2013 US Open: Women’s Singles preview

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Serena Williams wins another US Open crown. AFP PHOTO/ Martin Bernetti

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The 2013 US Open and final Grand Slam tournament is just around the corner and there are some big names to watch out for at Flushing Meadows.

Until Wimbledon last month, the dominant trio that is Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova had combined to win the last seven Grand Slam titles between them.

That was until their collective demise at the All England Club allowed for a new champion to be born, and that came in the form of Marion Bartoli, but with her sudden retirement last week, the chances of the trio dominating women’s tennis once again could increase.

Agnieszka Radwanska should not be counted out, though here she will aim to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2009 to have reached all four Grand Slam quarter-finals in the same season.

Here are the main contenders for the US Open title:

Serena Williams – Current world ranking: 1

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Quarter-finals
French Open: Won
Wimbledon: Fourth round

US Open history
Best result: Won (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012)
Last year: Won

Titles this year to date:
Brisbane, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome, French Open, Bastad, Toronto.

Serena Williams is the most obvious favourite for the title here, but as we have seen since the French Open, she hasn’t had exactly everything go her way.

At Wimbledon, where she was bidding for a sixth title, she was sent crashing out by Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round, and recently lost the Cincinnati final to Victoria Azarenka, albeit in a final set tiebreak in the championship match.

Her rivalry with Azarenka is one of the most exciting on the WTA Tour, even if Williams has won the majority of their matches, and only lost three times (including the aforementioned Cincinnati final).

Thus, the potential is there for the rivalry to be on show once again in New York, where last year one of the matches of the year was played out in dramatic fashion with Williams coming from behind to win her fourth US Open title.

Now, though, is where things start to get tough for Serena Williams. She will be defending maximum points for the remainder of the year, but is also scheduled to play in Beijing, which is her only other hope of adding new rankings points to her tally before the year is out.

But with eight titles for the year, the question will be whether Williams can be stopped.

Prediction: Champion

Victoria Azarenka – Current world ranking: 2

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Won
French Open: Semi-finals
Wimbledon: Second round

US Open history
Best result: Finalist (2012)
Last year: Finalist

Titles this year to date
Australian Open, Doha, Cincinnati

The biggest challenger to Serena Williams for the US Open title is none other than Victoria Azarenka, who has been forced to play second or third fiddle to the American for the majority of the year.

The Belarusian’s results this year have been very impressive, although her season has been interrupted many times through injuries, none more so than when she was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon due to a very nasty knee injury which was too sickening to watch all over again.

Among her titles this year include the successful defences of her Australian Open and Doha titles, as well as the recently won Cincinnati, which ended a half-year long title drought which also included the loss of her world number one ranking.

Additionally, she also reached the final of the Rome Masters and in Carlsbad, losing to Williams and Samantha Stosur respectively.

So it has been a productive season for Azarenka, but to win the US Open title for the first time she will have to replicate what she did against her in Doha and Cincinnati and also be spurred on by last year’s narrow failure.

If Azarenka can keep up her good form, then who knows what could happen….

Prediction: Finalist

Maria Sharapova – Current world ranking: 3

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Semi-finals
French Open: Final
Wimbledon: Second round

US Open history
Best result: Won (2006)
Last year: Semi-finals

Titles this year to date
Indian Wells, Stuttgart

One player who appears to have lost her momentum is 2006 champion Maria Sharapova.

The Russian has played just three matches since the conclusion of the clay court season, suffered a hip injury and split from Thomas Hogstedt, the man responsible for lifting her back into the world’s top ten.

A brief stint with Jimmy Connors did not work out well, with the pair ending their association after Sharapova’s second round loss to Sloane Stephens at Cincinnati recently.

These series of events have caused an interrupted US Open preparation for Sharapova, and it seems that all she wants to do now is get back on the court and enjoy herself.

This year has seen continued consistent results for the Russian; other than reaching the final of the French Open, where she was unsuccessful in defending her title, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and also won titles at Indian Wells and Stuttgart.

Reaching the semi-finals last year marked the first time since she won the championship in 2006 that Sharapova had gotten that far in New York. Prior to then, she had three third-round losses, a fourth-round loss in 2010 and missed the tournament in 2008 due to a serious shoulder injury.

Now without a full-time coach for the time being, it will be interesting to see how she navigates through the US Open tournament.

Prediction: Semi-finals

Agnieszka Radwanska – Current world ranking: 4

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Quarter-finals
French Open: Quarter-finals
Wimbledon: Semi-finals

US Open history
Best result: Fourth round (2007, 2008, 2012)
Last year: Fourth round

Titles this year to date
Auckland, Sydney

Another player who has been consistent with her results this year is Poland’s world number four, Agnieszka Radwanska.

After starting the season on fire, winning thirteen straight matches, twenty-six consecutive sets and two titles, the Pole has somewhat slowed down, not being able to win a title since and recently losing in the Stanford final to Dominika Cibulkova.

