Some of the most beautiful, erotic, and artistic bodies burgeon in women's tennis.
In Judith Butler's words, "Bodies [...] Matter," but the Gräfenberg Spot (G-Spot) of tennis women lies elsewhere, in the intersection where their body and racket meet in earnest to produce an orgasmic performance of the consistent accuracy, impromptu selection, rhythm, variety, movement, economy, and execution of shots.
The G-spot lies in being the last woman standing and holding the Grand Slam champion's trophy on the second Sunday of September. That is to be the sexiest beast of the day (one could say beastly sexiest).
I am not imitating Sports Illustrated's "Volley of the Dolls" (where the picture to the left comes from) but, with this cover picture, I am merely trying to signal the discordance between body and tennis, or the improper location of G-spot in women's tennis.
This does not mean that I don't appreciate the aesthetics of digital body art, but I leave that for a more leisurely occasion.
This is a special moment for pondering over the tennis goddesses who will bring her fiercest bestiality to the DecoTurf of Flushing Meadows and will vanquish ALL BODIES (but no tennis) into corpses, pardon my momentary necrophiliac metaphor (I am a hardcore pacifist).
Like the men's draw, the biggest news of the women's draw was that we will not be bored with the lackluster, apparently pre-determined Williams sisters' finals. (This year's Wimbledon final is still fresh in our memory. How many of you had to turn off the TV or watch painfully with a series of yawns?).
Too many stars are crammed into the same first half of the draw: Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Alona Bondarenko, Sorana Cirstea, and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The second half is led by the Williams sisters, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonoreva, Agnieszka Radwanska, Flavia Pennetta, Marion Bartoli, Kaia Kanepi, Amelie Maurismo, Sybille Bammer, and Daniela Hantuchova.
What makes this year's US Open special is it is filled with manifold stakes and unpredictability:
1. Serena Williams will be aiming to defend the title and get closer to reclaiming the mantle of No. 1. Maybe Venus steps up, if the younger sister happens to exit early.
2. Dinara Safina will try to answer Serena and shut up the critics who have been questioning her Slamless No. 1 ranking. She has to prove she is the legitimate No. 1.
3. The most consistent veteran of the WTA Elena Dementieva will make every effort to win her first major. She is my favorite.
4. Jelena Jankovic could be the one to win her first major title and match her two fellow Serbians in Slam count (Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic).
5. Maria Sharapova is in something somewhat similar to Rafael Nadal's situation (if we exaggerate a little bit). She is one of those expected to restore order in the WTA, by winning another major title and regaining the top spot in the ranking.
6. Kim Clijsters may not have a lot of hope for the title right away, but she would want to send out a message she will be ready to win another title some time in 2010.
Hopefully, her result will help change Justin Henin's mind to return sooner.
7. Young guns like Sabine Lisiciki, Carolina Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, etc. are tired of hearing the WTA is a bigger mess and weaker than ever, so they will be up to proving they are ready to take charge of the field.
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Contrary to her critics, I admire her physique for one reason: She defies size-ism, which is stereotyping and discrimination based on size, which has become more rampant globally today.
(Personally, I like teeny-weeny Lilliputians, but I don't have any biases against Hulk Hogans).
Miniature creatures who crawl on the other side of the court can hardly handle Serena if her game is on.
Just like Roger Federer on men's side, Serena Willams is the Slam monster of WTA, with 11 major titles.
It is likely to be Serena Williams again to prevail if she meets Venus in the semifinal, once again doing the customary duty of filling in the decade-long vacuum of America's men's tennis, which was always a super power until the end of the millennium.
I wish it were the older sister, but Venus will probably gift the younger sister a berth in the final, should they meet in the semifinal. For this reason, I am including only one sister, but hoping the older decides to win.
Serena may not have produced the result she wanted in the Rogers Cup, a significant tournament that is considered prelude to the U.S. Open, but she may not need it.
No other player has greater will, focus, determination, or fighting ability than Serena.
If she loses, it will be because of lack of will, according to her, and I believe that.
Most of all, she has the game.
Serena's draw is as easy as Federer's and definitely far easier than other title contenders like Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, and Dinara Safina. After the cake walk in the first two rounds, she will likely play 28th-seed Sybille Bammer and possibly face either 15th-seed Samantha Stouser or 22nd-seed anorexic Daniela Hantuchova.
