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By Rohit Sharma
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The year's final Grand Slam US Open kicks off in New York on Monday, August 31st at the world famous Flushing Meadows Tennis center. At the onset of another Grand Slam, the talks of the tournament favourite are in full-swing. The 2009 season has been an epitome of unpredictability with no player emerging as a clear dominant force. Despite winning two slams this year, Serena Williams has fared miserably during the US Open series events. Unexpected losses to Elena Dementieva, Samantha Stosur and Sybille Bammer have left the tennis-queen in a tough situation. Allegations of her not giving her 100% at the non-grand slam events have also fumed a controversy regarding her capabilities and actual deliverance.
The 2009 Open is going to be a tough nut to crack for Serena as the defending champion will have to come through a tough draw. The Williams sisters have been placed in the bottom half of the draw as the second and third seeds and are expected to meet each other in semifinals, ofcourse, if all goes well. The road to quarterfinals for the defending champion is paved with hurdles like an in-form Australian Samantha Stosur and seventh seed Vera Zvonareva. Serena is most likely to meet Venus Williams, a two time champion here in the semifinals, who herself has a tough draw to deal with. Venus is likely to slug out with either Kim Clijsters or Marion Bartoli in the pre-quarterfinals before she further sees her chances at the quarterfinal stage. A possible last eight clash with Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, the eighth seed at this year's championship, will decide Venus' fate ahead in the draw.
The top half features the creme-de-la-creme of the US Open series with names like top seed Dinara Safina, Cincinnati champion Jelena Jankovic, French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Toronto champion Elena Dementieva, all pitted against each other in the same half. Surprisingly the most powerful contendor among all is the Russian Elena Dementieva, who cracked Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova en route to winning the Rogers Cup a week ago. Dementieva's unfortunate tryst with destiny has eluded her of a Grand Slam victory. After being a losing finalist to Justine Henin (2003), Dementieva will make an attempt to capitalise on possibly her best chance at winning a Grand Slam event.
Sadly the same cannot be said about Dinara Safina, who has somehow managed to remain on top of the rankings with a series of final finishes including the French Open and most recently, the Cincinnati final, where she lost in straight sets to 2008 US Open finalist Jelena Jankovic. Although Jankovic has been on the receiving end for most of the 2009 season, she still possesses a strong chance to win her maiden Grand Slam title. Jankovic, who is drawn to play Safina for a place in the semifinals, will leave no stones unturned this time.
The preview will be incomplete without the mention of two of the most inspiring comeback stories of 2009, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova, both former champions in New York, and both fiesty as ever. After enjoying a satisfying year of motherhood and marital bliss, Clijsters returned to tour in Cincinnati and made her intentions about the comeback quite explicit with some impressive victories over French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Miami champion Victoria Azarenka. Maria Sharapova, on the other hand, has been pretty consistent with a quarterfinal finish at Roland Garros and a series of semifinal appearances leading up to both Wimbledon and the US Open. Whether she will be able to repeat the 2006 feat is a question to be answered only by the Russian.
So with an all-Williams final out of picture, one of the final spot is open for names like Slam final regulars- Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva and an in-form Jelena Jankovic. It's ironic that neither of the Williams has been able to reach the final since 2002 with an exception of last year when Serena lifted the championship. However the fact that the sisters' placement in the bottom half has nearly blocked an opportunity for anyone else to pass through, chances are that the 2007 story will not be repeated when both Venus and Serena lost to eventual champion Justine Henin. So, in a nutshell, another 'Henin' is needed to challenge the Williams hegemony. Will this year's championship witness the emergence of one such star? Stay tuned to find out with us, on TennisEarth.com....!
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