U.S. Open Preview: Sweet or Sour?
To be or not to be. That is the question.
Still, without the only two players who've managed to be dominating on-court figures over the past decade, leaving a field of talented-but-flawed survivors to contend for 2010's final grand slam singles crown in New York City, the collective women's half of the U.S. Open competition is faced with the task of determining whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.
In truth, there is nothing either overwhelmingly Good or Bad about the absence of Serena Williams and Justine Henin from this slam (or the unstable form of so many of the players best positioned to seize upon the opportunity presented by their nonattendance), but thinking it makes it so. As a result, that's the last time I'll longingly mention either of them while previewing this Open. This slam will be what it will be. It's up to the players who are HERE to make the most of their late summer trip to the big city.
Essentially, for the best of all concerned, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" are dead. They will be missed, but give thy thoughts no tongue. Instead, hold true to the notion that there are more things in heaven and earth, my friend, than are dreamt of in such a philosophy.
The 2010 Open is a many-splendored thing. A slam that can be all things to all people. A few women -- or at least one -- is just going to have to work a little harder to make it so. Many will use the belief that the WTA tour lost its mirth this summer as an excuse to pay less attention to the goings-on in New York. But, really, maybe MORE attention should be payed. For, at the end of two weeks time, we'll have learned a great deal about many of the tour's personalities -- the would-be stars, veterans running out of time for glory, and others steadfastly attempting to reclaim their former better-loved positions in the sport -- than we can currently accurately surmise about their individual abilities to rise above the sort of things that so often lead to the easy comments that serve to denigrate the perceived quality of the women's game. What better place for a final exam than in the crucible of the city that doesn't sleep?
*U.S. OPEN FINALS EXPERIENCE*
[active in 2010 Open]
2-1...Kim Clijsters, BEL
2-2...Venus Williams, USA
1-0...Maria Sharapova, RUS
1-1...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
0-1...Elena Dementieva, RUS
0-1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
0-1...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
The '10 Open has the chance to be one for the true fans, as they see players they've rooted for (or against) over the years, rise to the occasion and seize an opportunity to grab a slam crown under circumstances that aren't always going to exist. Usually, any number of "roadblocks" stand constructed to put an end to what is otherwise a career slam run destined to "come up short." Not this time. Francesca Schiavone triumped in a similar situation in Paris three months ago, and someone else who's always found an ultimate tennis prize just out of her grasp might just be able to get a get grip with two hands on one of her own at Flushing Meadows. Maybe one of the young stars will rise up, changing her career forever and giving birth a slew of new fans along the way. Or, quite possibly, a former champ will add another chapter to a Hall of Fame legacy.
Someone's career could very well be defined by what's about to happen in New York. "This above all: to thine own self be true" should be the motto of every one of the one hundred and twenty eight women involved in this mad dash. New stars, old favorites, and probably at least one unexpected "interloper" will be battling for history in early September. No one knows EXACTLY what's in store for this Open, and there's a certain thrilling freedom in that. It might not be what you want ALL the time, but on occasion it's a wonderful break from the "usual."
Expect nothing but the unexpected... and this Open might turn out to be something no one ever had any reason to worry about for even one moment.
(At least that's what the skull told me.)
Here's a quick overview of the draw, quarter-by-quarter:
(1)WOZNIACKI QUARTER: well, at the moment, there's not too much that seems rotten in the state of Denmark. One recent study designated the Danes as "the happiest people in the world," and it's very possible that they'll only strengthen their hold on the #1 spot two weeks from now. To sleep, perchance to dream -- ay, there's the rub. You see, in truth, this Open's top seed actually has the TOUGHEST quarter of the tournament's top four seeds. It's a good thing Caroline Wozniacki's game is looking so good right now, because she's going to need all her built-up confidence to get through (and hope she doesn't get tired after a 14-1 hard court summer run, or slowed down by the lower back tightness she experienced in the New Haven final, a condition that was likely brought on by so much action). If Maria Sharapova had her old "closing" toughness tucked away, and FULL good health (add a possible foot problem after Cincy to the mix), she'd probably be the favorite in this quarter. But the "Supernova" is still waiting in the wings, and it might be 2011 before she reappears in a slam in anything resembling complete form. The two blonde would-be poster children for this Open's first week could meet in the Round of 16, with the survivor getting Svetlana Kuznetsova, the potential dark horse champion of this event who already has one Open crown (2004) and a nice, healthy hard court summer to build on. This "Quarter of Death" trio would make up a good three-quarters of the semifinals, but only one can get there. If a mini battle of attrition turns out to mean that NONE of them reach the final four, it'd be truly shocking.