Serena's possible quarter final opponents include seventh-seed Vera Zvonoreva, 10th-seed Flavia Pennetta, 17th-seed Amelie Mauresmo, and 31st-seed Elena Vesnina. Serena should not have problem dealing with any one of them.
If Victoria Azarenka or Agnieszka Radwanska fail to stop her in the semifinal, Serena will probably win her fourth US Open title. Remember, Serena has lost only once in the U.S. Open final (to Venus in 2001) and has lost only three times out of 14 when she reached Grand Slam finals.
Besides her sister, only Maria Sharapova has beaten her (SW19 in 2004). This record speaks volume.
At almost 28, Elena Dementieva has spent over a decade in the WTA tour as a pro. A major title in her career has been long due for the two-time Grand Slam finalist (2004 French Open and '04 US Open).
As a most consistent player of the decade, the beauty does not strip but likes to strip her opponents on the court. She has been playing amazing tennis recently and is peaking at the right time.
The Olympic Gold medalist won the Rogers Cup last week, defeating the likes of Serena Williams (SF) and Maria Sharapova (Final) in straight sets.
All in all, her hard court performance has been stellar.
Although Serena leads 6-4 in their career head-to-head meetings, Dementieva leads the American 4-1 since 2008 Olympics on hard court, the only loss coming at this Australian Open. If both reach the final, Dementieva will be more confident than others to play Serena, and I can see the Russian winning.
Maria Sharapova could be Dementieva's first test in the third round. Although Sharapova leads 8-3 in their career meetings, she has yet to find her best form since her return in May after the sabbatical of about 10 months, and Dementeva's recent win over the fellow Russian could replay, should they meet.
Dementieva should ease past through her possible R16 opponents, which include 13th-seed Nadia Petrova and 21st-seed Jie Zheng. Dementieva has defeated the former in their last four meetings but has never played the latter.
Jelena Jankovic could be Dementieva's semifinal opponent, the biggest obstacle on the Russian's road to the final. Dementieva trails 3-7 in their career meetings (2-6 on hard court). She has not beaten Jankovic on hard court since 2006 and has never beaten the Serb at the Grand Slam level.
Her baseline offensive style does not match Jankovic's defensive counter-punching. Dementieva's flat hitting forehand works against most of the top players except Jankovic.
No other player is hungrier than Dementieva for a major title (except maybe Safina for a different reason), and this hunger, combined with her latest form, should hopefully lead her to the first major title of her career. For this to happen, Jankovic will have to exit before the semifinal.
Known as the drama queen, Jelena Jankovic may not have quite the penchant for showing off her privates, but she is not shy about revealing a little bit here and here.
If there were nude tennis, she would probably be the first to enlist. That's extracurricular, and I actually like her innocent idiosyncrasies on the court.
Unlike her compatriot Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic, the former world No. 1, Jankovic has yet to win a Slam. The way she has been playing recently, the counter-puncher is certainly among the Top Three to bid for the U.S. Open title, after Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva.
Currently ranked No. 5, Jankovic did not start the year well, losing to No. 16 seed Marian Bartoli in R16 at the Australian Open, losing to No. 16 seed Kaia Kanepi in the third round at Dubai, losing in the opening rounds of both Indian Wells and Miami, falling in the fourth round at Roland Garros (to Sorana Cirstea) and third round at Wimbledon (to qualifier Melanie Oudin).
But the last year's finalist has righted her ship right in time before the USO, winning her 11th Tour singles title at Cincinnati (d. No.4 seed Dementieva in SF and top seed Safina in final); and reaching the semifinal at Toronto (lost to Alisa Kleybanova).
The Serb has a precarious draw, with the possible third round opponent in Gisela Dulko, a stunner, who defeated Jankovic at Miami, though that was about five months ago. (If you are going to watch women's tennis, you don't want to miss Jankovic-Dulko match).
Instead, if it is Alona Bondarenko, whom she leads 9-2, Jankovic will reach the R16 easily to possibly encounter her fellow Serbian Ana Ivanovic.
As a defending runner-up, Jankovic has reached the quarter final or better at the U.S. Open for the past three years, and this consistent result, combined with her recent performance at Cincinnati, secures her my third pick to bid for the title this year.
The current No. 1 Dinara Safina plays tennis and tennis only. The sister of handsome Marat Safin may not be the most beautiful woman out there, but she sure knows how to whip and whack her racket and crack yellow nuts. She wastes no time on fashion or modeling.
Safina's best result at the US Open came last year when she reached the semifinal (l. Serena Williams in straight sets). Previously, she has reached R16 twice (2003, '07) and quarter final once ('06).
