Sunday, August 24, 2008

US Open Preview- Women's Draw

As is often the case for me, I am more interested in the women's draw, particuarly because of one player. My predictions, in order:

1. Dinara Safina. I am very much excited about her chances. She's had a pretty dominant run the past 6 months:

Won 2 Tier I Tournaments: Berlin (clay), Montreal (hard)
Won 1 Tier II Tournament: LA (hard)
Lost in a Slam Final: French (clay)
Won Olympic Silver Medal: China (hard)

She's ascended from the number 15 last year to number 7 now. She is only 535 points outside of first place, and 297 points outside of first in the points race for the year.

For all these reasons, I think Safina is currently the best player. I think she's the strongest woman on the tour (I would love to see a "World's Strongest Man" type event featuring Safina, Serena Williams, Lindsey Davenport, and Ana Ivanovic. I'd put my money on Safina). She has superpowerful strokes from both the forehand and the backhand, and she's the most intense player on the tour. I could also see the NY crowd getting into her intensity (I could see them tearing into to her).

So, even if everyone wasn't injured, I'd be picking Safina. But everyone is injured. This makes it an even easier call. I give Safina a 35% chance of winning, which is pretty high- it's higher than I picked for Djokovic in the men's draw, for example

If she does win, by the way, I put the odds of her brother showing up to watch her also at 35%. You can never predict anything with the Safin/Safina family.

2. Elena Dementieva. I've never loved her game, but she is admittedly doing well recently, and did beat Safina for the gold medal. The main strength to her candidancy is a solid all around game, an improving serve, and a depleted field.

3. Serena Williams. Just on talent alone. I think I was premature in thinking Ana Ivanovic had surpassed Serena as the most talented player on the tour- at least until Ivanovic gets over her injuries. When Serena plays on her A game, she's going to beat everybody. I have no idea if she brings her A game- she should in NYC, but she actually hasn't been much of a world beater at the US Open.

4. Ana Ivanovic. I can't be completely neutral on her- she's my favorite player, so I want her to win. I don't know what to make of her injuries. I assumed that her hip abductor strain going into Wimbledon was a fake or minor injury to give her more time to rest after winning the French. But she was lackluster at Wimbledon, and would have been eliminated earlier if not for a lucky let cord shot. And her thumb injury has been limiting her substantially, including pulling out of the Olympics. A thumb injury could be very limiting, especially how important her rotation and top spin is to her dominant groundstrokes.

If Ana is healthy, though- well, I still might put her #2. She had a mental edge coming out of the French, but Ana's been playing so poorly that I think she will have issues getting her mental game back. If she starts off with a few dominant straight set wins, then she goes right to the top of the list with Safina. Otherwise, we may have to wait a few more months to let her thumb and confidence heal.

5. Venus Williams. Just too talented and too erratic to ever predict accurately.

6. Jelena Jankovic. Again, injuries are the main issue here. Clearly talented enough to win. If she gets rolling, her engaging style of play and ebullient personality will make her a crowd favorite in NY- she's just too darn likable. I'll be rooting for her.

7. Alize Cornet- my "what the heck" pick. She's been playing well, and shown she can hold her own with the big name players. I wouldn't be shocked to see her make the semi-finals

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