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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wk.34- Aga Finds Her Summer Haven

Always be on the look-out for a Radwanska attack...



A life lesson provided by none other than The Most Interesting Tour in the World.




*WEEK 34 CHAMPIONS*
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT USA (Hard)
S: Aga Radwanska/POL def. Elina Svitolina/UKR 6-1/7-6(1)
D: Sania Mirza/Monica Niculescu (IND/ROU) d. Kateryna Bondarenko/Chuang Chia-Jung (UKR/TPE) 7-5/6-4

WORLD TEAM TENNIS (Hard; Forest Hills, NY)
F: San Diego Aviators d. Orange County Breakers 25-14




PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Aga Radwanska/POL
...no matter what the Open has in store for Radwanska, last week she managed to right her flagging summer ship just in time for another possible 4Q run to glory similar to what she pulled off last fall. Radwanska arrived in New Haven having been a disappointing 5-3 on grass, including "only" reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, where she lost that 9-7 3rd set vs. Dominika Cibulkova in an "instant classic." After going 3-2 on North American hard courts, and being the international poster child for poor air travel en route to Rio (it was a 55-hour ordeal just to get there, where she lost in the 1st Round in both singles and doubles), Aga needed something to go right. Well, it did. Wins over Jelena Ostapenko and Kirsten Flipkens led to a destruction (1 & 1) of Petra Kvitova in the semis and a quick 5-0 lead on Elina Svitolina in the final. Things tightened from there, but Radwanska used all her skills to plug the leaks in a game that looked as if it was about to hit the wall, at least as far as her ability to avoid being taken down by exhaustion and mental fatigue. As it was, she never lost a set (joining Vika Azarenka as the only women to win two '16 titles in such a fashion) while grabbing career title #19 AND picking up the U.S. Open Series crown, as well, by the proverbial skin of her teeth. Consider, she tied with Johanna Konta atop the standing with 220 points. Both won Premier 700 titles this summer, and put up Premier 5 QF and 3rd Round results. But Aga won the title outright, pretty much because she defeated Konta head-to-head in Cincinnati. I don't know if head-to-head was the ACTUAL tie-breaker that won it for her (it should be, but this is a USTA made-up contest, so...), but, either way, the win prevented the Brit from garnering enough points to prevent Radwanska from being able to chase her down in New Haven. So, unlike last year, THIS Series title run is a legit one.
===============================================
RISERS: Elina Svitolina/UKR, Shelby Rogers/USA and Darija Jurak/CRO
...little by little, Svitolina is becoming the player she's always looked like she could be. After upsetting Serena Williams at the Olympics, the Ukrainian was on the prowl for something more to add to her collection. She got it in New Haven, where she reached her first Premier final with wins over Daria Kasatkina, Evgeniya Rodina, Elena Vesnina and (finally, a non-Russian) Johanna Larsson. She failed to run her career WTA final mark to 5-0, though, when the same Aga Radwanska that publicly dissected Petra Kvitova in the semis came back for more in the 1st set, going up 5-0. Svitolina managed to get herself back into the match in the 2nd, though, denying the Pole's attempt to serve out the match at 5-4 and forcing a tie-break. But the tiring Radwanska found her way through to a TB win to claim the title. Still, Svitolina will jump back into the Top 20 in the final pre-U.S. Open rankings. And she even threw her hat into the Shot of the Month ring (stay for Justine Henin's post-point reaction, as it adds the final cherry to the sundae).



Meanwhile, in Forest Hills, the San Diego Aviators won the World Team Tennis title with a 25-14 victory over the Orange County Breakers. ATP doubles player Raven Klaasen took home MVP honors, but Rogers and Jurak actually accounted for more points in the final total. In maybe the key match-up of the final, vs. season Female MVP Nicole Gibbs (O.C.), Rogers won 5-2, while she and Jurak teamed for a 5-2 set WD win over Gibbs & Alla Kudryavtseva. Jurak additionally was by Klaasen's side when they won a 5-2 Mixed Doubles set over Kudryavtseva/Lipsky.

