NEW YORK (Reuters) - World number one Iga Swiatek is a heavy favourite to retain her U.S. Open title, but Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff have recently shown they can beat the Pole and will lead the American charge at Flushing Meadows.
Third-ranked Pegula and number six Gauff each took down Swiatek en route to a WTA 1000 title in August, an auspicious sign for U.S. fans who are longing for an end to an American Grand Slam drought.
Not since Sofia Kenin hoisted the trophy at the 2020 Australian Open has an American triumphed in the majors, with Sloane Stephens the last to win at Flushing Meadows in 2017 and Serena Williams' reign an increasingly distant memory.
But frequent doubles partners Pegula and Gauff, who both reached the quarter-finals a year ago, are hoping to go all the way as solo acts in New York.
Pegula reached the last eight at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and she beat Gauff and the four-times Grand Slam winner Swiatek en route to her second WTA 1000 title in Montreal earlier this month.
"(I had) really consistent results all year this year," she told reporters, after beating Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets in the Montreal final.
"Beating Coco and beating Iga were two really tough wins back-to-back, and being able to do that and then just come out today and play a really clean match was kind of great."
The 19-year-old Gauff has been at the top of her game in August. She took home the biggest prize of her career to date when she won in Washington - only to top that when she won in Cincinnati.
That she was able to beat Swiatek en route to the final - having never taken a set off the Polish player in seven prior meetings - was the cherry on top of a sweet victory.
"I see a different Coco Gauff," said ESPN commentator and 18-times major winner Chris Evert.
She pointed to coach Brad Gilbert, who reportedly joined Gauff's team at the Citi Open in Washington, as a positive influence.
"He has been one of the most accomplished coaches out there over the last 30 years. I think that has given her an edge that she didn't have before," Evert told reporters.
"Her attitude and I just think her confidence now has grown to the point where, yes, she has been to the finals of a major, but now I firmly believe that she believes that she can win it."
Gauff, who lost to Swiatek in the Roland Garros final in 2022 and in the quarter-finals of the claycourt major this year, tried a more aggressive serve to get the upper hand in Cincinnati but otherwise remained true to her usual approach.
"My game plan didn't really change from French Open to now. It's just the execution was a lot better. That's what I needed to work on," she told reporters in Ohio.
"Strategy-wise, I know how to beat a lot of the players, but it's all about executing."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Davis)