Safina has reached eight finals so far this year but won only in three of them (Rome, Madrid, and Potoroz). This is a scary record.
In finals, Safina needs to rein on her frustration, which emerges abruptly on one or two mishits and keeps bugging her. She has to keep her focus and believe she is the No. 1 in the world and relax a little bit.
After playing three Grand Slam finals, she has to be able to let go of the phobia and play freely, without thinking about the grandeur of the occasion.
Hard court is not her home turf, though she reached the Australian Open final this year. Maybe, the faster surface of the US Open is not suited for her game.
Safina's first two round opponents may not pose much threat, but her possible third round opponent Alisa Kleybanova has explosive game and has beaten big names like Venus Williams, Ivanovic, Kanepi, and Jankovic.
Safina should get past the R16, where she will likely play either Virginie Razzano (Safina leads 4-2), Patty Schnyder (Safina leads 4-0), or Lucie Safarova (2-2).
I am not sure if Safina will survive the quarter final, if she meets Jankovic. If she does, Safina will have Dementieva waiting for her in the semifinal, who will be more difficult on faster hard court because Safina has never beaten Dementieva in their five meetings on hard court (including one carpet), though the head to head series stands at 5-5.
Maria Sharapova (Masha) is gorgeous, if not voluptuously aphrodisiacal, both on and off the court. Most importantly, her appearance brings more money to tour organizers.
She is the bread and butter of WTA, and her going deep into the tournament is good for ladies' tennis.
The three-time Grand Slam winner and former No. 1 has shown nearly enough symptoms that she is back for the good and will be bidding for the second U.S. Open title.
After her return in ten months, Sharapova reached her first final at the Rogers Cup in Toronto since April 2008, beating Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska on the way, and losing only in the final to Dementieva.
Before that, in Los Angeles, Sharapova beat some of the tour's hottest players like Victoria Azarenka and Alona Bondarenko, before losing to the eventual champion Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals.
Sharapova should sail to the third round to face Dementieva. If she passes this test, she will likely reach the quarter finals, where her potential opponents include sixth-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, ninth-seed Caroline Wozniacki, 24th-seed Sorana Cirstea, and 32nd-seed Agnes Szavay.
My guess is if Sharapova downs Dementieva, she has a shot at reaching the final, or at least semifinal. In conclusion, she is my fifth pick.
(P.S.: This picture is when Maria Sharapova was teenaged).
Twenty-year-old rising star Victoria Azarenka is the perfect combination of beauty and beast of the WTA.
The No. 9 started the year winning her first title at Brisbane, defeating Marion Bartoli in the final. At the Australian Open, she reached the fourth round, losing to Serena Williams.
The Belorussian's three career titles came all in 2009, including Miami, where she defeated Serena Williams in the final (6-3, 6-1).
The question mark surrounding Azarenka rests on the three recent defeats she suffered to returning Kim Clijsters (Toronto), Jelena Janokovic (Cincinnati), and Maria Sharapova (Los Angeles).
The eighth seed beauty is my sixth pick, largely due to the draw. She will sail to the R16 to face another very talented player and 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska (Azarenka leads 2-1 but 2-0 on hard).
The winner between these two could play the semifinal against Serena. But Venus will try to stop Azarenka (or Radwanska) in the quarter but will likely fail.
If Venus goes down early, Azarenka's quarterfinal will be easier but still will have to survive Kaia Kanepi, Anabel M. Garrigues, or the ultimate freak Marion Bartoli.
I think if Azarenka can keep her temper and serve a little better, the offensive baseliner with a powerful backhand will survive all of them.
(Picture courtesy FHM. More Azarenka at http://www.fhm.com/girls/wimbledon-beauties-pose-for-fhm-20090622)
At 19, Caroline Wozniacki, who has won six Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles, is the youngest singles player currently ranked in the top 10 in the world. The 5' 10" Dane is personable with smiles on and off the court, and her colorful outfits enhance her cheerful personality.
Wozniacki covers the court quickly and hits well on the run. Her serve is improving its sting. She runs her opponents from corner to corner with high bouncing returns.
Tour Newcomer of the Year in 2008, Wozniacki advanced to the quarterfinals at the Cincinnati Masters, falling to Elena Dementieva. In Toronto she lost in the second round to Zheng Jie. But this week, Wozniacki successfully defended her title at the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven.
