Monday marks the halfway point of the 2011 US Open. It will have been seven days since the gates of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center opened to the world and it will be another seven (weather permitting) until they close. The Open is a ruthlessly efficient affair, as I write this, 116 women and 112 men have been dismissed. Some, like Conor Niland and Heather Watson are stories for merely having been here. Others like Maria Sharapova and Juan Martin del Potro were serious title contenders whose quests for further grand slam glory were seemingly deferred, though perhaps ultimately denied, by the hands of fate and inspired opponents.
There will be time for reflection when the tournament's over, but now our gaze turns to those who remain, the 16 men and 12 women still competing for a US Open singles crown. We'll pretend we've been right until now and help you fill out the remainder of your 2011 US Open Women's Bracket.
Are you ready for this? I'm predicting redemption for the WTA this week. The tennis cognoscenti has kept asking: "Where are your stars, where are your contenders" and suddenly, it looks like many of the best of them are on a collision course in New York.
ROUND OF 16 (remaining matches)
(1) Wozniacki d. (15) Kuznetsova
(10) Petkovic d. Suarez Navarro
|Carla Suarez Navarro|
(28) S. Williams v. (16) Ivanovic
(17) Pavlyuchenkova v. (7) Schiavone
QUARTERFINALS (including projected matchups)
(1) Wozniacki v. (10) Petkovic
(28) S. Williams v. (17) Pavlyuchenkova
Kerber v. (26) Pennetta
(2) Zvonareva v. (9) Stosur
(1) Wozniacki v. (28) S. Williams
"This is what they paid for, this is what they want," the words of Jimmy Connors have echoed loud across this US Open and are rather apropos here. Suddenly, that US Open women's semifinal session that I've seen a few discounted tickets for becomes home to one of the most anticipated women's match in recent memory. No. 1 vs. "No. 1," in whichever order you see it, this matchup is the de facto final, even though the winner will have some work to do on Saturday night. Williams has been on fire swatting away most of the competition this summer, but she hasn't yet come face to face with the woman who has been No. 1 since last October. Hey naysayers, you hear that? Since last October! Wozniacki has won six titles this year to Williams' two playing that frequently derided consistent, counterpunching style of ball. That said, in the two biggest hardcourt events of the summer: Toronto and Cincinnati, Wozniacki lost in the 1st round. We know she can play on DecoTurf II, she was a finalist in 2009, but this is a different ball game. Strangely enough, I expect a very nervy match from Williams. We saw versus Victoria Azareka that Williams isn't quite at her best level in terms of match toughness. She sprinted to an effortless early lead and then almost let Azarenka push her to a winner-take-all 3rd set. The stakes are high for Williams, this is ultimately how her comeback will be judged, by this US Open where she is so widely favored to win her 14th major. For Wozniacki, the pressure's off, dad Piotr has been fired as her coach, her lease on the rankings penthouse is secure for at least a few more weeks and no one, NO ONE outside of Denmark and her camp expects her to win this match. Serena's playing with a newfound urgency, rejuvenated after a life-threatening health situation, the younger Williams is working to secure her legacy as she ages her way toward the finish line. Wozniacki is just sunnily rolling along. No one expects her to win and that's just the way she likes it. When I say that no one expects Wozniacki to win, I'm including myself.
(9) Stosur v. (26) Pennetta
What I doubt you know is that Stosur and Pennetta have played four times since 2009, all on hardcourts and that Flavia Pennetta has won every single time, only dropping a set once in a tight Fed Cup encounter earlier this year. Essentially, making this the upset that's not an upset at all if Pennetta wins. The big difference is that none of those matches have been in a major. It's new territory for Pennetta, but it's territory that has tripped up Stosur in the past. I'm ignoring the history here, I think Sam Stosur pulls off the win in another tense, nervy semifinal.
Still picking Serena. We can re-look at the landscape as much as we might want. But if we're looking at women's tennis, and Steffi Graf's not walking through that door, well, the dominant presence is still going to be Serena Williams. Bank on it. (That said, I will not make good on any gambling losses incurred by you following my predictions, these are for entertainment purposes only.)