RANKS: 1.Wozniacki... 2.Kuznetsova... 3.Sharapova... 4.Li... 5.Chakvetadze
DANGEROUS: Groth & #30 Shvedova
(4)JANKOVIC QUARTER: to define true madness, what is't but to be nothing else but mad? How fitting is it that the oddest collection of potential semifinalists belongs to Queen Chaos herself? It's a shame that the '08 runner-up doesn't seem to be in position to take advantage of it. There are a slew of POSSIBLE worthy winners of this quarter, from Jankovic to Petrova to Zvonareva to '09 semifinalist Wickmayer. But none of them are a sure thing to bring their best game to each match at this tournament, what with their... umm, lets call them "volatile" tennis personalities... and it's difficult to see any of them winning a match in which that happens. Only Jankovic might be able to pick herself off the blue court and scratch out a win on truly bad day, but her body has really betrayed her over the course of what could have been a very rewarding summer for the former #1. Thus, if there's another unpredictable '10 slam semifinalist to be born at this Open, she'll probably come from this quarter. It would be great fun to see a Lucic or Lisicki (just because it'd be a stunning development for her to be able to play that many matches without a retirement/walkover) make that sort of run, but the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape. Yet another "out-of-the-darkness" semifinalist (after the likes of a wild card Clijsters at last year's Open, a wild card Henin & Zheng in Oz, below-the-casual-fan's-radar Schiavone in Paris, and Pironkova & Kvitova at SW19) would only set the tour up to be the butt of another punchline about its perceived "lack of quality," I'm afraid. Oh, well. A-Rad could turn out to be the "compromise" who slips through.
RANKS: 1.Zvonareva... 2.Petrova... 3.Jankovic... 4.A.Radwanska... 5.Wickmayer
DANGEROUS: Lisicki (in a perfect world) & #31 Kanepi
(3)V.WILLIAMS QUARTER: something has to finally give in this quarter. Either Venus will make her long-awaited, late-career assault on a hard court slam, Victoria Azarenka will make her starting-to-become-overdue deep slam penetration, or Flavia Pennetta will get the moment in the sun that has somehow eluded her through the years. Of course, Venus hasn't played a point since Wimbledon. She's either very well rested or in no way ready to string together five, six or seven straight wins. In truth, the draw sets up rather perfectly for Azarenka to morph into Star-enka at this Open. She might not even have to face the likes of Venus, who she could meet in the QF. But, of course, Azarenka's been CLOSE to rising above the crowd at a slam before only to have a Williams Sister smack her back down to earth. Pennetta is the real intriguing contender here, but she's played twenty-three matches this 3rd Quarter, with varying degrees of success. It was as if she was banking on pre-Open success to make up for her possible inability to match her '09 QF result. Now, though, she's likely too tired to put on a great run, and she even had to give C-Woz a walkover in the New Haven QF due to a foot injury. Venus hasn't reached the final of a hard court slam since 2003, but if she proves to be 100% healthy it'd be hard to bet against her getting close. At least.