MX: Jurak/Klaasen(SD) d. Kudryavtseva/Lipsky(OC) 5-2
WS: Rogers(SD) d. Gibbs(OC) 5-2
MD: Harrison/Klaasen(SD) d. Lipsky/Novikov(OC) 5-2
WD: Jurak/Rogers(SD) d. Gibbs/Kudryavtseva(OC) 5-2
MS: Novikov(OC) d. Harrison(SD) 5-4
Extended Play: Harrison(SD) tied Novikov(OC) 1-1



===============================================
SURPRISE: Johanna Larsson/SWE
...the 28-year old Swede reached her third '16 semifinal in New Haven, recovering from losing to Ana Konjuh in the final round of qualifying to notch lucky loser victories over Timea Bacsinszky, Shelby Rogers and Roberta Vinci. Her SF loss to Elina Svitolina leaves her 0-3 in such matches this year, though. Larsson is the nineteenth LL to record a MD win in 2016, but just the eighteenth player to do so. Why? Because this was actually her SECOND second-chance run on tour this season, having also just put up a 1st Round victory in Cincinnati after losing in qualifying there.


===============================================
VETERANS: Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR & Chuang Chia-Jung/TPE
...the veteran doubles duo, playing together for just the third time (0-1 in Cincinnati earlier this month, and a SF late last year in Tokyo), have shared the court as opponents as far back as 2005, with Kateryna teaming up with her sister Alona. In New Haven, the 30 and 31-year old team, respectively, knocked off #4-seeded Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja love & 1, Hsieh/Petkovic in an 11-9 3rd, and #1-seeds Babos/Shvedova 10-7 in another deciding tie-break. They lost in the final to Mirza/Niculescu, leaving Chuang as the runner-up in the event for a second straight year.
===============================================


COMEBACK: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
...the Waffle regained a bit of her Rio swagger in New Haven, but only after losing in the second round of the three-round New Haven qualifying tournament to 16-year old Kayla Day. Flipkens entered the MD as a lucky loser -- after the event had to go back beyond the final qualifying round to fill out the MD due to all the withdrawals -- and knocked off Belinda Bencic and Caroline Garcia to reach the QF. After getting no points for her big Olympic victory over Venus Williams, this result will at least lift the Belgian's ranking from #68 to #56.
===============================================
FRESH FACE: Ana Konjuh/CRO
...the 18-year old Croat made her way through New Haven qualifying with wins over Viktorija Golubic, Nao Hibino and Johanna Larsson. Konjuh put up a 1st Round victory over Kayla Day (at 16, one of the few MD players she'll face who are younger than herself) before falling in the 2nd Round. Her four-match winning streak is her longest of the season, since a similar three-win Q-run and 1st Round upset of Kristina Mladenovic last September in Tokyo.
===============================================
DOWN: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...at one time, the New Haven event was jokingly (but only half-so) referred to around here as the Wozniacki Open. The Dane, when she was atop the rankings, as well as when she'd already started to slip down the ladder, won the singles title four straight years (2008-11) and became something of an unofficial "mascot" of the Yale football team. But the fall has been steep since then. This year's visit ended with a 7-5/6-2 loss to Jelena Ostapenko in the 1st Round. Wozniacki will fall from #51 to #74 in the final rankings before the U.S. Open, where she actually reached the final just two years ago en route to a Top 5 return. Just days before the start of this year's Open, her recent coaching set-up with former Petra-ite David Kotyza came to an end, just as so many non-blood related coaches have fallen by the wayside over the years. The Dane is less than 250 points from falling out of the Top 100, and you've got to think that 2017 might be the make-or-break season for her career. As in, whether or not she even wants to continue it beyond that point, or maybe take a "sabbatical" to sort things out.

Hmmm, might this be a hint (intentional or not) about her future?

Class of 2020? @Yale ????

