[This is part of the Power Ranking series ran by JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Ronger Fengerer (Feng Rong)]
The final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, is just a few days away. With the withdrawal of Serena Williams and Justin Henin, both multiple winners in New York, this year's Open is the most open in recent years.
Still, there are four former US Open champions in this year's field: Kim Clijsters ('09, '05), Maria Sharapova ('06), Svetlana Kuznetsova ('04), and Venus Williams ('01, '00). There are also three former US Open runner-ups in this year's draw: Caroline Wozniacki ('09), Jelena Jankovic ('08) and Elena Dementieva ('04).
Somewhat fittingly, the two finalists from last year's Open are the top two seeds this year. Wozniacki, the No. 2 player in the world, enters a Grand Slam as the top seed for the first time in her young career. Clijsters, the defending champion, has risen to No. 3 in the world with only 13 tournaments under her belt and is the No. 2 seed in New York. They are definitely two of the favorites to win this year's trophy.
Most top players played multiple tournaments during the US Open series. The results from the summer hardcourt season should be a good indicator of their forms leading up to the Open. Here is the top 10 list of players who enjoyed the most success in the past few weeks.
The Top 10
1. Caroline Wozniacki (Last Power Ranking: OLI; WTA Ranking: 2)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Winner], Cincinnati [R16], Copenhagen [Winner], Wimbledon [R16]
Power Ranking Points: 1091
In Montreal last week, Wozniacki won the biggest title in her career. Needless to say, she is entering the US Open with a lot of momentum and confidence. The top seed at a major is not a familiar position for the young Dane to be in, thus it remains to be seen how she handles the spotlight, expectation, and pressure. She showed that she can handle those pretty well in the inaugural event in her home country, but a Grand Slam is a completely different and much bigger stage.
US Open success? Anything short of a final run should be a disappointment for the talented world No. 2. And a win should do wonders for the Dane. A new Grand Slam champion and maybe a new world No. 1 would be good for the WTA tour.
2. Vera Zvonareva (Last Power Ranking: 2; WTA Ranking: 8)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Finalist], Cincinnati [R16], San Diego [R16], Wimbledon [Finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 878
A final run at Wimbledon lifted Vera Zvonareva once again back to the top 10 in the world. Another final showing at Montreal last week showed that the Russian is indeed capable of making a deep run at major tournaments.
However, making the final is not equal to winning the title. And Zvonareva has failed more times than she succeeded at the last hurdle, especially at big events.
She has yet to advance beyond the fourth round at the Open, and how far she can make it this year largely depends on her mental toughness.
US Open success? Zvonareva should have enough confidence to make it to the quarterfinals. If the draw goes her way, she might go one round further.
3. Kim Clijsters (Last Power Ranking: 6; WTA Ranking: 3)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Quarterfinalist], Cincinnati [Winner], Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist], Eastbourne [Quarterfinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 750
Clijsters (along with Wozniacki) leads the tour with three singles titles. Her comeback win over Sharapova in the Cincinnati final was most impressive.
However, a hip injury contributed to her quarterfinal defeat to Zvonareva in Montreal. With a week's rest, she should be able to recover enough for the Open though.
At a Grand Slam, experience and belief are of the most importance, and Clijsters has both. The last woman to win back-to-back titles at the Open was Venus Williams in 2000 and 2001. Clijsters has what it takes to duplicate that feat, but will she?
US Open success? It is entirely possible that we will see a rematch of the final of last year's Open, though the outcome might not be the same. Look for Clijsters to make at least the semifinals.
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 12)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Semifinalist], Cincinnati [R64], San Diego [Winner], Wimbledon [R64]
Power Ranking Points: 565
Svetlana Kuznetsova looked lost for most of the season, but has finally found herself during the summer hard-court season. After winning San Diego, she admitted to have lost focus and motivation for past few months but have now rediscovered her desire and form again. Having made to the final at New York twice and winning one of them, she is definitely one of the favorites to go all the way this year.
US Open success? Kuznetsova has made to at least one quarterfinals in a major each year since 2003. Her best result so far in a major is the fourth round at Melbourne, so look for her to advance to at least the quarterfinals at the Open.
5. Victoria Azarenka (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 11)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Semifinalist], Cincinnati [R64], Stanford [Winner], Wimbledon [R32]
Power Ranking Points: 533
Victoria Azarenka always looked like she was ready to make a breakthrough, but so far she has not performed up-to-her-potential in Grand Slams. After making an earlier-than-expected exit at Wimbledon, she came back strongly at Stanford, defeating Sharapova in the final.