RANKS: 1.Azarenka... 2.V.Williams... 3.Pennetta... 4.Pavlyuchenkova... 5.Peer
DANGEROUS: #6 Schiavone & Szavay
(2)CLIJSTERS QUARTER: let me be cruel, not unnatural; I will speak daggers to her, but use none. Even though she's the defending champ, it's easy to overlook Clijsters on some level in this event. Unlike last season, she's not the new/old story to excite the masses and elicit clever headlines. This time around, she's the defending champ (for the first time ever at a slam, it should be noted) and arrives with a great deal of pressure to succeed in a field full of recent slam underachievers. Thing is, KC hasn't really come close to her '09 Open form since last September. The closest she's come, though, HAS been on the fast North American hard courts that so suit her game. She actually hasn't lost a U.S. Open match in six years, and has a far better draw as the #2 seed than Wozniacki has as the #1. At worst, she'd seem to be a lock for the QF. But. She hasn't been at her best in the slams in '10, losing in embarrassing fashion in Melbourne and crumbling against Zvonareva (of all people) at Wimbledon after knocking off an injured Henin one round earlier. If she reaches the final, I think she'll defend (and she'd likely have a nice head of steam if she's in the SF, too). But something makes me think she's going to stumble. The injured hip she suffered in Montreal, which she SAYS is fine, provides a nice "out" for a bad result here. There to pick up any potential quarter pieces might be Elena Dementieva, in her 47th career slam (more than any other slam-less player in the field with a legit chance to win) without a slam title, and ready to break the WTA record for ending a streak of slam futility if she were to find a way to win this tournament. The '10 air is ripe for a similar run, as Schiavone won RG in her 39th career slam appearance. The Russian's New Haven SF run was the best (and most) tennis she's played in many months, and she might be peaking at just the right moment to contend. Her SF loss at the Pilot Pen to C-Woz was both good (it showed she's still got it) and potentially bad (she still knows how to lose a close one, too), but it was something to gain encouragement from. If Clijsters falters in NYC, that result in Connecticut could turn out to be a prelude to a career legacy-changing moment for Punch-Sober.
RANKS: 1.Clijsters... 2.Dementieva... 3.Bartoli... 4.Kleybanova... 5.Zheng
DANGEROUS: Safina & Vesnina
TOP PLAYER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
...the 17-year old opened qualifying by taking down Karolina Pliskova, then double-bageled #16 Anastasiya Yakimova before knocking out #23 Alexandra Panova to reach the main draw.
RISERS: Akgul Amanmuradova/UZB, Monica Niculescu/ROU & Olga Savchuk/UKR
SURPRISES: Maria Elena Camerin/ITA, Mandy Minella/LUX & Zuzana Kucova/SVK
VETERANS: Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP, Zuzana Ondraskova/CZE & Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP
COMEBACKS: Mirjana Lucic/CRO, Sania Mirza/IND & Tamira Paszek/AUT
FRESH FACES: Irina Falconi/USA, Rebecca Marino/CAN & Sally Peers/AUS
DOWN: Jelena Dokic/AUS (1q), Varvara Lepchenko/USA (2q) and Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (3q)
WILD CARDS: Beatrice Capra/USA (won USTA playoff), Sophie Ferguson/AUS, Chelsey Gullickson/USA, Jamie Hampton/USA, Christina McHale/USA, Virginie Razzano/FRA, Shelby Rogers/USA, Coco Vandeweghe/USA
LUCKY LOSERS: none so far
OLDEST QUALIFIERS: Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP (30), Zuzana Ondraskova/CZE (30), Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP (29)
YOUNGEST QUALIFIERS: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR (17), Tamira Paszek/AUT (19), Rebecca Marino/CAN (19), Sally Peers/AUS (19)
YOUNGEST WILD CARDS: Shelby Rogers/USA (17), Beatrice Capra/USA (18), Coco Vandeweghe/USA (18)
Q1: Robson d. #2 Dokic 6-1/6-4
...words, words, words. Still, she shouldn't even have been subjected to the qualifying game of hot potato.
Q2: Larcher de Brito d. #16 Yakimova 6-0/6-0
...sweets to the sweet? (Or maybe ear plugs?)
Q3: Marino d. Fichman 6-2/6-1
...Canadian vs. Canadien, but A-Woz was nowhere in sight.
*RECENT US OPEN "Q-PLAYER OF THE WEEK" WINNERS*
2006 Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
2007 Alina Jidkova, RUS
2008 Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
2009 Eva Hrdinova, CZE
2010 Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
*2010 MULTIPLE SLAM QUALIFIERS*
3...NURIA LLAGOSTERA-VIVES, ESP (R/W/U)
2...Kaia Kanepi, EST (R/W)
2...MIRJANA LUCIC, CRO (W/U)
2...Kurumi Nara, JPN (R/W)
2...MONICA NICULESCU, ROU (W/U)
2...Shenay Perry, USA (A/W)
=POTENTIAL FIRST SEEDS OUT?=
#14 Maria Sharapova vs. Jarmila Groth
...if it's under the lights, the big edge goes to Sharapova. If it's not, things could get really tight. The Russian has had really rotten luck when it comes to slam draws this year. Sharapova going out this early would really be something akin to murder most foul, you know?