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on


===============================================
ITF PLAYER: Anna Kalinskaya/RUS
...another week, another Hordette named Anna wins an ITF title. This week, it's Kalinskaya. The 17-year old took home her fourth 2016 crown (in seven finals) with a 6-4/1-6/6-1 win at the $25K challenger in Kharkiv, Ukraine, over Valentini Grammatikopoulou. Kalinskaya lost, via retirement, to the Greek player in a previous challenger final in Minsk in June.


===============================================
JUNIOR STAR: Claire Liu/USA
...16-year old Californian Liu, the #18-ranked junior, swept the titles at the Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships held in Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., with a 6-3/4-6/6-3 victory in the final over China's Wang Xiyu. Liu led the match 6-3/3-1, but ultimately had to come back from a break down in the 3rd set to win. She took the doubles title with fellow Bannerette Sofia Sewing.


===============================================
DOUBLES: Sania Mirza/Monica Niculescu (IND/ROU)
...Martina who? For the second straight week since her parting of ways with Ms. Hingis, Mirza picked up a WTA singles title with a different partner. Last week it was Barbora Strycova in Cincinnati in their first pairing, and this week it was Monica Niculescu in just their second outing together (2010 Cincinnati). The veteran pair swept through the draw while losing just one set (vs. Klepac/Srebotnik in the SF), defeating K.Bondarenko/Chuang in the final as Mirza picked up career title #39 (and a tour-leading #7 in '16) and Niculescu grabbed her seventh (third this season). Mirza has won the New Haven title three times with three different partners, having also been in the winner's circle with Mara Santangelo (2007) and Zheng Jie (2013). Fun fact: Mirza's last singles match in New Haven was back in 2007, when she lost to the OTHER Bondarenko sister, Alona. So... sorta-revenge was a dish best served ice cold in this case, I suppose.



Interestingly, the Sania Doubles Partner Open will take place in the 1st Round at Flushing Meadows this week, as Strycova and Niculescu will face off in singles. Of course they will.
===============================================


Hmmm, so the camera person can't sue for being injured (or inconvenienced) by Tatjana tossing balls in their direction? I'm asking for a friend.





1. NH 1st Rd. - Flipkens (LL) d. Bencic
...6-1/4-6/7-5.
Flipkens only made the draw because Karolina Pliskova pulled out of the event after winning in Cincinnati, then Q3 lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko headed off to New York, meaning Q2 lucky loser Flipkens slipped through the cracks. She reached the QF.
===============================================
2. NH QF - Larsson (LL) d. Vinci
...7-6(9)/6-1.
A year after reaching the U.S. Open final, Vinci returns to NYC having gone 8-13 in her last twenty-one matches.
===============================================
3. NH SF - Svitolina d. Larsson (LL)
...6-4/6-2.
Larsson fails to become the first LL to reach a final since Vandeweghe in 2012 (Stanford).
===============================================
4. NH 1st Rd. - Svitolina d. Kasatkina
...6-4/5-7/6-0.
Final set bagel aside, this was Kasatkina's best work since leaving Rio. Now she tries to match her 3rd Round U.S. Open run from last year as a LL, only she'll be the #23 seed this time around.
===============================================
5. $10K Portschach Final - Lenka Jurikova d. Miriam Kolodziejova
...6-1/6-2.
Congrats to Jurikova, who won career title #9, but it's worth noting that this was 19-year old Czech Kolodziejova's first pro singles final. She was half of a fabulous junior doubles duo with Marketa Vondrousova a short while back, winning the AO and RG girls titles last season.
===============================================
HM- $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Tereza Mihalikova d. Ana Veselinovic 2-6/6-3/6-4
$10K Cali Final - Sofya Zhuk d. Harmony Tan 6-2/6-4
...
Slovak Mihalikova, 18, was the '15 AO girls singles champ, while 16-year old Russian Zhuk won the junior Wimbledon crown in the same season. Mihalikova is 5-0 in pro singles final (3-0 in '16), while Zhuk has won two titles this season. The waves never cease to perpetually come ashore, do they?
===============================================




I'd say something about how it's ridiculous to "suspend" (but, not really "suspend," since the Pastries will surely be allowed to play in the Fed Cup final in November) someone for either admitting (as Paire did) the no-points-Olympics were a bit of sporting robbery for all but a few, as well as for a player legitimately calling out her federation for not informing anyone about a clothing rule that nearly caused a default... but then I remembered how Kiki loved heaving around accusations and giving a childish explanation for it all about six months ago, and I lost the compassion I'd normally have in the situation.

