The WTA Tour steamrolls into Cincinnati this week for the first of two big events leading into the U.S. Open. Despite Venus Williams joining sister Serena on the sidelines, it's still a great field.
It should be a lot of excellent matches. Unlike on the men's side, most of the top women have already been playing this summer. With at least one or two tourneys under their belt it will be interesting to see who is in top form this week. Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Elena Dementieva and Kim Clijsters are the top seeds.
Here are my picks:
Jankovic, has already said she may have to pull out due to an ankle injury, which means she probably will. That opens this section up even more. Victoria Azarenka is playing Ana Ivanovic in the first round. Azarenka is on a roll and I don't see anyone stopping her in this section. Two of my other favorites play in the first round as Melanie Oudin plays Elena Vesnina. Oudin should get through this one, but she doesn't have enough firepower to slow down Azarenka.
Clijsters is the top seed in this section. She is playing her first tournament of the summer, so look for her to struggle a little early in the tournament. She could play Dinara Safina in the first round, but the way Safina's been playing Clijsters should be able to pull that out. Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Penetta are two of the big names on the bottom part of this section. Zvonareva did not play well in San Diego, but I look for her to bounce back this week. Penetta always seems to play well in the summer. I think Zvonareva will pull out a close match over Penetta, but Clijsters will be waiting in the wings. Clijsters lost to Zvonareva at Wimbledon and I think she will get her revenge this week.
This section is pretty wide open with a lot of players who could make some real noise. Li Na is in the top part of the section, but I think one of my favorites Yanina Wickmayer, yes I'm being biased again, will pull off the upset and advance to the quarters. On the bottom part of the section, Dementieva and Daniela Hantuchova could be headed for a showdown. Hantuchova is playing well in San Diego, but what are the chances she can keep it up for two straight weeks? Dementieva's serve looks worse than ever, but she still made it to the quarters in L.A. I think Dementieva will take advantage of an easier section and advance.
This section is loaded with great players. The most intriguing match-up has Maria Sharapova taking on Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. The tournament announced that Sharapova will play on Monday night (this was before the draw came out). One would think that they would move that back a day considering Kuznetsova is playing in the San Diego final on Sunday. Either way it will be a quick turnaround, giving Sharapova a big edge. Agnieszka Radwanska is the top player in the top part of the section. Radwanska has been playing well, but you have to wonder if she's playing too much. Either way Sharapova pretty much owns her, and I don't think she has much of a chance if they play. However, Alisa Kleybanova beat Jankovic last week and I think she will knock off Radwanska. I also think Coco Vandeweghe could be a sleeper. Yes that's the same Coco who I made fun of several weeks ago. I apologize Coco it turns out you really can play. In the bottom part of this section Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli are the two big names. I think Wozniacki will have a good summer and advance to the quarters in Cincy. However, much like Radwanska, Sharapova will have too much firepower for Sweet Caroline (You know you're thinking about the Neil Diamond song now).
Azarenka vs. Clijsters
Azarenka is on a roll. After winning in L.A., this week will be a good test to see if Azarenka is ready to become a real star. I think lack of match play will hurt Clijsters.
Pick: Azarenka in two sets
Dementieva vs. Sharapova
I think Sharapova will get better with each tournament. I think Sharapova's serve will work itself back into a big weapon, while Dementieva's will continue to let her down.
Pick: Sharapova in two sets
Azarenka might be a star in the making, but Sharapova already is one. After their final in L.A., Sharapova told Azarenka they will have many more meetings and Sharapova will get revenge. It won't take long for her to get it.
Pick: Sharapova in three sets
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