#8 Li Na vs. Kateryna Bondarenko
...K-Bond probably isn't a threat to win the title, though. So Li won't likely have one of "those" weeks.
#18 Aravane Rezai vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
...Rezai's results have been all over the board this summer. The Opinionated Pastry beat Rybarikova in the 1st Round at Wimbledon, only to lose one match later.
#4 Jelena Jankovic vs. Simona Halep
...can she rise above her chaotic hard court summer?
#22 Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez vs. (WC) Jamie Hampton
...what has happened to MJMS's season?
#25 Alexandra Dulgheru vs. Julie Coin
...Coin saved her career with a 3rd Round joyride (and win over AnaIvo) in NY two years ago.
#32 Tsvetana Pironkova vs. Renata Voracova
...Break my heart -- for I must hold my tongue. Your '10 Wimbledon semifinalist, ladies and gentlemen.
#5 Samantha Stosur vs. Elena Vesnina
...The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Stosur says her tired arm is better, but that doesn't explain the Playing-Like-Crap Syndrome that has infected her game since the Paris final. Vesnina, if her head is right, is a VERY dangerous 1st Round opponent, especially for a player with no history of success at the Open.
#24 Daniela Hantuchova vs. Dinara Safina
...Safina just beat Hantuchova in New Haven.
=LAST QUALIFIER STANDING?=
1. Olga Savchuk, UKR... she gets the slip-sliding Oudin in the 1st Round
2. Mirjana Lucic, CRO... for the former slam semifinalist (1999), a wobbly JJ could open a door wide
3. Akgul Amanmuradova, UZB... qualifier gets usual qualifier (but not this time) -- Scheepers -- first
4. Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR... she cut a wide swath through qualies, faces Mirza (Q) in 1st Rd.
5. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP... if Benesova falters in 1st, NLV will hope Sharapova isn't there in 2nd
[LAST WILD CARD?]
1. Christina McHale, USA... fellow Bannerette Vania will have a say in the 1st Round, though
2. Jamie Hampton, USA... catching MJMS at the right time?
3. Coco Vandeweghe, USA... showed ability this summer to get big wins (vs. Lisicki in 1st, then Vera Z.)
4. Virginie Razzano, FRA... the most experienced of the W.C.'s (since Dokic got screwed over)
5. Sophie Ferguson, AUS... speaking of the anyone-but-Jelena Aussie WC pick, she gets Camerin in 1st
1. Venus Williams, USA... hard to pick anyone but her, though her form is a total mystery
2. ?????... honestly, it's hard to see any other American as being solidly in the 3rd Rd. (maybe the McHale/King winner has a slight chance?) Alas, poor Melanie. I knew her, Horatio.
=A DOZEN INTRIGUING EARLY MATCHES=
1st Rd. - #1 Wozniacki vs. (WC) Ch.Gullickson
...the #1-seed vs. the NCAA champion. This has all the hallmarks of a tasty (and maybe more competitive, for at least a set, than some might be expecting) night session appetizer. If she loses here, Chelsey still her has doubles slam debut (with sister Carly, an Open Mixed Doubles champion a year ago) to look forward to.
1st Rd. - #11 Kuznetsova vs. Date-Krumm
...the nearly-40 year old isn't one to overlook.
1st Rd. - #29 A.Bondarenko vs. Dushevina
...an early-round loss would give newlywed A-Bond more time to see the town with Mr.Bondarenko.
1st Rd. - (WC) Vandeweghe vs. Lisicki
...frailty, thy name is Sabine? It'll be nice to just see Lisicki make it out of the 1st Round (win or lose) without injuring herself.
2nd Rd. - 13 Bartoli vs. (WC) Razzano
...as much ill will as an accidental meeting on the grounds between Virginie and that trainer who gave her that lawsuit-worthy massage?
