The 2011 Women's Grand Slam season has been epitomized by great openness, with many players feeling like they had a chance at taking home the trophy. Now that the year is wrapping up with the US Open, almost all the favorites are actually ranked near the top of the game, with the exception of the Williams sisters themselves.
When Venus and Serena first came out on tour, it looked like they were going to dominate their home Grand Slam, as they each captured two US Opens between 1999 and 2002. However, they only have one title since then (Serena in 2008).
The Williams sisters still clearly represent the best American hope in New York this year, with Serena being at least near the top of the favorites list. Here is a list of 10 players that can prevent a sixth US Open title by a Williams sister.
The Frenchwoman has yet to win a major title, but has had a solid 2011 season, reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and semifinals of the French Open.
The veteran is one of those players that you really have to beat if you expect to advance, as she gives it her all on every point and doesn't give much of anything away. Her experience and savvy give her a shot at any tournament she enters.
"Petko" is probably the most improved player on the WTA tour in the last 24 months, and currently has a career high ranking of No. 10.
The German might be known for her dance that she does after her wins, but she has a rock solid game and great mental fortitude. She also knows what it takes to perform on the big stage, as she knocked off three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova earlier this year at the Australian Open.
The career path of the talented Victoria Azarenka is starting to take an ugly toll reminiscent of World No. 1 player Caroline Wozniacki. She does very well in the smaller tournaments, but can't quite figure out the Grand Slam stage.
Azarenka's results over the last couple of years are some of the most consistent in the game, but she has yet to reach a Grand Slam final. Her best chance came in the last one at Wimbledon, but fellow youngster Petra Kvitova stole the show.
Azarenka clearly has the tools necessary to win a Grand Slam tournament. She just has to take the next step mentally.
Lisicki was virtually unknown before her run to the Wimbledon semifinals and was ranked outside of the Top 100. That is all a thing of the past and it looks like Lisicki is going to be a force to be reckoned with in women's tennis.
In the women's game, if you have a big serve, you are going to be competitive. That is exactly what enabled Lisicki to make a deep run at WImbledon, knocking off French Open champion Li Na along the way.
While Lisicki serves better than anybody but the Williams sisters, the rest of her game is a step behind. Consistency is going to be a big issue if she is going to make more noise at Grand Slams in the future.
The best run the current world No. 1 ever made at a Grand Slam event was at the 2009 US Open, as she made it all the way to the finals. It seemed inevitable that she would soon capture a Grand Slam tournament.
However, while Wozniacki has played and won a lot of matches in the smaller events, she has yet to reach another Grand Slam final. She usually makes the second week, but can't put together seven wins in a row.
The Dane has a good all-court game but lacks a little bit of the aggressive mentality that most Grand Slam winners possess. She will probably remain among a handful of favorites at the Grand Slams, especially on hard courts, but it's hard to see her winning unless she changes that aspect of her game.
While the 2011 season hasn't treated the Russian very well in Grand Slam play, Zvonareva is still ranked at No. 3 in the world. She is the defending runner up at the US Open as well and is at her best on hard courts.
The veteran is also having a good start to the summer in 2011 and has to be considered to have the best chance of any player who has not yet won a major to win this year in New York.
The key for her better success over the last few seasons has been her maturity. She used to be prone to major meltdowns on the court when things weren't going well, but she has really improved that aspect of her game.
A few weeks ago, Kvitova announced herself to the world by winning the Wimbledon Championships. While her best results in Grand Slams thus far have been on grass, she can win on all surfaces and has a pretty good chance of winning two majors in a row.
The lefty factor helps a lot for the young Czech player, especially on the serve. Maria Sharapova, one of the top returners in the game, was left looking for answers after going down to her in the finals of Wimbledon.
If Kvitova is indeed going to win the Open, she will have to avoid a letdown that can easily come from winning such a big tournament like Wimbledon. She needs to remain hungry and not just be satisfied with one major win in 2011.
The 2011 French Open Champion failed to reach her third straight major final at this year's Wimbledon Championships, losing early on to Lisicki. That should only fuel the Chinese woman to have a very strong tournament in New York.
While Na's lone Grand Slam win came on the clay of Roland Garros, her best surface is hard courts. She was the runner up this year in Australia and a semi-finalist in 2010.
The veteran is rock solid from the baseline and doesn't have many flaws in her game. The late bloomer has really improved over time and is looking to add to her resume even more at Flushing Meadows.
2006 US Open Champion Maria Sharapova is almost back on top of her game. After reaching the semi-finals of Roland Garros and the finals of Wimbledon, she will be looking to take the final step and capture her fourth Grand Slam title next month.
The only thing that has held the Russian back is serving issues. She is still working with that part of her game after coming back from shoulder surgery a little over a year ago.
One thing that won't hold Sharapova back is her strong mental fortitude. She is one of the fiercest competitors in all of sports today and never gives up during a match.
The three majors won by Sharapova puts her only behind the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters among active players. She can use her experience late in big tournaments to her advantage.
If Serena Williams isn't the favorite of this tournament, that nod would have to go to Kim Clijsters. All the Belgian has done is win the U.S. Open the last three times she played the event.
Clijsters has won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments played on hard courts, including this year's Australian Open. An ankle injury has really limited how much damage she could have done in 2011, but she will now be going back to a place where she has achieved so many things.
In her first stint on the WTA Tour, Clijsters could probably be classified as being an underachiever, winning just one Grand Slam event. She retired after becoming pregnant, but luckily for the game, came out of retirement just before the 2009 US Open.
A much more mature and focused Clijsters has won three Grand Slams in her second go-around. She is also one of the more well-liked players and it's great to see her enjoy so much success over the last couple seasons.