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2013 US Open: Women's Singles Preview
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2013 US Open: Women's Singles Preview Draw
| PDF Projected quarter finals:
Serena Williams  vs. Angelique Kerber  Agnieszka Radwanska  vs. Li Na  Caroline Wozniacki  vs. Sara Errani  Petra Kvitova  vs. Victoria Azarenka  Projected semi finals:
Serena Williams  vs. Agnieska Radwanska  Sara Errani  vs. Victoria Azarenka  Projected final:
Serena Williams  vs. Victoria Azarenka  Stand-out first round clashes:
Madison Keys vs. Jelena Jankovic  Kirsten Flipkens  vs. Venus Williams Heather Watson vs. Simona Halep 
The favourites: The World No. 1 Serena Williams, and the No. 2 Victoria Azarenka are the only realistic contenders for the title, especially in light of Maria Sharapova's withdrawal with a shoulder injury. This is the best rivalry in the game, and if they were to meet in the final, it would be a rematch of last year's title decider, which Williams won after Azarenka failed to serve out the match in the third set.
Serena Williams 
The French Open champion has been the dominant force on the WTA Tour this year, winning 8 titles (including her first Roland Garros victory since 2002), and has held the No. 1 ranking since February – the oldest woman to do so. Despite her impressive 60-4 record, she has had a patchy year at the majors – losing in the QF of the Australian Open to Sloane Stephens, and falling to Sabine Lisicki in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. There has been some speculation that Serena suffers from putting too much pressure on herself at the slams due to her dominance on the tour and the high standards she holds herself to. The youngest Williams sister has also had a patchy history at her home slam, with controversies such as her 2009 semi final default and 2011 final meltdown. An off-day could be exploited in the later rounds, especially given the pressure Serena will be under. Her win last year over Azarenka went some way to repairing her reputation at Flushing Meadows, and barring disaster, only a fool would bet against her to make the final again.
Serena's draw looks kind, with her projected quarter final opponent Angelique Kerber being out of sorts. The real popcorn clash is a potential fourth round against Sloane Stephens. Stephens unceremoniously dumped her disrespectful elder out of the Australian Open in a quarter final upset, and Serena is not one to take these matters lightly. Serena's insatiable desire for revenge combined with a smorgasbord of off-court drama means that this is arguably the most mouth-watering prospect the women's draw has to offer before finals day.
Victoria Azarenka 
The Belorussian has had an odd year – she has lost only once on hard courts (to Sam Stosur in the final of Carlsbad), and won the Australian Open at the start of year, as well as crucially notching two wins over Serena Williams in the Doha and Cincinnati finals – but an ankle injury sustained at Indian Wells, and a knee injury at Wimbledon means she has had a stop-start season otherwise.
The first real test Azarenka will likely face is Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round, but Ivanovic’s loss of power (probably due to her lack of muscle mass...) and confidence should prove no match for Vika. Another potential fourth round opponent is Dominika Cibulkova, who won Stanford at the start of this summer, and upset Azarenka in the 2012 French Open. Kvitova will in all likelihood be her most serious challenger before the final – if the Czech is able to hold her seeding – who Azarenka has not beaten in her last four attempts. If there were to be issues with Vika’s game, it will be her serve, in particular her second serve.
The recent 3 set victory over Serena Williams in Cincinnati means she will enter the US Open on a high, and her consistency on hard courts makes her a more than solid bet to emerge from her half.
Other contenders: Agniezska Radwanska 
The third-seeded Pole was upset in the fourth round last year, and will be looking improve on that in 2013. She withdrew from Cincinnati without losing a match to attend the funeral of her grandfather in Poland, but looked in fine form, and should be able to defend her points from last year with little trouble, though a question mark remains over her mental state.
Obstacles include Ekaterina Makarova in the third round, and Sabine Lisicki in the round of 16 – who prevented her from reaching her second Wimbledon final back in July. A player like Lisicki can over-power Radwanska, but if Sabine is not hitting her spots, Radwanska will take advantage with ease.
