The 2011 US Open women’s field is lacking — lacking star power, lacking 1st round match-ups, lacking drama, lacking drama queens — well, we’ll still have Serena.
Serena Williams, who blazed through two tournament titles this summer after a year-long injury absence, apparently thought she had enough preparation in the middle of the Cincy event. When the wedding of her friend Kim Kardashian to NBA player Kris Humphries was announced on short notice, Serena pulled out of Cincy citing…wait for it…a bad toe.
“If anything, this might be a blessing in disguise,” said Williams, though the Cincy tournament organizers probably weren’t thinking the same thing. “I might get some more rest and prepare for the rest of the year…If anything, it’ll make [my US Open chances] better maybe because I have more opportunity to rest up and get 200% healthy, which could be a dangerous thing.”
The evasive Serena literally never speaks the truth about injuries, but regardless, a well-rested Serena will be the US Open favorite.
The drama stops there. Defending champion Kim Clijsters will be absent due to injury. World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is no threat to the title after a lackluster summer, regardless of her result this week in New Haven. She’s dating a golfer? Yawn.
World No. 2 Vera Zvonareva is a world of ranking points behind Wozniacki, and no one is holding their breath for her to win a first Slam title without busting into tears and hysterics. Li Na and Petra Kvitova have been busts since winning the French Open and Wimbledon respectively. Then you have the parade of flash-in-the-pan No. 1s like Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic who don’t themselves believe they can make a run.
Martina Hingis can’t be convinced to come out of retirement, even to play mixed doubles with Roger Federer at the 2012 Olympics. What I wouldn’t give to see Jennifer Capriati take the court again amidst shoplifting and dating porn stars. Now that’s good drama.
Serena Williams is the No. 28 seed, rightfully so. Pundits argue she should be a co-No. 1 seed or a Top 10 seed just because she won a couple tournaments in her month back from injury? Get real. You sit out a year, you start from scratch. That’s how it works. If we started seeding players arbitrarily because they’ve hit a hot spot (oh wait, most of the other Slams do that already) then why have rankings at all? Props to the US Open committee to sticking to what works.
For Williams to win she will have to navigate a more early difficult road that usual. After opening against Serb Bojana Jovanovski, she is looking at No. 4 Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd round, then probably Ivanovic or Shahar Peer, then Francesca Schiavone or Jankovic in the quarters. Did I say difficult? Eh.
In the semis Serena could face Wozniacki, former champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, or Na. Or Li. Or Li Na, however you say it.
The bottom half of the draw is more interesting, containing Maria Sharapova, Serena’s likely foe in the final. The No. 3 seed Sharapova starts against Brit Heather Watson, with a road to the semifinals likely including Flavia Pennetta, Julia Goerges and either Kvitova or Aggie Radwanska (who opens against her sister Urszula).
The No. 2 Zvonareva is the clear favorite to meet Sharapova in the semis. Her path to the semis likely contains seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues, Sabine Lisicki, and Sam Stosur or Marion Bartoli.
All told, look for the Serena vs. Maria final. Serena has too much power on the hard courts for Maria, whose suspect movement is always put in the spotlight. Game, set, match Serena.
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