Power Ranking the Top 20 Women's Players Heading into 2014 US Open Tennis
Serena Williams enters the 2014 U.S. Open as the No. 1 player, the No. 1 seed and winner of the U.S. Open Series points race.
Despite a year without a Grand Slam, Williams remains the player to beat.
What about the rest of the field? Who among the top contenders is riding the mojo into Flushing Meadows?
Certainly not Li Na. She withdrew from the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. She hasn't played a match since an early exit at Wimbledon. With her future in doubt, No. 3 Li has been excluded from these power rankings.
Here's a look at those included and why.
Also considered: Madison Keys, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens and Samantha Stosur
20. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Winner of two Grand Slams, including the 2004 U.S. Open, Kuznetsova won the Citi Open. It was her first title since 2010. She also dispatched Eugenie Bouchard in Cincinnati. Kuznetsova is that dangerous veteran whom no top seed wants in her draw.
19. Ekaterina Makarova: Another Russian veteran, Makarova is having an impressive summer. She reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the semifinals at the Citi Open and the semifinals at the Rogers Cup. A hard-hitting lefty, Makarova upset Serena Williams at the 2012 Australian Open.
18. Andrea Petkovic: Petkovic has fought her way back from injury. Always a tough out, the German reached the semifinals in Stanford, where she lost to Serena Williams.
17. Venus Williams: Her win over Serena at the Rogers Cup was the first over her little sister since 2009. It also marked the third time Venus has reached the finals this year. She also proved she can survive consecutive grueling three-set matches.
16. Carla Suarez Navarro: The Spaniard's upset win over Maria Sharapova at the Rogers Cup demonstrates how frustrating her one-handed backhand can be to ball-smashing baseliners. A surprise quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open last year, the 25-year-old Suarez Navarro could provide a few upsets this year.
15. Sara Errani: Once ranked as high as No. 5, Errani appears to be stuck in a rut. She lost her opening match against Muguruza in New Haven. She went ballistic over a bad call in a match in Cincinnati. Still, her ability to run down balls makes her a threat. It's also the reason she reached the semifinals in 2012.
14. Lucie Safarova: A remarkable run to the semifinals at Wimbledon was the highlight of her career. She took out Venus Williams in Cincinnati and lost a rather tight match, 7-5, 6-4 to Serena Williams in Montreal. Safarova, another lefty, has the shots. However, she lacks nerve on the big points.
13. Dominika Cibulkova: The runner-up at the Australian Open, Cibulkova has yet to recapture that career-making form. Bounced early in Cincinnati, Montreal and Stanford, Cibulkova arrived in New Haven this week hoping to get more time on the hard courts. However, she lost her opening match against Petkovic. She's lost five of her last six matches.
12. Flavia Pennetta: Since winning Indian Wells earlier this year, Pennetta has struggled. She lost to a qualifier in the first round in Montreal. Still, Pennetta is a solid hard-court player who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year.
11. Victoria Azarenka: Her road back from injury has taken a detour out of the Top 10. The former No. 1 player and two-time Australian Open champion finds herself ranked No. 17. Still, she is among the best hard-court players. She reached the finals at the U.S. Open in 2012 and 2013. Both times she lost to Serena Williams.
10. Eugenie Bouchard
Eugenie Bouchard's three-match losing streak going into the Connecticut Open looks worse than it is. When a player is hyped to new heights, stumbles generate steeper falls.
Bouchard reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and the French Open. Then came her appearance in the Wimbledon final. Petra Kvitova, a gifted grass-court player, pummeled Bouchard. A few weeks later, no longer the underdog, Bouchard was heavily favored at the Rogers Cup in her native Montreal.
She caved to the pressure and the free-swinging ways of No. 113 Shelby Rogers. Then, she had the misfortune of drawing Kuznetsova in the opening round in Cincinnati.
