With the US Open just days away, the major story on the women's side is who is not in the main draw as opposed to who is.
This will probably be the best opportunity, and for some the last, to break through and add that elusive major to their resume. Without Serena Williams, and Justine Hennin in the draw there is a good chance that we will have a first time Grand Slam champion.
Controversy has already reared it's head with Caroline Wozniaki being awarded the number one seed. She has won three times this summer. In Denmark at the E-Boks Sony Ericsson Open, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, and in Connecticut at the Pilot Pen.
She has definitely had a great summer and the most impressive results coming in, but the number one seed? It would make more sense installing Kim Clijsters as the number one seed being that she is a former Grand Slam champion, and she won the US Open last year.
A two seed would be appropriate for Wozniaki given her stellar play of late, and the fact that she has played in a grand slam final before. We have seen other players with impressive results in the summer coming in with the number one seed and they couldn't seal the deal (Dinara Safina).
Maria Sharapova is one of the players that needs to take advantage of this opportunity. She is coming into the open a little banged up, but she is definitely a threat. She has logged a lot of court time this summer so she should be battle tested.
Sharapova has a good chance to make it through to the semis, and if she can hold her serve together she is capable of winning the whole thing. I don't think she will, but she will be a factor.
All of a sudden the young phenom is not quite so young anymore, and as long as the Williams sisters and Clijsters are around she may not have as many opportunities to win majors. Jelena Jankovic is one of those players that missed her window of opportunity before, and could be a factor.
She has had a hard time of late staying healthy, as injuries have kept her from playing her best tennis and has resulted in first-round exits in several tournaments. If she can stay healthy she has the court IQ to outsmart most of her opponents, but she doesn't have the firepower beat you off the ground.
A lot of things have to go right for Jankovic to make it all the way through. I wouldn't be suprised if she did though.
Elena Dementieva (along with Clijsters) may be the best ball striker in the women's draw. She has improved her first serve, is a superior athlete, and really has no glaring weaknesses in her ground strokes from either side.
She has been so close in grand slams and may be the sentimental favorite to break through and win her first grand slam. She has not mastered the key moments in big matches yet, and has a propensity to tighten up against the best players. She is one of the players I will be rooting for to break through.
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samanth Stosur have the games to win on the hard courts, but can't seem to get consistent results. They will show flashes of greatness and have great tournaments, then you don't hear from them for months. Stosur had a great French Open, but where has she been since then?
She has an arm injury that has held her back, but she needs to translate her big game into consistent results. Kuznetsova is another inconsistent but talented player. She is a former US Open winner and is a threat in any tournament she is in, but she has a history of inexplicable losses in grand slams. It seems like she either plays extremely well, or she loses to someone she shouldn't.
She is one of my favorites to win based on her experience on the big stage and she plays fearless tennis. This may be the last, and best chance for two women that can't seem to put it together mentally and get consistent results. Ana Ivanovic has played better of late, but there is no explanation for the depth of her fall other than that she doesn't have the mental makeup to get through the grind of being a championship player.
The same with Dinara Safina. Big time talent, but the strain of the expectations put on her as the world number one was too much for her. Whether anyone likes it or not the validation of your number one ranking is wining grand slams. So much for her saying she deserved to be number one.
Ivanovic has won a slam, but since then she has played like someone that has no idea how to get through a match on any level. Neither of these two have a chance to win, but it would be good for both to win a few matches and get their confidence back.
Vera Zvonareva is one of the players I believe has an excellent chance to jump up and win this tournament. She has been in big matches before and overcome a lot of injuries that have slowed her down.
She is a thinker out there on the court, and has some power. There were times when she didn't keep her emotions in check, but there is no one in the draw that you can say she can't beat.
Make no mistake. Wozniaki is a great competitor and very confident to go along with her superior skill on the court. She is surprisingly calm in the pressure situations which are the times that determine the outcome of most matches. Who will blink in the big points in the third set?
Let us not forget the veteran Nadia Petrova, as she has the power and net game to at least pull an upset or two.
When all is said and done, Kim Clijsters has an excellent chance to repeat. Sharapova and Wozniaki will be in the mix as well. Zvonareva and Dementieva are my dark horse picks that could rise up and win this thing.
Notice I haven't mentioned Venus Williams? I don't think she has played enough tennis, but I will never bet against her in a major other than the French Open, because she seems to thrive when the pundits underestimate her. A little banged up, yes. Long in the tooth tennis wise, yes.
But she is in the draw, so she is a threat. It will be interesting if she is still there after the third round. In other words, on the women's side, it is wide open.
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