With the recent news of Serena Williams pulling out of the 2010 U.S. Open, three-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova should be licking her chops. Justin Henin is also out of the tournament, leaving the top three contenders as Venus Williams, defending champion Clijsters, and Sharapova.
Sharapova is a three-time grand slam champion and has the power-game to defeat anyone when playing her best tennis. Shoulder problems have really limited her over the last couple years, but the worst of that is over and she has showed some signs over the last few months that she is ready to dominate again.
Maria was the only one to provide any test to Serena at Wimbeldon this year, almost grabbing the first-set from the all-time great. If she had won that match, she would probably be coming into this U.S. Open with four major victories.
The news is not all good for Maria, however, as she recently pulled out of a tournament in Montreal with a foot injury after losing to Clijsters in three sets. She hasn't yet fully put together a long, sustained run of greatness and has had to pull out of a few other tournaments as well. She also has to deal with the fact that Clijsters won the U.S. Open the last two times she entered.
Provided her foot allows her to play in this year's U.S Open (which I think won't be an issue as her withdrawal from Montreal was probably done just as a precaution), it is going to be a big moment in Sharapova's career. She has not won a major since the 2008 Australian Open and this is clearly her best chance of doing so since that point.
Serena has been dominating the game the last two years but with her out of the picture the field is pretty open for some one to step up and seize control. If Sharapova doesn't do it now, she may never again, no matter how strong she is mentally.