Not so in Garcia's case, though. So much for Caroline's attempt to be more diplomatic than her partner about the whole Rio snafu, I guess.

You know, at this rate, even Amelie might not be able to hold the whole French Fed Cup ball of wax together if the FFT is going to ride a high horse and criticize players for the organization's own mistakes. It has a very USTA feel to it all... which is never a good thing.




1. NH SF - AGA RADWANSKA d. Petra Kvitova
...6-1/6-1.
This match is the answer to the question of what can be both ugly and beautiful at the same time on a tennis court. As cover-your-eyes as Petra was, Aga begged to be watched without blinking. In truth, Kvitova was lucky to even get the two games. The two-time defending tournament champ had nothing left for this match, and it showed, as her 11-match New Haven winning streak came to an inglorious end. Still, she DID go 10-3 on hard courts this summer, notching wins last week over Louisa Chirico, Genie Bouchard and Ekaterina Makarova. But she's also 0-3 in WTA semifinals this year. We'll find out which means the most, as far as the Open is concerned, very soon. Perhaps as early as Monday.
===============================================

2. NH Final - AGA RADWANSKA d. Svitolina
...6-1/7-6(1).
And she makes it look so darn easy, too.

Meanwhile...


===============================================
3. NH QF - AGA RADWANSKA d. Flipkens (LL)
...6-1/6-4.
Umm, for your consideration...



'Nuff said.
===============================================
4. $10K Rotterdam - CHICHI SCHOLL d. Karen Barritza (formerly Barbat)
...7-6(4)/5-7/7-6(8).
Scholl took out the Dane in a tight one, saving three MP. And, though it often happens on the challenger circuit, it's always good for a chuckle when you also realize that these two also combined to take the doubles title.
===============================================
5. $25K Bukfurdo Final - Georgina Garcia Perez d. GABRIELA PANTUCKOVA 6-3/6-0
$10K Cakovec Final - MAGDALENA PANTUCKOvA d. Gabriela Horackova 6-2/7-6(4)
...
it was a mixed-bag weekend for the Pantuckova family in Europe. Magdalena won in Croatia, while Gabriela lost in Hungary.
===============================================












Olympics is over?!

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on


Behind the scenes from today's photoshoot with @espntennis! Had so much fun with #espnrudeboyz team! ??

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on


Werk it gurl! Getting ready for our dubs ??

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on









Does that count as Maria being "nice?" So Francoise won't hold a grudge against her in the future because she didn't treat her like a "lifelong buddy and ever-loving pal" in the locker room on a random afternoon during a big tournament? Again, I'm just asking for a friend.

As Chelsea likes to say, that is a resting b.... face .

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on









**2016 TITLES WITHOUT DROPPING A SET**
Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska
Auckland - Sloane Stephens
Kaohsiung- Venus Williams
Miami - Victoria Azarenka
Rome - Serena Williams
's-Hertogenbosch - CoCo Vandeweghe
New Haven - Aga Radwanska

**2016 YOUNGEST SINGLES FINALISTS**
18 - Jelena Ostapenko (Doha-L)
18 - Belinda Bencic (St.Petersburg-L)
21 - Madison Keys (Rome-L)
21 - Madison Keys (Birmingham-W)
21 - Danka Kovinic (Istanbul-L)
21 - Madison Keys (Montreal-L)
21 - Elina Svitolina (Kuala Lumpur-W)
21 - ELINA SVITOLINA (New Haven-L)

**2016 #1 SEED WON TITLE**
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL
Taohsiung - Venus Williams, USA
Prague - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
Rome - Serena Williams, USA
Nottingham - Karolina Pliskova, CZE
Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA
Bucharest - Simona Halep, ROU
New Haven - Aga Radwanska, POL