In her second appearance last year, Wozniacki's powerful, baseline game helped her reach R16 at the US Open, losing to eventual runner-up, Jankovic.
Wozniacki's draw is not an easy one.
Wozniacki's third round opponent is Sorana Cîrstea, to whom she lost in the second round at Los Angeles, in a closely contested three sets.
She trails her possible R16 opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova 1-2. It will be difficult for the Dane to get past the former US Open Champion (2004) and this year's French Open winner, who has a well-rounded game with strong serve, meticulous volleys, and powerful inside-out forehand.
Wozniacki will benefit if Kuznetsova continues her post-French Open slump. If she is able to deal a blow to Kuznetsova, Wozniacki will likely face Dementieva or Sharapova in the quarterfinals, and that is as far as she will reach in the tournament.
Seventh-seed Vera Zvonareva is hot. She has won eight WTA Tour singles titles.
The 24-year old Russian is Olympic bronze medalist (2008) and Australian Open semifinalist (2009).
After winning the first title of the year in Pattaya, Zvonareva won the Indian Wells earlier this year, defeating Ana Ivanovic in the final. However, in the last three tournaments leading to the US Open, her best result was a quarterfinal at Los Angeles, losing the other two in R16, at Cincinnati and Toronto.
But if her game gets going, her baseline counter-punching, good offensive capabilities, speed, and lateral movement can outlast her opponents during rallies. Her powerful and flat groundstrokes can do some damage.
Her fragile nerve had been a problem in the past but not anymore.
Zvonareva's best result at the US Open has been R16 (2004).
In this year's draw, she will likely face Anna Chakvetadze in the second round (Zovonareva leads 2-0). Her third round opponent could be 31st-seed Elena Vesnina, who was runner-up at the Pilot Pen last week (Zvonareva leads 2-0).
Zvonareva's possible R16 opponents include 10th-seed Flavia Pennetta (Series tied at 1-1) and 17th-seed Amelie Mauresmo (Mauresmo leads 8-1).
Her road will likely end at the R16, which means either Mauresmo or Pennetta will play Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
The former No. 1 hottie's killer smile and stunningly beautiful face can make most guys salivate. Above all, she is photogenic. Ana has picked up some modeling art and will do well in the fashion world, if she chooses to go in that direction.
The Belgrade native has one of the best forehands on the tour and is an offensive baseliner, though her weak defense is a liability. Most of all, she often lacks confidence, and she has plenty of reasons to be less confident now because she has not won a single title this year, and most recently, she was defeated in the second rounds both at Cincinnati and Toronto.
Ana has not made past the fourth round at the U.S. Open and is not likely to go deeper in the tournament this year, either. Maybe, faster hard court is not her turf, though she reached the finals at Australian Open (2008) and Indian Wells ('08/ '09).
Ana's draw is not as favorable as she would like, either. She may get through the first two rounds, but her third round opponent Sabine Lisicki is a phenomenally talented young player. You should not miss this match, if they both reach third round.
In the R16, Ivanovic's potentials opponents include Jelena Jankovic and Alona Bondarenko.
At best, this is how far Ana will get.
Kim Clijsters' body may not be sexually appealing to some, but the 2005 US Open Champion looks hot when she retrieves balls on full stretch slide.
After her retirement on May 6, 2007, the five-time Grand Slam finalist (including 2005 US Open title) had been out of the tour until she decided to return about a month ago.
She received wild cards for the Cincinnati and Toronto tournaments, where she beat Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Victoria Azarenka, sending out an early statement that she can beat top-ranked players.
The 26-year-old Belgian will play an unknown Victoria Kutuzova in the opener before facing 14th-seed Marion Bartoli in the next round (Clijsters leads 2-0, including her recent win at Cincinnati).
Clijsters' possible third-round opponents include Jelena Dokic (Clijsters leads 6-3) and 20th-seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, a clay courter (Clijsters leads 1-0).
Miss Congeniality of WTA, Clijsters could be one of the most dangerous floaters to encounter Venus Williams' in the R16. If they meet, this could be one of the most watched match, evoking the memories of old days. An upset of the No. 3 is not inconceivable.
Is Clijsters up to the job in such a short notice?
Her answer: “I think the amount of time that I put into my tennis is shorter now, but the quality is a lot higher.’’
Even Venus will have to watch out for Clijsters' deep, powerful, well-placed groundstrokes, great court coverage, and retrieval ability. She is that good.
My prediction is Clijsters will get as far as to R16.