by Karen 

Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York
I can’t believe it.  It is almost time for the US Open.  The USO Series is almost finished, I say almost because even though Serena Williams has been crowned for the second year running as the winner of the USO Series, there are still tournaments happening in the Series, i.e. Connecticut Open in New Haven and Winston Salem in North Carolina.
Qualifying has started for the US Open.  There are some really dangerous women in the qualifying draw and I will be watching to see if they make it into the main draw.  It is disheartening to see some of the names who are in the qualifying draw, Tamira Paszek, Ashleigh Barty, Putintseva amongst others are all in the draw.  Should make for some very tasty match ups.
The first 3 Majors have crowned 3 very distinct champions, but most notably they have all been women who have lifted Grand Slam trophies.  What has made this US Open a bit more tasty in terms of trying to predict who will win, is that none of the 3 women who have lifted trophies this year is named Serena Williams.  The World’s No.1 and current holder of the US Open has not made it to the quarter finals of the year’s first 3 Grand Slams.  She has been ousted by Ana Ivanovic (Australia), Garbine Muguruza (Paris) and Alize Cornet (Wimbledon). The one thing that defined those 3 wins was the lack of Serena’s main weapon of choice on the tennis courts.  As many of us who have watched Serena play, if her serve is on, it is game over.  In the three matches that she lost her serve, while hitting in the high 100s was absent for most of the matches in which she lost.  Her second serve, usually the best on the women’s Tour (in my opinion) because of its variety and disguise was feasted on by all 3 women in taking down Serena.  Only one tennis writer has made mention of the serve speed and power on Serena’s serve and that is Kamakashi Tandon.  A link to the article is here.
Most tennis writers are going to pick Serena to win it all in New York.  They all picked Serena as well to win one of the year’s first 3 Majors.  If you are a die hard tennis fan and you really pay attention to the women’s game, and if you really think about it, who else other than Serena can you pick?  It is a lazy pick, but you have to ask yourself the question, if not Serena who? 
  • ·         Maria Sharapova – has not made the final in New York since winning it in 2006
  • ·         Simona Halep – her dismal showing during the USO Series can only be summed up as resting for the big one
  • ·         Petra Kvitova – has never done anything remarkable in New York and it will not start this year
  • ·         Aga Radwanska – will perhaps make it as far as the quarters before she is hit off the court
  • ·     Kerber, Bouchard, Ivanovic round out the top 10 (Li Na is ranked No. 3 but is absent due to injury).  Of these 3 only Ivanovic has tasted success at the Grand Slam level by winning the French Open in 2008.  She has been to 3 Grand Slam finals in her career having a win/loss record of 1-2.  Bouchard is 0 and 1 and Kerber made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam once in her career, losing to eventual champion Sam Stosur in a tough 3 setter. 

A look at the top 10 shows you why journalists are always picking Serena to win it all.  However, the Spin team is going to go out on a limb and leave the top 10 behind.  In a year full of upsets, break out players, mid-match meltdowns and shaking my head because I can’t believe that happened moments, we think that this year’s US Open winner will come from left field to win it all.  We here at the Spin think that if Serena falters (and that first round match is nothing to shake a stick at), we think the following players have a chance at lifting the Billie Jean King trophy. Here goes
Name of Player

Venus Williams
·         Has won here before
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Sjorgen’s

Madison Keys 
    Huge serve;
·         Big forehand
·         Mentally tough
·         Loves the big stage
·         Confidence from winning her first title of her very young career
  • Movement

·         That backhand is either a kill short or will be beaten to a pulp by her colleagues
·         Second serve can go off during testing times

Sam Stosur
·         serve – when was the last time you watched a women’s match where there was not one break of serve.  Even though she lost that match against Serena in Cincinnati, Stosur has shown some remarkable mental improvement during this USO Series
·         forehand – all that top spin just keeps pushing her opponents right where they don’t want to be
·         ability to mix it up with superb slices and volleys
·         she has won here before
·         backhand – it has improved … a lot – see match against Bouchard in New Haven
·         Mentally can go walkabouts
·         If serve is not clicking or she comes up against an opponent on fire she can go away

Svetlana Kuznetsova
·         Confidence has returned in abundance.  That can happen when you win your first title in 4 years;
·         Forehand – is there a bigger forehand in the women’s game when it is on
·         Movement and firepower
·         Has won it all before – champion in 2004.  What better way to cement her legacy than to win it all again 10 years after lifting her first Grand Slam title
·         This is Sveta we are talking about.  Take your pick and you would probably be right, but Sveta’s greatest weakness is Sveta herself.

Lucie Safarova
·         Big forehand
·         Great backhand
·         Variety
·         Too many to mention. Safarova is one of those players that I absolutely love to watch playing.  Her game is compact and when it is on, it is really great to see her play very good tennis, but this year, Safarova has lost many matches from a winning position.  How great would it be if she actually won a tournament that she was slated to lose?

Caroline Wozniacki
·         Single
·         No more Rory

If Rory thinks that breaking off his engagement has improved his game, then it has put a certain amount of renewed focus in his ex-fiancée’s game.  Wozniacki has been playing really good tennis, especially during the USO Series.  She has played incredibly well during this USO Series and has been unfortunate to come upon the buzz saw that is Serena Williams.  The matches have not been easy but her improved serve and the fact that she has more pop on her ground strokes makes me think that Wozniacki could make a push this year for the title.  After all in her lone Grand Slam final, she did push Clijsters to a tough 2 set win in 2009.  Amazing what can happen when you don’t have some man distracting you from your professional goals.
Most of those who I have picked are veterans, but what about those young players who are making lots of noise.  I think Muguruza if she is healthy has a chance, just as much as Sloane Stephens, who is playing really good tennis since teaming up with Thomas Hogstedt.  I like that Sloane is showing that she cares, because for a minute there, we were all wondering if she thought she wanted to be somewhere other than a tennis court. More of that please Sloane.
A Grand Slam preview would not be complete without an upset special.  Eugenie Bouchard is in the doldrums.  Whether it is that humiliating loss to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam final, or maybe it was the sandwich bagel that she endured in front of her home town fans, but Bouchard seems to be dealing with her sophomore slump right in the middle of her breakout year.  I don’t see her completing the semi Grand Slam this year. 

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