Riske, Davis lead strong start to 2017 for American women

January 6, 2017 12:39 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

The new year may only be a few days old, but a quartet of American women are opening 2017 with some fireworks of their own.

Alison Riske (pictured above) will compete for her second career tour title after advancing to the championship match at the Shenzhen Open in China, while Lauren Davis is into her third career final following a successful run at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.

Over on Australia’s east coast, Olympic doubles gold medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands has a chance to leapfrog doubles partner Sania Mirza for the No. 1 spot in the rankings in Brisbane, while 2,700 miles away on Australia’s western coast, CoCo Vandeweghe will look to help Team USA to its first Hopman Cup in six years when she partners Jack Sock against France in Perth.

It’s an encouraging sign for American tennis to have so many players contesting finals in the opening week of the season, especially considering Serena Williams lost in the early rounds in Auckland – albeit to fellow American Madison Brengle – Venus was forced to pull out of Auckland with an injury and second-ranked American Madison Keys is recovering from left wrist surgery performed just days before Christmas.

Leading the way for the U.S. this week is Pittsburgh native Riske, who started the year ranked No. 39 and is set to crack the Top 32 should she lift the trophy.

The 26-year-old is riding a hot hand to start 2017, which saw her claim one of the best victories of her career with a quarterfinal win over world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated Riske to win the Shenzen title a year ago. From there, a 6-3, 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi punched Riske's ticket to the final; she will now square off against Katerina Siniakova on Saturday (Friday evening in the U.S.).

Also impressing in singles competition this week is Davis. The 23-year-old reached the final of hard-court tournaments in Washington last July and Quebec City last September, and she appears to have continued this form in Auckland, having dropped just one set so far.

The world No. 61 recorded straight-sets victories over Kiki Bertens, Kurumi Nari and Barbora Strycova before sealing her place in the final when Jelena Ostapenko was forced to retire in the third set of their semifinal. Davis, who reached a career-high of 43 in July 2014, will face rising star Ana Konjuh in Saturday's championship match.

Elsewhere this weekend, Mattek-Sands and Mirza will play Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the final of the Brisbane International. Should Mattek-Sands and Mirza win, the American will jump four places in the doubles rankings to eclipse her previous career-high of No. 3 and sit atop the rankings for the first time in her career.

And in Perth, Vandeweghe and Sock will look to put a bow on their unbeaten week at the Hopman Cup with a finals victory over Kristina Mladenovic and Richard Gasquet, who also went a perfect 3-0 in their round robin group.