3rd Rd. - #14 Sharapova vs. #18 Rezai
...it'd be fun, but why do I worry about EITHER of these making this date?
3rd Rd. - #3 V.Williams vs. #32 Pironkova
...it couldn't happen again, right?
3rd Rd. - #10 Azarenka vs. #20 Pavlyuchenkova
...a future grand slam final match-up? In my mind's eye, Horatio.
3rd Rd. - #12 Dementieva vs. Safina
...who'd have thought eighteen months ago that they could meet THIS early?
4th Rd. - #1 Wozniacki vs. #14 Sharapova
...CBS and ESPN2 are clasping hands and chanting "ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm" while hoping for the match to become reality, but also holding knives ready to stab the other in the back for the right to broadcast it.
4th Rd. - #4 Jankovic vs. #15 Wickmayer
...Pam Shriver will be courtside, and Wickmayer will search her out and say, "I'm amazed you played tennis because I can still hear you."
4th Rd. - #3 V.Williams vs. #19 Pennetta
...for the right for one final golden opportunity to seize a grand slam moment? On hard court, for Venus. To get on par with Francesca, for Flavia.
...#1-seeded Wozniacki is the first woman to hold the top spot at the Open without having previously won a slam singles crown since Clijsters was in the same position at Flushing Meadows in 2003.
Also, C-Woz is the sixth different woman to hold the #1 seed at the Open in the last six years. Of course, there's little, if any, difference at the other three slams. Both Roland Garros and Wimbledon have had six different top-seeded women over the same span, while the Australian Open's streak is currently at five years.
...Li Na will attempt (or maybe try to avoid doing so) to extend her non-calendar "unGrand Slam" and turn it into a "True unGrand Slam" at this Open. She's now lost at four straight slams to the eventual singles champion: '09 US/Clijsters, '10 AO/S.Williams, '10 RG/Schiavone, and '10 WI/S.Williams.. Of note, she's in the "Quarter of Death" with Wozniacki, Sharapova and Kuznetsova this time around in NYC.
...Serena Williams isn't playing at this slam (no, this doesn't count as a "longing" reference), but as it begins she'll rank in the #1 spot on the WTA computer for the 117th week of her career. It ties her with also-absent-from-the-Open Henin (ditto), who has also held the top spot for 117 weeks in her career. Mid-way through the tournament, Williams will complete week #118. If Wozniacki wins the title, the Dane would knock Serena out of the top spot once the tournament ends.
...I'll be debuting three new Backspin slam awards for this Open. First, the woman who puts on the most (melo?)dramatic, headline-grabbing, mostly tennis-related (but not necessarily so) show will be determined to be "Broadway Bound." Just call it my version of a "Tennis Tony." And, no, this award isn't necessarily destined to go to you-know-who.... though she's the early favorite, of course. Second, I'll single out the "Best Night Match" for the women. Also, the woman who is deemed to be the most worthy starlet of the tournament's nighttime schedule on Ashe will be bestowed with the first "Lady of the Evening" award. Yes, I know that phrase usually connotates a line of work other than "tennis player," and I almost went with "Creature of the Night" instead for that very reason, but I decided to go with the original thought largely because of the wink-wink, double-meaning nature of the title. The "BB" honor will be specific to the U.S. Open, but I'll be giving the "LOTE" award for the Australian Open's after-hours star at Laver Arena come January, as well.
...I got a good laugh out of an article in Sunday's Washington Post detailing the hand-wringing within the sport about the post-Sisters years. Len DeLuca, ESPN's senior vice president of programming calls it a "challenge" to get fans interested in "players not named Williams." Jamie Reynolds, ESPN's vice president of event production, is quoted as saying that blending biographical details about lesser known players with lively, opinionated commentary is the key. "We dig deep to try to make those 'roster players' as interesting or provacative or entertaining as possible," Reynolds says, "and try to steer our audience into having a great appreciation for those up-and-coming players."
