As unpredictable as women's tennis has been in 2013—six different participants in three major finals—the culminating tournament is looking shockingly predictable.
After her clinical win over Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, defending champion Serena Williams looks to be absolutely untouchable in Flushing Meadows.
World No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Williams in Cincinnati two weeks ago, figures to have at least a fighting chance, but either way, it seems almost inevitable that one of those two ladies—most likely the former—will be crowned U.S. Open champion in a week.
Still, if we've learned anything in the women's game this year, it's to expect the unexpected.
With that mind, let's take a look at some intriguing names still lingering as we near the quarterfinals.
There must be something in the water in New York that Flavia Pennetta seriously enjoys.
In the 31-year-old's career, she has made it to four major quarterfinals—and all of them have come at the U.S. Open. In fact, after defeating No. 21 seed Simona Halep in straight sets on Monday, she has now made it to the quarters in New York four times in the last six years.
She has yet to turn any of those into a semifinal appearance, but she will face No. 10 seed Roberta Vinci, who is equally inexperienced in terms of advancing this far, making it to just the second quarterfinal of her career.
Don't be surprised if Pennetta, who has yet to drop a set, advances to at least the semis in an open bottom half of the draw.
With the exception of Roland Garros, where she was ousted in the second round, it has been a very good major season for Li Na, finishing runner-up in Australia and making it to the quarters at Wimbledon.
Odds are, she'll be following that up with a semifinal appearance in New York.
After crushing a very good Jelena Jankovic to make it to the quarters, Li has now dropped just 25 games—which comes out to just over three per set—and been broken just four times in her opening four matches.
In addition to being in fine form, she is 3-0 against quarterfinal opponent Ekaterina Makarova and should have little trouble setting up a potential date with Serena in the semis.
That's likely where her tournament run will hit a wall, but it's worth noting that she fought the American hard in Cincinnati (5-7, 5-7, winning five total breaks) and would make for a compelling opponent against the runaway favorite.