**2016 DEFEATED DEFENDING CHAMP, WON TITLE**
Australian Open - Angelique Kerber, GER (F/S.Williams)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens, USA (SF/Kerber)
Prague - Lucie Safarova, CZE (SF/Ka.Pliskova)
[Strasbourg - Caroline Garcia, FRA - QF/Stosur walkover]
Roland Garros - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (F/S.Williams)
New Haven - Aga Radwanska, POL (SF/Kvitova)

**2015-16 WTA SEMIFINALS**
17...Angelique Kerber = 8/9
14...AGA RADWANSKA = 8/6
14...Serena Williams = 9/5
14...Simona Halep = 9/5
13...Karolina Pliskova = 8/5
9...ELINA SVITOLINA = 6/3

**BEST LUCKY LOSER RESULTS SINCE 2008**
[2008-15]
2012 Stanford - Coco Vandeweghe (RU)
2008 Quebec City - Angeles Haynes (SF)
2008 Tokyo - Jarmila Gajdosova (SF)
2012 Fes - Mathilde Johansson (SF)
2012 Linz - Irina-Camelia Begu (SF)
2013 Brisbane - Lesia Tsurenko (SF)
2013 Paris - Kiki Bertens (SF)
2015 Acapulco - Sesil Karatantcheva (SF)
2015 New Haven - Lesia Tsurenko (SF)
2015 Quebec City - Naomi Broady (SF)
2016 Strasbourg - Virginie Razzano (SF)
2016 New Haven - Johanna Larsson (SF)
[2016 QF+]
2016 Strasbourg - Virginie Razzano (SF)
2016 NEW HAVEN - JOHANNA LARSSON (SF)
2016 Nottingham - Tamira Paszek (QF)
2016 Florianopolis- Lyudmyla Kichenok (QF)

**2016 DOUBLES FINALS**
9...SANIA MIRZA (7-2)
9...Martina Hingis (5-4)
6...Caroline Garcia (4-2)
6...Kristina Mladenovic (4-2)
4...MONICA NICULESCU (3-1)
4...Xenia Knoll (2-2)
4...Elena Vesnina (2-2)
4...Ekaterina Makarova (2-2)

**WTA/MIXED TITLES WITH MIRZA...**
14...Martina Hingis (2015-16)
5...Cara Black (2013-14)
5...Bethanie Mattek-Sands (07,2012-13,15)
3...Liezel Huber (2004-06)
2...Mahesh Bhupathi (Mixed 2009,12)
2...Elena Vesnina (2011)
1...Chuang Chia-Jung (2009)
1...Edina Gallovits (2010)
1...Vania King (2007)
1...MONICA NICULESCU (2016)
1...Shahar Peer (2007)
1...Anastasia Rodionova (2012)
1...Mara Santangelo (2007)
1...Yaroslava Shvedova (2011)
1...Bruno Soares (Mixed 2014)
1...Barbora Strycova (2016)
1...Zheng Jie (2013)

**WTT CHAMPIONS - KING CUP**
1974 Denver Raquets
1975 Pittsburgh Triangles
1976 New York Sets
1977 New York Apples
1978 Los Angeles Strings
1979-80 PLAY SUSPENDED
1981 Los Angeles Strings
1982 Dallas Stars
1983 Chicago Fyre
1984 San Diego Buds
1985 San Diego Buds
1986 San Antonio Raquets
1987 Charlotte Heat
1988 Charlotte Heat
1989 San Antonio Raquets
1990 Los Angeles Strings
1991 Atlanta Thunder
1992 Atlanta Thunder
1993 Wichita Advantage
1994 New Jersey Stars
1995 New Jersey Stars
1996 St.Louis Aces
1997 Sacramento Capitals
1998 Sacramento Capitals
1999 Sacramento Capitals
2000 Sacramento Capitals
2001 Philadelphia Freedoms
2002 Sacramento Capitals
2003 Delaware Smash
2004 Newport Beach Breakers
2005 New York Sportimes
2006 Philadelphia Freedoms
2007 Sacramento Capitals
2008 Kansas City Explorers
2009 Washington Kastles
2010 Kansas City Explorers
2011 Washington Kastles (undefeated)
2012 Washington Kastles (undefeated)
2013 Washington Kastles
2014 Washington Kastles
2015 Washington Kastles
2016 San Diego Aviators
[2016 WTT Awards]
FEMALE MVP: Nicole Gibbs, Orange County
MALE MVP: Ryan Harrison, San Diego
FEMALE ROOKIE: Michaella Krajicek, Springfield
MALE ROOKIE: Fabiano Martin, Philadelphia
COACH: John Lloyd, San Diego
FINALS MVP: Raven Klaasen, San Diego