Hahahahahahahaha. Seriously, what a pile of stinking horse manure that comment is. Since when has ESPN EVER done that? Half their announcing team constantly laments having "never heard of" every third player in the draw (even the ones who might have won a tournament within the week), or denigrate the presence of players who make surprise slam runs (WICK-mayer, anyone?). And when that's not happening, the networks serves up a steady diet of coverage that focuses on about five players or whatever no-chance-in-hell-to-win-a-match American who happens to be playing at the moment. If that fails, they'll usually show a replay of a match they already showed earlier in the day rather than focus on an "up-and-coming" player making a career run in a slam (remember the non-covered and barely-mentioned Kvitova-Kanepi thriller at Wimbledon that produced a first-time slam semifinalist?).
John McEnroe can be questioned on many things he says (and usually is, which I think he probably enjoys), but he's correct when he says this in the article: "We have to reach out to fans, make people aware of these players as human beings so there is a rooting interest. People have to feel something that they can relate to on some level. That's something we've lost over time."
Very true. Of course, ESPN could also just choose to show those players umm, what do you call it? Oh, yeah. Playing tennis. Over-produced Olympic coverage-styled bio pieces are nice, but nothing beats showing the actual athlete in athletic competition in order to attempt to spark "brand loyalty." Far too often ESPN fails to even follow through with such rudimentary televised sports actions as that.
You have to learn to walk before you can show how fast you can run, after all.
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Wozniacki d. #14 Sharapova
#11 Kuznetsova d. Chakvetadze
#4 Jankovic d. #15 Wickmayer
#7 Zvonareva d. #17 Petrova
#10 Azarenka d. #6 Schiavone
#19 Pennetta d. #3 V.Williams
#12 Dementieva d. Rodionova
#2 Clijsters d. #13 Bartoli
..."The Big (Apple) Bang" takes place, and I'll go with Wozniacki due in part to Sharapova's potential foot problem possibly limiting her movement (which isn't exactly the tour's best anyway) against a player who likes long rallies and opponent-running crosscourt groundstrokes. The Jankovic/Zvonareva/Wickmayer/Petrova section is really anyone's to take. I'll go with the higher-seeded players. Pennetta has a knack for beating Venus.
#1 Wozniacki d. #11 Kuznetsova
#7 Zvonareva d. #4 Jankovic
#10 Azarenka d. #19 Pennetta
#12 Dementieva d. #2 Clijsters
...the Wozniacki/Kuznetsova winner becomes the odds-on favorite. JJ's in a section she could win, but she's given no reason this summer to think she could (even picking her this far is probably a Hail Mary). Clijsters' slam results have been wanting in '10, so I'll take the first legit opportunity to dump her out of this draw just because I don't want to have to deal with her in the SF (where I'd probably have a hard time doing anything but predicting a successful defense if she'd reached that stage). Hey, I must be cruel, only to be kind.
#1 Wozniacki d. #7 Zvonareva
#12 Dementieva d. #10 Azarenka
...That it should come to this! The past week was really an Open preview. Who knew? Wozniacki defeated Zvonareva in the Montreal final on Monday, then Dementieva in the New Haven semis on Friday.
#1 Wozniacki d. #12 Dementieva
...good night, sweet Prince(ss). Come on, you didn't think I was going to use all those "Hamlet" quotes and NOT pick the Dane (the tennis-playing one, I mean) to win, did you? O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I.
C-Woz really hasn't yet gotten her game into what is its potential peak form at this stage in her career, but it might be good enough in this slam to grab a preview-of-the-future title. If she did it, she wouldn't be yet another woman stuck with having to defend rising to the #1 ranking without winning a slam, either.
Hmmm, I guess I SHOULD note here that "Hamlet" IS a tragedy, huh? Well, let's just say we forget about that little fact and run with the rest, all right?
...Rafael Nadal comes to New York with a chance to become the first man to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969, but his form on the hard courts this summer didn't really spark a rhapsody of words. Roger Federer, though, has rounded into form rather nicely (though I wonder if he'd be able to go all the way if he's forced to endure multiple five-setters along the way).
The Federer/Nadal combo has gotten back on the horse, winning three straight slams since Juan Martin del Potro (has the absence of a defending slam champ ever occurred with less notice?) dethroned Federer in NYC a year ago. Twenty of the last twenty-two slams going back to Roland Garros '05 (and twenty-two of twenty-five back to Wimbledon '04) have been won by either the Spaniard or the Swiss, including eleven straight from 2005-07.