But it seems her best is still yet to come, as evidenced by recent semi-finals at Toronto and Wimbledon, where she lost a marathon match to Sabine Lisicki in which the final set lasted 16 games.

She now has the chance to become the only woman to have reached at least the quarter-finals at each of the four Grand Slams this year, but she will have to overcome a poor record at Flushing Meadows to do that.

In seven visits to New York, she has reached the fourth round three times, failing to go one better in each. She lost to Shahar Pe’er in 2007, Venus Williams in 2008 and Roberta Vinci last year.

It could also be a case of fourth time lucky, as seen at the French Open when she reached the quarter-finals at her fourth Round of 16 attempt. She may be praying that she draws Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round, as it’s the best chance the Pole will have of reaching her first quarter-final at Flushing Meadows.

Prediction: Semi-finals

Li Na – Current world ranking: 6

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Final
French Open: Second round
Wimbledon: Quarter-finals

US Open history
Best result: Quarter-finals (2009)
Last year: Third round

Titles this year to date
Shenzhen

One player who has seen her resurgence this year is 31-year-old Li Na, who, under the tutelage of Justine Henin’s former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, has seen her peak at No. 5 spontaneously during the year.

The Chinese responded to a disappointing 2012 by reaching the final of the Australian Open in January, where lapses in concentration and injuries conspired her to a three-set defeat to Victoria Azarenka in the summit match.

Her results this year have been nothing short of consistent; apart from reaching the final in Melbourne, she has also reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and Miami, the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati, reached the final in Stuttgart and also won the Shenzhen Open at the beginning of the year.

The Chinese’s recent US Open history hasn’t been that bright. Defending quarter-final points from 2009, she lost in the first round to fellow 2009 quarter-finalist Kateryna Bondarenko in 2010, then lost to Simona Halep the following year before becoming victim to Laura Robson’s rise in the third round last year.

She did, however, reach the quarter-finals in 2009, losing to comeback player, eventual champion and good friend Kim Clijsters in the final eight. That’s the best result she’s achieved in New York, and with her continuing good results this year, a similar result could be bound to happen.

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Petra Kvitova – Current world ranking: 9

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Second round
French Open: Third round
Wimbledon: Quarter-finals

US Open history
Best result: Fourth round (2009, 2012)
Last year: Fourth round

Titles this year to date
Dubai

One player who has really disappointed this year is former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Although she has a healthy win-loss record for the year, and having one title in her possession, the year overall has not seen some significant results, other than that of reaching the semi-finals in Katowice, a new clay court event introduced this year.

Her Grand Slam performances have dwindled in recent times, having fallen early in Australia and France, where she was defending semi-final points from both events. She also blew a good chance to win her second Wimbledon title after falling in the quarter-finals to unheralded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who also upended her in Miami in March.

Her US Open series results also haven’t been impressive. As the defending champion at the Rogers Cup, she crashed out in the quarter-finals to giant killer Sorana Cirstea, and also bombed out at Cincinnati to Caroline Wozniacki.

To make things worse, she is the defending champion in New Haven, currently being played this week, and has fourth round points to defend at Flushing Meadows, where she has never reached the semi-finals (let alone the quarter-finals).

Given her ranking, she should be given an easy path to the quarter-finals, where one of the top four would await. She is 1-1 against them collectively this year, the win coming against Radwanska in Dubai and the loss to Williams in Doha. However, she has not defeated a top ten opponent in Grand Slam play since winning Wimbledon in 2011, so that could be a disturbing record Kvitova wants to rid herself of.

A successful campaign in New York will keep alive her chances of qualifying for the WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul in October, but a lame showing could put those hopes in doubt.

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Samantha Stosur – Current world ranking: 11

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Second round
French Open: Third round
Wimbledon: Third round

US Open history
Best result: Won (2011)
Last year: Quarter-finals

Titles this year to date
Carlsbad

Whilst Petra Kvitova has disappointed, another player who could be turning a corner is Australia’s Samantha Stosur.

The Australian hasn’t been enjoying a good season by her standards, having dropped out of the Top 10 and suffering a calf injury at the back end of the early American hard court season.

However, following an improved showing at Wimbledon, where she lost in the third round to the eventual finalist, Sabine Lisicki, and a breakthrough victory against Victoria Azarenka in Carlsbad, there could be light at the end of the tunnel for the 29-year-old.

But with quarter-final points to defend in New York, it’s now or never for Stosur.

The US Open has seen a lot of Stosur’s recent successes at Grand Slam level, where she reached the quarter-finals in 2010, losing in three sets to defending and eventual champion Kim Clijsters, won the title in 2011 against Serena Williams, and lost a thrilling quarter-final against Azarenka last year.

Returning to the scene of her greatest triumph could inspire Stosur to a good run at Flushing Meadows, but if she underperforms there, then she could be closer to retirement than another Grand Slam title.

Question will be: how will she fare?

Prediction: Quarter-finals

There are many more names to watch out for, but I feel that the US Open will be won by one of the seven contenders that I have listed above.

Who do you think will win the US Open? Leave your comments below.

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