Timi is still Timi. Whew! Not that there was ever any doubt to the contrary.





Meanwhile, in the wild world of the internet (and chickens, err, McChickens)...



That's okay. It'll be all right...



Now, onto New York. Cagla will be there...





All for now.

U.S. Open Preview: Crazy is as Crazy Does


In a season which has defiantly defied expectations and battled back against developing anything with even a remote likeness to anything resembling a "groove," here comes New York.


In 2014 in Indian Wells, Li Na won what seemed to be a routine 4th Round match over Aleksandra Wozniak. It took her ninety-three minutes to dispense with the Canadian, 6-1/6-4. But that was just a scoreline. In reality, the match included a 20-minute final game in which Li prevailed after having initially led 40/love. In that single game alone, she saved two break points, overcame a bad call by and heated protest with the chair umpire, and double-faulting four times on match point. Finally, she won on her ELEVENTH MP of the game, and when starting an on-court interview after it was all over, she uttered the immortal words, "Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour."



Few seasons have lived up to that description of the Most Interesting Tour in the World better than the entire 2016 WTA campaign, both on court and off, up and down and all around.

But did you know that that wasn't the first time that Li pulled out the on-the-nose phrase? Well, it's true. Nine months earlier, Li won by a particularly-peculiar (but not really, as things often turn out) scoreline over one Simona Halep. After the match...



Two years earlier, Halep had defeated Li at the U.S. Open to notch her first career main draw win at the event. She still remembers it fondly...



Are you sensing the finite connections here?

Well, with that important bridge placed... it's time to get all-in for this U.S. Open.



Here's a quick overview of the women's draw, quarter-by-quarter:

=#1 WILLIAMS QUARTER=
THE FAVORITE: #1 Serena Williams, USA
...well, naturally. Of course. As it should be. But wait... is she really? If Serena's shoulder is healthy, yes. If not, well, Katie bar the door. The craziness could get underway before anyone has even settled into their seats at this Open. With Ekaterina Makarova as her 1st Round opponent, Williams' health should be tested. Serena is 4-1 vs. the Russian, including 4 & 0 and 1 & 3 wins over her in the 3rd Round (2012) and SF (2014) in New York over the last four years, though Makarova does have a 2012 Australian Open win over Williams under her belt (she's one of just two woman who have never been ranked #1 -- w/ Sloane Stephens -- but who have slam wins over both Sisters during their careers). Unless Ana Ivanovic is in exceedingly (more) rare form at this Open, Williams won't likely be tested again until, when and if, she'd reach the Round of 16, precisely where the deep talent in this quarter would begin to rear its upset-minded head in every match.
THE ALTERNATE CHOICE: #5 Simona Halep, ROU
...Simona belongs here, but the fact is that she probably has the potential for the worst draw of any woman in the entire field.


