With defending champion Naomi Osaka and World No.1 Ashleigh Barty out, who will triumph in a wide-open women’s draw at the 2021 US Open?

The women’s draw at the US Open was dealt a blow Friday, on the heels of Naomi Osaka’s upset by Canadian rising star Leylah Fernandez in the third round. The left-handed teenager rose to the occasion in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, coming from behind to send the defending champion out of the tournament in three sets, 5-7, 7-6. 6-4.

Naomi had her chances to close out the match in the second set, but failed to come through at the time of asking. Following the disappointing loss, a visibly distraught Osaka, whose battle with mental health issues is well documented this year, talked about taking time of tennis in her post-game match.

“Basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” said Osaka amid tears as she tried to convey her emotions to the media. She added, “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”

Osaka entered the tournament as the second favourite after World No.1 Ashleigh Barty to win the title at Flushing Meadows. The pair were on opposite sides of the draw, meaning that they could only cross paths in the final. But less than 24 hours later, the tournament would be dealt another huge blow, bursting the draw wide open on both sides as Barty suffered a similar ignominious upset Saturday.

The Australian was dumped from the tournament in three sets, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), by American Shelby Rogers, who pulled off the feat against the odds for the R32 at the US Open,

Barty got off to a slow start, but she looked every bit the world No.1 player when she stormed back to take the second set in commanding fashion. However, the American held her nerve in the final set and rallied to win the third-set tiebreaker, with a home crowd at Arthur Ashe stadium fully behind her.

It was one of the best wins of Shelby’s career, And by all accounts, one of the most emotional. There was a time, not so long ago, that Rogers wasn’t sure she’d ever play tennis again. Knee surgery in 2018 saw her miss the entire calendar season and her road back involved a lengthy rehab program, during which she’d admitted having doubts of ever getting back on court.

And yet, in front of a packed Arthur Ashe stadium this weekend, Shelby pulled off a heroic comeback after going a double-break behind in the third set. To all intents and purposes, she looked to be on her way out of the tournament. How she did it, she couldn’t explain, so overwhelmed was she by the moment. But it was a spectacular and well deserved win by Shelby.

As the US Open bids farewell to the top favourites according to the bookmakers, the only question tennis fans are contemplating is: who will win the 2021 US Open?

If the updated 2021 US Open betting odds were any indication, Belorussia’s Aryna Sabalenka is now the best bet to win the US Open, tipped at +300 with UK bookmaker Bet365.

Sabalenka, 23, is in fine form this season. However, if there’s one knockback, it’s the fact that she has never reached a Grand Slam final.  And only recently did she reach her first-ever major semi-final at Wimbledon where she was defeated by Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova in three sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Predictably, Pliskova, who is still alive in the tournament, emerges as the second-best bet at +600, a position she shares with three-time Grand Slam champion, Angelique Kerber. Pliskova and Kerber faced off in the 2016 US Open final with the former winning in three sets.

After Pliskova and Kerber, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek emerges as the third-best bet at +800. Swiatek shares her spot with rising British sensation Emma Raducanu as the third-best bet with odds of +800. Raducanu took the world of tennis by storm at the Wimbledon Championships before the occasion overwhelmed her and she was forced to retire from her last 16 match..

After which reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova and two-time grand slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep are all tipped as the fourth-best bets at +900. Krejcikova is in the midst of a banner season, winning her first-ever singles Grand Slam title in Paris. Muguruza and Halep, meanwhile, are finding form during the American hardcourt swing.

Rounding out the top five best bets is Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian has been seen as major contender for several years, but she’s yet to get over the hump and reach a major final. Her best so far was a run in 2019 when she reached back-to-back semis at the Wimbledon Championships and the US Open.

Outside of these top five best bets, the women’s field is stacked with several noteworthy dangerous floaters. Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic (+1200) and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu are the first two that leap off the page. Maria Sakkari (+2200), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (+2500) and Elise Mertens (+4000) are the pretenders according to the odds, while giant slaying Leylah Fernandez and Shelby Rogers represent two of the tournament’s longshots, with both priced at +8000.