The WTA tour continues to be the place where the phrase “expect the unexpected” remains the constant theme, right? Well, not if you look at Serena Williams at the majors. She’s the defending champ at Flushing Meadow and also holds this year’s Oz Open + Wimbledon titles. So, should we just pack up our tennis bags and head home? Perhaps, but it IS the year’s final major so expect some of the leading ladies to lay it all on the line and make a big push towards the final Saturday.
Let’s take a look at the leading contender’s for the US Open ladies' title!
Who can really argue against picking the holder of three out of the last four Grand Slams and 11 career majors to win in two weeks? Fine, Serena Williams is not technically the top lady baller according to the WTA rankings and she hasn’t won a non-Grand Slam tourney since ’08 Charleston but when it comes to gutting out matches and winning on the biggest stages in the sport, Serena Williams is the best – hands down. The defending champ had uneven results during the US Open Series racking up losses to Sam Stosur, Sybille Bammer, and Elena Dementieva but as we all know she brings the big guns to the majors. A fourth US Open title is certainly well within her dramatic reach.
The newly-crowned Rogers Cup champ has had chances to make a major breakthrough this year. Elena Dementieva entered the Aussie Open as the smart pick with two tourney titles under her Yonex belt but fell from fatigue and ReRe’s game in the semifinals. In Paris a streaking Aussie Sam, who eventually made it to the semifinals, knocked her out early in shocker. But it was her epic, now classic heavy hitting bout with ReRe in the Wimby semifinals that finally gave Elena the belief she could go toe-to-toe with the Big Babes. And she’ll need this belief if she makes it to the second week in Flushing Meadow where surely another rematch with the defending champ could be waiting – in the final, no less.
Oh what a strange and confusing year it has been for Jelena Jankovic. The Serb began this year as the top lady baller with the dream of a first major title within her grasp. However, according to JJ, a muscle-building off-season regiment slowed her down and the result was an early loss in Oz and a big dent in her confidence. Though she won on the clay in Marbella, the inconsistency continued until Cincinnati where she gutted out a lopsided, three-set win over Elena in the semifinals then showed her best stuff crushing top seed Dinara Safina in the final for her 11th career title. Can last year’s finalist take that next step and earn her maiden Grand Slam?
Perplexing. That’s the best word to describe Dinara Safina this year. In her last matches at each of the Grand Slams – finals in Oz + Paris, semis at Wimby – the Russian was betrayed by her nerves and routed each time. However, she managed to grab the keys to the WTA Penthouse and has been housed there since April. The word is out on D, though: pressure her early, rush her long, loopy swings and she’ll fall to pieces as evidenced by the collapse of her serve and her double fault gift bags. Her most recent losses are the most worrisome: in her Cincy loss to JJ she couldn’t find the tennis court and during her opening round loss to Aravane Rezai in Toronto she seemed like mental toast. I could see D going out early or repeating her semifinal appearance from last year. Like I said, PERPLEXING.
The only reason Venus Williams is considered a contender at all is because of her glittering resume showcasing 7 Grand Slam titles including 2 US Opens, and certainly not because of her most recent results including a strange, opening round loss to Kateryna Bondarenko at the Rogers Cup last week. Unlike sister ReRe, you can’t always rely on V to bring her best stuff to any of the majors besides her fave Wimby (think second round loss in Oz to Carla Suarez Navarro and third round loss to Agnes Szavay in Paris this year.) But if she brings an attacking mentality to the fast Flushing Meadow courts and a laser-like focus, she has the experience and skills to earn her first US Open title in 8 years.
ON THE RADAR:
MARIA SHARAPOVA – Okay, so she’s still serving doubles in large doses. But Maria Sharapova has been improving with each week and made the first final since her comeback from injury in Toronto losing to Elena. She’s a former champ (2006) who loves the bright lights, big city vibe of New York and matches Gotham in its intensity. But again, it’s all about Shrieka’s serve: if it holds steady she’s a threat, but if it remains wonky she may not see the second round never mind the second week.
VICTORIA AZARENKA – I’ve been waiting, like many others, for Victoria Azarenka to make her major breakthrough. Yet, for some reason, she’s at a quarterfinal standstill reaching this stage in Paris and at Wimby. Moreover, her results during the US Open Series signal some possible physical, or more likely mental, fatigue for the 20-year old. I’m not sure Vika will make that long-awaited breakthrough here especially with Kim Clijsters + Venus Williams lurking in her quarter of the draw but hard-courts are her fave so who knows?
KIM CLIJSTERS – All hail the welcomed return of ’05 champ Kimmie! It’s the Belgian’s first major since leaving the tour a couple of years back and fans couldn’t be more excited though the lady ballers may feel otherwise. I mean, talk about a dangerous floater! She’s had impressive wins in her comeback over the likes of Vika, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marion Bartoli, and Patty Schnyder so keep both eyes peeled for Kimmie.
(images via getty, ap)