Beyond this, Radwanska's variety and superb defensive skills can cause problems for any player, although she has caused her former friend Victoria Azarenka little trouble in recent times, her clever game can pose a threat to both Azarenka and Serena Williams if she catches them on an off day.
Li Na 
The Chinese tennis rebel, Li Na, made the Australian Open final at the start of the year, losing in 3 sets to Victoria Azarenka. She has had a characteristically patchy year since then, but the mercurial Li can never be counted out at a slam (apart from maybe Wimbledon). She has been drawn into Serena Williams’ half, and is projected to face Radwanska in the quarter finals, which would be a rematch of their Wimbledon quarter final, from which the Pole emerged victorious.
Potential trouble along the way includes her vanquisher of last year, Laura Robson, in an expected third round clash, and in the form of a resurgent Jelena Jankovic, the ninth seed.
Outside bets for the title: Jelena Jankovic : The former World No. 1 has played herself back to the edge of the top 10 and has had a series of deep runs in big tournaments, especially during the clay season. She has never won a major, but it was at the US Open that she made her only grand slam final, in 2008.
Sam Stosur : the 2011 champion has just parted ways with her long-term coach, David Taylor, but also won only her fourth ever title recently, defeating Victoria Azarenka in the Carlsbad final. It was Azarenka who knocked the then defending champion out last year. Former champions can never be counted out, so Stosur remains an outside bet despite her inconsistency.
Simona Halep : In an incredible run of form, the Romanian Halep won Nuremberg, 's-Hertogenbosch and Budapest in quick succession in late spring, and catapulted herself into the top 30. She routed Petra Kvitova in the final of New Haven, 6-2, 6-2, winning her fourth title this year.
Svetlana Kuznetsova : The 2004 champion can beat anyone on her day, and nearly knocked the eventual champion Serena Williams out of the French Open in the quarter finals. If she meets Sara Errani in the fourth round, expect an upset. The two-time major winner is a perennial dark horse at majors – she has the game, the experience, and she’s done it before.
The rest of the top 10 (seeds): Sara Errani : The Italian made the semi finals last year, but it is in poor form, going out of the New Haven Open in her first match to Ekaterina Makarova. Expect an early upset.
Caroline Wozniacki : A final in Indian Wells is the highlight of another inconsistent year for the former World No. 1 and 2010 finalist, but she played World No. 2 Victoria Azarenka close in Cincinnati, and her projected quarter final against Errani would be sure to delight tennis purists and television viewers alike.
Petra Kvitova : The frustrating 2011 Wimbledon champion has one of the best games in women's tennis, but her fitness issues, confidence issues, mentality issues and asthma (which acts up in North America) cast aspersions over her chances to make the second week - she has played herself into some form at New Haven, though was comprehensively beaten in the final. If she does make the quarter finals, she will likely meet Azarenka, who she boasts a 4-2 record against, and has not lost to since 2009. However, Kvitova's victory in the 2011 YEC final is their last meeting.
Anglique Kerber : It was at the US Open in 2011 where Kerber made her breakthrough, but her questionable form in recent months leaves her in danger, especially with Eugenie Bouchard possibly waiting in the second round.
Roberta Vinci : The veteran Italian with the all-court game made the quarters last year, but could face the 22nd seed Elena Vesnina in the 3rd round, who is having a career year, winning two titles. Vinci and her doubles partner Errani are favourites to defend their doubles title.
Players to watch: Sloane Stephens : Though Stephens' reputation suffers from being overhyped, no one can deny she brings her best to the majors, and has made a semi final, fourth round and quarter final in the three slams so far this year. The young American has beaten both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in 2013, but worryingly, they are her only top 20 wins, and both came when her opponent was playing through injury. Nonetheless, Stephens deserves credit for closing these wins out.
Sabine Lisicki : The Wimbledon finalist is a fan favourite for her big heart and even bigger
teeth smile. Hard courts are not her best surface, but you would expect Boom Boom Bine to make a good run. Her form has been so-so since Wimbledon, but she looks likely to meet Makarova in the third round.
Dominika Cibulkova : The Slovakian defeated the World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska in impressive fashion in the Stanford final, but has yet to build on that this summer. Her record at the majors in recent times is not spectacular, but she is always dangerous.