She made it to the semifinals last week at Montreal, losing to Zvonareva. She suffered from a foot blister in that match and had to retire after losing the first-set tiebreaker. Her form so far looks solid, though not superb.
US Open success? Azarenka has made to the quarterfinals in all the other three Grand Slams, but not at the Open so far. She might as well be another quarterfinalist on our list.
6. Maria Sharapova (Last Power Ranking: OLI; WTA Ranking: 16)
Last Four Tournaments: Cincinnati [Finalist], Stanford [Finalist], Wimbledon [R16], Birmingham [Finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 443
The good news for Sharapova is that she made it to three finals in her last four tournaments, the bad news is that she won none of them and sustained a foot injury in Cincinnati, which caused her to withdraw from Montreal.
She seems to have fully recovered from her shoulder injury and is no longer serving an excessive number of double faults. With her renowned fighting spirit, Sharapova is always a big threat at a Grand Slam.
US Open success? Her left foot injury seemed to be only mild and she should recover fully for the Open. If so, look for the Russian to make at least the quarterfinals.
7. Marion Bartoli (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 15)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [Quarterfinalist], Cincinnati [Quarterfinalist], San Diego [R32], Stanford [Quarterfinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 368
Marion Bartoli had a solid summer hard-court season, making it to three quarterfinals in four events. Though she achieved her best result at a Grand Slam at Wimbledon, making it to the final in 2007, her best surface is probably the hardcourts. She is a good fighter, but she will need a lot of luck to make a big impact at the Open this year.
US Open success? Bartoli has yet to advance beyond the round of 16 at New York, a trend might not be broken this year.
8. Agnieszka Radwanska (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 10)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [R16], Cincinnati [R16], San Diego [Finalist], Stanford [Semifinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 344
Agnieszka Radwanska has been playing quite consistently this year, especially on hardcourts, winning 23 matches on the surface already. In her last four tournaments, she lost to Sharapova twice and Kuznetsova twice.
One of the young stars on the tour, along with Wozniacki and Azarenka, she seems to be ready for a breakthrough performance at a Grand Slam.
US Open success? Like Azarenka, who also has 23 wins on hard-courts to her credit, Radwanska is playing consistently enough to make the quarterfinals.
9. Flavia Pennetta (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 21)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [R16], Cincinnati [Quarterfinalist], San Diego [Semifinalist], Palermo [Finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 338
Flavia Pennetta has enjoyed the most success at the US Open among the four majors, reaching back-to-back quarterfinals in 2008 and 2009. She could have had more success during the summer hardcourt season, but she ran into the eventual champions in her last three tournaments.
Hopefully, her bad luck will not continue in New York.
US Open success? It is unlikely that Pennetta will be able to duplicate her countrywomen Francesca Schiavone's stunning title run at Roland Garros, but another quarterfinal showing is not out of the question.
10. Li Na (Last Power Ranking: 8; WTA Ranking: 9)
Last Four Tournaments: Montreal [R16], Cincinnati [R16], Copenhagen [Semifinalist], Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 293
Li Na is China's first top 10 player, and she is now enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 9 in the world. She could have had more success in the past three Grand Slams, but she ran into the eventual champions in all three majors.
Her results in the summer hardcourt season are not outstanding, but Li has proven that she is capable of making a deep run at majors.
US Open success? Li made to the quarterfinals at the Open last year. Another quarterfinals showing is quite possible this year. And should the draw goes her way, she could very well duplicate her effort in Melbourne.
Venus Williams has not played a single match after Wimbledon, so she will probably struggle early at the Open. Should she pass the early stage safely though, she will be a force to reckon with.
Elena Dementieva is still in search of her first major win in her career. Since suffering a calf injury during her semifinal match at the French Open, Dementieva has played few tournaments and had little success. She is playing at New Haven this week to get more matches under her belt. But a deep run at New York is doubtful.
Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic have both showed signs of a resurgence in the past few weeks. But their games are not consistent enough to carry them into the later stages of the Open.
Jelena Jankovic sustained an ankle injury at Portoroz in July, and has not been able to perform at her best since then. She is prone to making an early exit at the Open.
Samantha Stosur has not had much success since her final run at Roland Garros. Even worse, she suffered an arm injury during the summer hardcourt season. She is playing at New Haven this week to prepare herself for the Open, where she owns a lifetime record of 2-6. Though she is a different player than before, lack of fitness, and match play will prevent her from making much inroads at the Open.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had a quite successful summer hardcourt swing, winning at Istanbul, and making the semifinals at Cincinnati. In fact, she has won the most matches on the hardcourts on the tour this season. But unfortunately for the young Russian, she is suffering from a hip injury, and had to pull out of the New Haven event this week. Her success at the Open will largely depend on her health.