Without Serena Williams in the draw, is a Kim Clijsters title defense the most likely scenario?
Just for the sake of looking silly in two weeks, my picks for the U.S. Open are posted below.
Wozniacki's quarter: Caroline Wozniacki claims that she feels no pressure being the No. 1 seed in the draw. If it's true, it's great news for Wozniacki, because she'll need to stay calm and keep doing what she has been doing this summer to make her seed hold. She won in Montreal, then flew down to New Haven, and won the title there. She'll enter the tournament with a nine match winning streak, hoping to finish it with sixteen.
Can she? Sure. But let's not forget that a hungry competitor will be dead set on shattering Wozniacki's New York dreams. Maria Sharapova, who has posted great results this summer, and appears ready for another run deep into a major may find herself with the task of solving Wozniacki in the fourth round.
Others in this quarter include Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Kirilenko, Aravane Rezai, and Li Na.
Jankovic's quarter: Jelena has been in a little funk of late, dealing with nagging injuries, and we haven't really seen her "A" game since the French Open. Vera Zvonareva, meanwhile, is fresh off a Wimbledon final (dubs too) and has had a decent summer on the hard courts (final in Montreal). Agnieszka Radwanska, Yanina Wickmayer, and resurgent Kaia Kanepi are also lurking in this quarter of the draw. A potential third round tilt between Kanepi and Jankovic should be great, as well as a potential fourth round match between Zvonareva and Radwanska.
Clijsters Quarter: Names like Samantha Stosur, Elena Dementieva, Marion Bartoli, Zheng Jie, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina, Alisa Kleybanova, and Petra Kvitova are all congregating in this exciting quarter of the draw. Based on her terrific form of late, and her splendid U.S. Open history, Kimmie has to be the favorite in this quarter of the draw, but as always, the reality of life on the tour is that of razor-thin margins of victory and a few huge points determining the outcome of a few huge matches.
Kim is an incredible pressure player, but she'll no doubt be tested by her hungry competitors, including the up-and-coming Petra Kvitova in round three, the pugnacious Marion Bartoli in round four, and Elena Dementieva or Samantha Stosur in the quarters.
Venus Williams Quarter: Venus hasn't played since 1973. No, I'm exaggerating a bit - she did play Wimbledon, but since then she's been healing her knee and promoting her book. The big question here is, what kind of form will she be in? Will she benefit from the long layoff, and play a refreshed brand of tennis, or will she have trouble shaking the rust, and get bounced in the early rounds?
Venus has a decent draw, but the questions are more about her and less about her competition at this point. In the meantime, Victoria Azarenka is looking to make her mark on the Grand Slam scene, along with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Shahar Peer, and Flavia Pennetta.
Without Serena in the draw, there is extra incentive for all of these players to dig a little deeper inside themselves to see what kind of magic they can find.
Semifinals: Sharapova over Zvonareva in 3, Pavlyuchenkova over Dementieva in 3.
Finals: Sharapova over Pavlyuchenkova in 2