So Bouchard went 0-3 against women with a combined four Grand Slams. How Bouchard processes this setback will determine how she performs at Flushing Meadows.
9. Jelena Jankovic
Jelena Jankovic is a former No. 1 player who manages to hang around the Top 10. She frustrates opponents with her stellar defense and is one of the best movers in the game.
However, her flare for on-court drama gets in the way more often than not. She reached the finals at the 2008 U.S. Open, where she lost to Serena Williams.
Jankovic's defensive skills and ability to anticipate her opponent's next move makes her tough to beat.
8. Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki is enjoying a successful summer on the hard courts. Shortly after Wimbledon, Wozniacki won a smaller tournament in Istanbul. She reached the quarterfinals in Montreal and the semifinals in Cincinnati.
She had the misfortune of having to play Serena Williams in the semifinals in Cincinnati and the quarterfinals in Montreal. However, she did push Williams to three sets in both tournaments.
7. Ana Ivanovic
One of the highlights of the hard-court season has to be Ana Ivanovic's memorable win over Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati.
Back in the Top 10, No. 9 Ivanovic is playing with renewed confidence. Although she blew a 4-0 lead in the second set of that match against Sharapova, Ivanovic showed incredible resilience in capturing the third set.
6. Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova looks nothing like the dominant force she was at the All England Club. Her big lefty serve and powerful ground strokes should translate to hard courts. Yet, her post-Wimbledon record was 1-2 going into the Connecticut Open.
In her six appearances at the U.S. Open, Kvitova has never advanced beyond the fourth round. Although ranked No. 4, she registers at No. 6 in this power ranking.
5. Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber's Rogers Cup match against Venus Williams was one of the best played this season. Although she lost, Kerber displayed her killer defense against a relentless Williams.
Kerber's ability to absorb baseline blows keeps her in points that she has no business surviving. She reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2011 and has reached the fourth round the last two years. She has been consistent, and that's why she makes the top five in this power ranking.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska defeated a red-hot Venus Williams to take the Rogers Cup. It was routine Radwanska in her deep-knee bends, batting away would-be winners.
Radwanska, ranked No. 5, seems to be gaining momentum just in time for the U.S. Open. With Li out of the way, Radwanska will get the No. 4 seed, and that's exactly where she lands in this list.
3. Simona Halep
Simona Halep is the No. 2 player in the world. The reason she ranks No. 3 in the power ranking is she's yet to find a way to knock off that marquee player.
Halep is 0-5 against Sharapova, 0-3 against Serena Williams, 0-2 against Azarenka, 2-4 against Radwanska and 0-3 against Venus Williams. Her wilting in big matches against marquee players is one of the reasons she's considered a minor league player who has somehow gamed the system.
It's not as if Halep lacks the skill to beat some of these players. She's taken sets off Sharapova. However, her ability to conquer her nerves and close out big matches remains questionable.
2. Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova leads the Road to Singapore points race.
With Li Na out and Azarenka ailing, Sharapova has a good chance at winning a second U.S. Open. Of course, the looming obstacle standing in her way is Serena Williams. Sharapova has lost the last 15 contests against Williams. With the exception of that 2004 Wimbledon, Sharapova hasn't beaten Williams in a Grand Slam.
Sharapova spoke about her chances with USOpen.org writer Sandra Harwitt. "I think this year coming into it (the U.S. Open) I should have a free state of mind after not playing it last year, and it mentally having been a very difficult period in my career...So I really have nothing to lose going into it.”
1. Serena Williams
Serena Williams has four million reasons to win the U.S. Open. By clinching the U.S. Open Series title, Williams can win a $1 million bonus to go with the record $3 million in prize money for the winner.
Williams would also like to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. She has yet to advance beyond the fourth round in a Grand Slam this year.
Despite her Slam-less year, Williams has won more titles (five) than any other player. She is 18-0 against those in the Top 10. She just needs to avoid the upset to some player lurking outside the Top 20.