With Serena Williams out the women's U.S. Open is more open than ever. There are probably 10 or so players that have a legitimate shot at winning it. Two of the popular picks are players seeded 10 and 14 - Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Caroline Wozniacki has won three tournaments this summer, and she is seeded No. 1. Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams are seeded second and third and are always threats to win any slam they are in. I think it's going to be a fun, unpredictable tournament, but here are my predictions anyway.
This is a tough section with Wozniacki and Sharapova scheduled to meet in the fourth round. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Li Na are also in this section. I think Wozniacki has played too much tennis this summer, and I don't think she will even make it to the fourth round. If she does I think Sharapova will overpower her. I think Kuznetsova will also advance to the quarters, setting up an all-Russian quarter. I expect Sharapova to come through that encounter.
Fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic is the top seed in this section, but she has played horribly all summer. I think Yanina Wickmayer, a semifinalist at the Open last year, could get to the quarters in this section. However, the player I really like in this section is ninth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska. She's played well all summer and I think she's primed to make a big run here. Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva is also very dangerous in this section. I think it will be Wicky and Radwanska in the quarters and I think Radwanska will advance in three.
Another tough section to predict. Sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone hasn't played well since winning the French Open, and Melanie Oudin has struggled all year. Azarenka should cruise into the quarters. She has played some great tennis this summer, and I think she's ready for a huge breakthrough. Venus is coming off an injury and hasn't played all summer. However, she has an easy draw, and if she can work her way into the tournament she will be dangerous. I think it will be Azarenka and Venus, but I like Azarenka to advance to the semis.
There are some very good players in this section as well. Fifth-seeded Sam Stosur was injured much of the summer, and I'm not sure if she can put together at the Open. Elena Dementieva played well in New Haven and could be a real factor in the tournament, but she seems to still struggling with her confidence. Marion Bartoli is also very dangerous and of course the favorite in this section is Clijsters. I think Clijsters will face Dementieva in the quarters, but Clijsters will pull it out.
Sharapova vs. Radwanska
Sharapova has owned Radwanska throughout their match-ups. The only way Sharapova loses this match is if she has an off-day. With a finals berth at stake that won't happen.
Pick: Sharapova in two sets
Azarenka vs. Clijsters
Both players had good summers, but I think it's simply Azarenka's time. I think she's finally starting to reach her potential and will make her first slam final.
Pick: Azarenka in three sets.
Sharapova vs. Azarenka
I think experience will prevail in this match. These are two of the biggest hitters and two of the loudest. It should be an entertaining final, but I simply think Maria is back and ready to soar to the top of the game. Winning her fourth major is a step towards that.
Pick: Sharapova in two sets