They might not win this one, but since I don't buy into the notion that Andy Murray is "destined" to one day win a slam, the odds are that one of them will.
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Nadal d. #23 Lopez
#31 Nalbandian d. #24 Gulbis
#4 Murray d. #20 Querrey
#7 Berdych d. #12 Youzhny
#9 Roddick d. #26 Bellucci
#3 Djokovic d. #19 Fish
#5 Soderling d. #11 Cilic
#2 Federer d. #13 Melzer
...if everything is sound, Federer's draw to the QF looks like a fairly routine trip (even with Hewitt in the 3rd Round). I wouldn't be shocked if Roddick was an early upset victim. Nadal's draw gets especially hairy after this round.
#31 Nalbandian d. #1 Nadal
#4 Murray d. #7 Berdych
#3 Djokovic d. #9 Roddick
#2 Federer d. #5 Soderling
...down goes Rafa. Unless he's been playing opossum, Nadal's resounding ending to a slam season of dominance looks it'll be nothing more than a quintessence of dust.
#4 Murray d. #31 Nalbandian
#2 Federer d. #3 Djokovic
...and we end the slam season the same way it began..
#2 Federer d. #4 Murray
...but the Scot won't shed a tear this time. Even if might want to.
So, the Swiss Mister has an "off" year and he still wins two slams. How Federeresque would that be?
*U.S. OPEN TOP SEEDS*
2000 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Martina Hingis, SUI
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2005 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2000 Andre Agassi, USA
2001 Gustavo Kuerten, BRA
2002 Lleyton Hewitt, AUS
2003 Andre Agassi, USA
2004 Roger Federer, SUI
2005 Roger Federer, SUI
2006 Roger Federer, SUI
2007 Roger Federer, SUI
2008 Rafael Nadal, ESP
2009 Roger Federer, SUI
2010 Rafael Nadal, ESP
*U.S. OPEN TITLES - OPEN ERA*
6...Chris Evert, USA
5...Steffi Graf, GER
4...Martina Navratilova, USA
3...Margaret Smith-Court, AUS
3...Billie Jean King, USA
3...Serena Williams, USA
2...Tracy Austin, USA
2...Kim Clijsters, BEL
2...Justine Henin, BEL
2...Monica Seles, YUG
2...Venus Williams, USA
5...Jimmy Connors, USA
5...Roger Federer, SUI
5...Pete Sampras, USA
4...John McEnroe, USA
3...Ivan Lendl, CZE
2...Andre Agassi, USA
2...Stefan Edberg, SWE
2...Patrick Rafter, AUS
*MOST U.S. OPEN NIGHT SESSION WINS*
16...Martina Navratilova (undefeated)
14...Chris Evert (undefeated)
ALSO: 12-M.Sharapova (undefeated)
20...Pete Sampras (undefeated)
ALSO: 13-R.Federer (undefeated)
*RECENT U.S. OPEN SEMIFINALISTS*
2004: Svetlana Kuznetsova (W), Elena Dementieva (RU), Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport
2005: Kim Clijsters (W), Mary Pierce (RU), Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova
2006: Maria Sharapova (W), Justine Henin-Hardenne (RU), Jelena Jankovic, Amelie Mauresmo
2007: Justine Henin (W), Svetlana Kuznetsova (RU), Anna Chakvetadze, Venus Williams
2008: Serena Williams (W), Jelena Jankovic (RU), Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina
2009: Kim Clijsters (W), Caroline Wozniacki (RU), Yanina Wickmayer, Serena Williams
**LOW-SEEDED U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONS - OPEN ERA**
unseeded/wild card - Kim Clijsters, BEL (2010)
#9 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (2004)
#7 - Serena Williams, USA (1999)
#6 - Virginia Wade, GBR (1968)
*RECENT U.S. OPEN GIRLS FINALS*
2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR def. Alexa Glatch/USA
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2007 Kristina Kucova/SVK def. Urszula Radwanska/POL
2008 Coco Vandeweghe/USA def. Gabriela Paz/VEN
2009 Heather Watson/GBR def. Yana Buchina/RUS
All for now. Day 1 awaits.
(Oh, and thanks to "Willie S." for all his quotes, of course.)