Doors open for new champs

August 29, 2010|By Diane Pucin Tribune newspapers

The defending U.S. Open men's champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, hasn't been playing most of this season because of a wrist injury.

Serena Williams, the top-ranked woman in the world and winner of two of this year's three major titles, is missing because of a cut on her foot suffered sometime after Wimbledon in a restaurant somewhere in Europe. And that means she won't be returning to the scene of her 2009 meltdown, the one where she threatened a lineswoman after a late foot fault call in her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters.

But the men's draw is still filled with the same favorites. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are at the top, Britain's Andy Murray and Serbia's Novak Djokovic are ranked just behind.

The top American is still Andy Roddick, whose physical condition is a question mark after a bout with mononucleosis.

Here's a look at the top contenders and dark horses for the Open championship:

Men

Rafael Nadal: Nadal is seeded No. 1 at the one major championship he has yet to win. In fact, Nadal has never made it to the final in New York, though the 24-year-old Spaniard has won eight Grand Slam titles. He played a less strenuous summer schedule with the hope of coming to the Open less tired and injured than in past years.

Roger Federer: The No. 2 seed enters motivated by the idea that, at age 29, there are whispers that his career has begun to wane after he had his streak of five consecutive Open titles stopped last year by Del Potro and after he lost in the quarterfinals at this year's French Open and Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic: The 23-year-old has made at least the semifinals in New York the last three years and knows how to win a major, having done so at the Australian Open in 2008. Djokovic suffers in hot, humid conditions, however, so the weather might play a factor.

Andy Murray: The fourth-seeded Brit, who still is looking for a first major title, has the all-court game suited to the Open surface and won the summer hard-court tournament in Toronto, beating both Nadal and Federer. He also reached the final in Los Angeles after being a last-minute replacement for Djokovic in the draw.

Tomas Berdych: Seeded seventh, Berdych should have gained confidence with his Wimbledon upset of Federer and his appearance in the final. He has the all-court game that can succeed here.

Dark horse: Maybe Roddick, who won his only major championship at the U.S. Open. He seems to be recovered from his illness.

Women

Caroline Wozniacki: The 20-year-old from Denmark, who lost to Kim Clijsters in last year's final, is the top-seeded player now that Williams is out. Wozniacki has won three titles this year though she hasn't reprised her Open performance at the majors with fourth-round upset losses at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Kim Clijsters: Seeded second, Clijsters is also still searching for the formula that led her to a dramatic title last year in her first major tournament back from a two-and-a-half-year retirement. Clijsters, 27, hasn't made it to a Grand Slam final this year.

Venus Williams: Seeded third, Williams, 30, is nine years removed from her last Open title. Williams hasn't played since Wimbledon because of a knee strain, but when she is serving well and moving well, she is dangerous on hard courts.

Maria Sharapova: Sharapova is seeded 14th, but she has major championships on her resume — including the 2006 U.S. Open — and a growing confidence in her serve after shoulder surgery that kept her out of the 2008 Open.

Jelena Jankovic: The Serbian is seeded fourth and still is looking for her first major championship. She had her best Grand Slam success at the U.S. Open, where she was a finalist in 2008.

Dark horse: Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova is seeded 11th but knows how to succeed in New York — she won the 2004 title — and has played well during the summer hard-court season, winning the title at LaCosta and reaching the semifinals in Montreal before losing to Wozniacki.

dpucin@tribune.com

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