The Top Five Women's Contenders Still Standing at the U.S. Open
The 2009 U.S. Open was supposed to be a time when Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva would finally break through in a major. It was also supposed to be a time when Victoria Azarenka would mature.
Throughout the summer months it sure seemed as if one—or maybe even all three—would be poised to make a deep run into the second week.
Well, I guess we were wrong: The three were upset in the first week of the tournament.
World No. 1 Safina, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 4 Dementieva, No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, and No. 9 Azarenka have all been defeated before the quarterfinals, further showing that the women's game has lost its consistency.
Who is the favorite to win the tournament? Has your choice changed since the top seeds have fallen like flies to the ground?
Here are the top five women's contenders still standing at the U.S. Open:
5. Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki is one of the up-and-coming stars of women's tennis. Born in Denmark, Wozniacki has become a star of sorts throughout her home country. She is the "Pride and Joy of Denmark."
Wozniacki also has the game to back up her new fame.
Possessing solid ground strokes with a pretty decent serve, Wozniacki is poised to make a deep run into the tournament. If she can stay focused and not lose sight of what's at the end of the road, Wozniacki is one of the top contenders for the title.
She does, however, lose sight frequently. When this happens, she begins to miss ground strokes at a rapid rate, hitting shots several feet behind the baseline.
I still see Wozniacki having a chance to make it to the finals, though. She has a very tough opponent in Svetlana Kuznetsova for a round of 16 matchup, however. If she can defeat Kuznetsova, there is no doubt she will be favored to make the final in New York.
4. Flavia Pennetta
Flavia Pennetta has become one of the fastest rising stars in all of women's tennis over the summer. Winning the LA Women's Tennis Championship, along with making several semifinalist appearances during the U.S. Open Series, Pennetta has found the confidence she has lacked throughout her career.
Pennetta has one of the most lethal ground stroke attacks in the women's game. She is a consistent performer who hits each shot not only with authority and power, but also with great accuracy.
She won't beat herself like most women on tour these days, meaning that her opponents must play their best if they want to have any hopes of knocking off the Italian.
I would have ranked Pennetta higher, seeing as how she has been a dominant force over the summer. However, the luck of the draw for Pennetta was no good whatsoever. Next up for the Italian: Serena Williams.
I give Flavia Pennetta a slight chance at taking down the American, but overall I believe Williams will be too much for Pennetta to handle. A quarterfinals appearance at the U.S. Open is not too shabby, now.
3. Kim Clijsters
The second-best feel good story of the tournament so far would have to be the return of Kim Clijsters. And yes, you heard me right: The "second" best.
The 2009 U.S. Open has been a roller coaster ride so far, but one thing is for sure: Kim Clijsters is back. After defeating Venus Williams in the round of 16, Clijsters has reserved herself a place in the quarterfinals of the tournament she won back in 2005.
Throughout the summer months, talk was that Clijsters would make a return to the tour. No one knew just how ready to play or prepared she would be up until this point; however, it's safe to say that she is here to stay after the win against Venus.
Clijsters has always been a popular player on tour and the match against Venus showcased that. It got to the point where the Americans were pulling for Clijsters, pushing her on and eventually cheering after the Belgian won on her first match point.
It's great to see such an outstanding player win so soon after coming out of retirement. Who knows how long Clijsters will continue to play after this tournament, but this time around let's enjoy all that Clijsters brings to the great game of tennis.
Enjoy watching her play and doing so at a high level. She is one of the top contenders at this point in the tournament and plays Na Li of China in the next round. Watch out for a possible Clijsters vs. Serena semifinals matchup. Things could get very interesting.
2. Melanie Oudin
I already told you that Kim Clijsters' return was the second-best feel good story of the tournament so far, but I never revealed to you my No. 1 choice. Well, Melanie Oudin's stunning run through the draw earns the No. 1 spot on that countdown.
Defeating No. 4 Elena Dementieva in the second round then backing up that performance with a win over former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova has suddenly made Oudin a star.
Oudin already had a big win at Wimbledon over the summer, defeating No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, but nothing could have prepared the American public like this showing at the U.S. Open.
She is a fighter, I will give you that.
And having been placed on the top side of the draw where the likes of Safina, Dementieva and Jankovic have all been defeated, Oudin has a great shot at making the finals.
The top of the draw certainly is wide open, with No. 6 Kuznetsova, No. 9 Wozniacki and No. 13. Nadia Petrova the only top seeds remaining.
In her next match, Oudin will face No. 13 Petrova in her third consecutive match playing a seeded Russian. The other two Russians have not fared well against the young American, and I hope more of the same is to come.
If Oudin can play at a high level and continue to fight her way through the draw, she certainly has a chance to make the U.S. Open Finals. If it came down to the point where it was an all-American women's final, I never bet you would have believed that Oudin would be one of the finalists.
That is a possibility, but first Oudin must battle with the only seeded players left in the top of the draw. She is the next big "hope" of women's American tennis, and sure doesn't look like the type that will disappoint.
Melanie Oudin: Does the fate of American tennis rest on your shoulders? Only time will tell.
1. Serena Williams
The overwhelming favorite at this point in the tournament is none other than Serena Williams. The defending U.S. Open Champion Williams has the ability to find her game once she steps foot in New York, and she has done that once again this year.
Struggling through the summer tournaments after her big win at Wimbledon, it seemed as if Serena was just going through the motions, waiting for the U.S. Open to finally arrive.
"Mrs. Determination" arrived at the U.S. Open with only one thing in her mind: "Defend your title at all costs. You should be No. 1 in the world, so go out there and prove everyone wrong. You deserve to be No. 1, you are the best, and you will play the best!"
I just don't see Serena losing in New York this year, especially after her 6-2, 6-0 romp over Daniella Hantuchova in the round of 16. She has been locked in since stepping foot on the practice courts, serving sensationally and hitting her ground strokes with authority.
This seems to be playing out as major No. 12 for Serena Williams unless someone can come out and be more mentally prepared than Serena. That is a tough task to do, as Serena has won 29 of her past 30 matches in a major tournament.
The reigning U.S. Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon Champion at this moment, Serena Williams is the most confident player in the women's game today. Who shall stand in her way of major No. 12?
Who can dethrone the Queen of New York?