Jamie Hampton : The 24 year old American, who is in the midst of a career year, adds intrigue to an otherwise fairly straightforward top quarter. Her chronic back injury is always a worry, and could hamper her chances.
Ekaterina Makarova : The Russian has been in fine form this year, and reached the quarter final of the Australian Open for the second time in January. She knocked the top seed Sara Errani out of the New Haven Open, and could pose problems for Radwanska in the fourth round.
Laura Robson : The British No. 1 exploded onto the scene with the run to the fourth round last year, defeating Kim Clijsters and Li Na, before falling to Sam Stosur. She has added to her collection of WTA scalps this year by conquering Kvitova, Radwanska, Venus Williams and Maria Kirilenko. A wrist injury forced her to miss most of the USO Series, and she could potentially face Li Na in the third round again. The 19 year old is the first British woman to be seeded at a major since Jo Durie (1987 Australian Open).
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova : 'Pavs' had a great start to the year under the tutelage of Martina Hingis, but the former World No. 1's doubles comeback and the Russian's reported unwillingness to dispense with the advice of her father ended their partnership, and she has looked out of sorts since. Things look on the upturn, losing a tight quarter final to Petra Kvitova at New Haven, and fellow Russian Sharapova's withdrawal means Anastasia has just squeaked in as the No. 32 seed. She could meet the 3rd seed, Radwanska, in the round of 32.
Unseeded and looming:
Eugenie Bouchard: The 19 year old Canadian, who upset Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon, has a very tidy draw, and if she makes it past Kerber in the second round, could make the fourth round.
Andrea Petkovic: Fan and media favourite Petkovic has been plagued by injuries over the past 18 months, after finishing 2011 in the top 10. Her return to the tour has been difficult, but she is making progress, and she could face Petra Kvitova in the second round.
Donna Vekic: The Croatian 17 year old trains and lives in England. She opens against Duque-Marino in a very winnable match, and last year at the age of 16 was the youngest player to make a final in 6 years, at the Tashkent Open. Her highlight of 2013 is her second WTA final at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham.
Key storylines: Venus Williams' decline?
Sadly, that she is declining is no longer in doubt, and it has led to some difficult questions for Venus to face. It was at the US Open in 2011 that the 7-time grand slam champion discovered she was suffering with Sjogern's Syndrome, a debilitating auto-immune disease, and she has struggled since then. You can never write a champion off, but the 33 year old, who holds an 11-7 record this year, faces more and more questions about the prospect of retirement.
However, aside from a tricky first round clash against the Belgian 12th seed, Kirsten Flipkens, Venus has a fairly comfortable draw. Younger sister Serena would likely lie in wait in the quarter finals.
The women are generally agreed to be in better nick than the American men, but at their home slam, all Americans will inevitably come under intense scrutiny. Serena Williams has been leading the way, backed up by a very able supporting cast of Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton and Madison Keys. Hampton and Stephens could potentially face each other in the third round, and the winner will likely face Serena Williams for a place in the quarter finals. Keys has a tough first round draw in ninth seed Jelena Jankovic, especially as she has missed her last two tournaments with a shoulder injury Of them all, the 18 year old with the huge serve and forehand is perhaps the one who has the most to offer in the future. Other Americans to watch include Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, as well as junior Grand Slam champion Taylor Townsend.
There are 19 American women in the main draw.
The future of the WTA:
Again, this is one area where the WTA can boast of a slight advantage over their male counterparts, with young stars such as Stephens, Laura Robson, Eugenie Bouchard, Donna Vekic, Monica Puig and Madison Keys already making an impact. Of this group, it is Stephens who leads the way, but Bouchard could make a deep run if she is able to topple Kerber in the second round, and her friend Laura Robson always brings her best to the majors. Puig has been quietly having an excellent year, and the 19 year old Puerto Rican upset Nadia Petrova at the French Open, and Sara Errani at Wimbledon.
Final prediction Order will be restored as Serena Williams gains her revenge over Azarenka in a tight 3 set win.
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