been a different story: the top seeded woman has only won the singles title twice. The most recent was in 2007, when Justine Henin from Belgium claimed her second U.S. Open title after beating out hopefuls Serena and Venus Williams and then defeating fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova. But Serena Williams pulled in her own victory in 2002, and lays claim as the only other top seeded woman in the past 15 U.S. Opens to win the title. In 2002-2003, Williams pulled in a total of four grand slam titles, against the same opponent—her sister Venus.

With a the top seed winning only 13 percent of the time since 1997, it shows one of the most exciting things about the US Open is that while hard work and reputation can get you on the courts, everyone has a chance to win when they step up to the net, top seeded or not.

This is the second post in a series of three exploring the women’s game evolution at the US Open, using analytics from IBM. To learn more about how IBM is using analytics at the US Open, visit here. Read the first post about Billie Jean King and how she championed women’s equality in tennis here.


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