Her slip from #4 to #5 in the rankings, behind Radwanska, following her semifinal result in Cincinnati has made things a great deal more difficult for her since it allowed her draw the super-short straw and land in Serena's quarter. Well, unless the possible 2016 WTA craziness strikes and clears away some of the potentially deadly debris that looks as if it could be in her way. Her path looks something like this: Flipkens/Safarova or Gavrilova/Babos or Watson/CSN or Vesnina, and then the survivor of the Serena/Stosur section (unless Kasatkina can wreak some havoc at a second straight Open, that is). That said, Halep's form and confidence have both been at a high level this summer, and she could coast through those "difficult" early rounds as a result. So, by a hair, I"m STILL all-in... I think.
THE THIRD WHEEL: #16 Samantha Stosur/AUS
...lost in the wave of names in this quarter is the former Open champ who, you may remember, actually defeated Serena in the final in 2011. Does she have one more run in her? She's already reached a slam semifinal (in Paris) earlier this season, but will be tested in the 1st Round by Camila Giorgi (though the Italian hasn't exactly been burning up the courts this summer). Zhang Shuai and Daria Kasatkina could be the two who stand in the way of another NYC match (under the lights, no doubt?) vs. Serena. It's hardly the preferred under-the-radar path that the Aussie took to her one slam title, though.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #29 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
...I mean, it just rates as a good likelihood, right? Down to #31 and staring at what might go down as her worst season since 2004, AnaIvo comes to Flushing Meadowns on a four-match losing streak. She'll face Denisa Allertova in the 1st Round. The Czech has posted at least one victory in six of her seven career slam MD appearances over the past two seasons. Last year, Allertova upset Carla Suarez-Navarro in the U.S. Open 1st Round. But the Spaniard wasn't the First Seed Out of last year's event... that honor actually went to Ivanovic. Seriously, sometimes the Tennis Gods make this a little TOO easy.
THE BRACKET BUSTERS: Ekaterina Makarova, RUS and Elena Vesnina, RUS
...sure, the Rio Gold medalists are a force to be reckoned with in doubles, but they could overturn the Big Apple cart in singles, too. 2014 Open semifinalist Makarova, as noted, opens with an is-she-healthy-or-not? Serena, while '16 Wimbledon semifinalist Vesnina is having the best year of her singles career. If she holds form, the Russian could have #11 Suarez-Navarro in the 3rd Round, with Halep possibly waiting in the 4th... then either Serena or Stosur after that. Of course, with this I'm leaving out Flipkens, who has already gotten one big event (Rio, def. Venus) off with a bang this summer.
THE WILD CARD: #23 Daria Kasatkina, RUS
...the Hordette has made a habit of making a good first impression. Over the past year, Kasastkina has reached the 3rd Round in all four of her debuts at the slams (including as a lucky loser last summer in NYC), and then the QF in her Olympic debut. Her results have shown a definite Rio hangover the last two weeks, but she finally seemed to begin to (slightly) regain her footing in New Haven. She'll open with Wang Qiang, with Stosur (3rd Rd.) looming a little farther down the road.
DON'T CALL HER AN UBER (well, actually, maybe you should): #1 Serena Williams, USA???
...well, this is a first. Even if this listing is just a premptive strike, just in case. Serena comes to New York with zero momentum, questionable confidence, the lingering bad memory of her semifinal loss to Vinci last year and -- oh, yeah -- a shoulder injury that turned her serve all Kournikovian in Rio and forced her withdrawal from Cincinnati (even with her #1 ranking in jeopardy). Williams will be going for slam #23 in the twenty-third major at which she'll be seeded #1 (hmmm) -- more than all other active WTA players' top seeds combined (17), and could become the first woman since 2006 (Henin) to play in all four slam finals in the same season, even while she's the reigning champ at only one major. Once again, her #1 ranking is hanging in the balance as play begins, though she's assured of tying Steffi Graf's record of 186 straight weeks in the top spot. This could go really well, or really poorly.

NYC! @NikeCourt

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on


And it'd be impossible to be surprised either way.
QUALIFIER TO WATCH: Nadia Podoroska, ARG
...most would point to Richel Hogenkamp, who faces Heather Watson in the 1st Round, as the highlighted qualifier (of a set of four) in this quarter, but I'm partial to the Argentine. The 19-year old is making her slam MD debut this week vs. Annika Beck. The German is 0-3 in her U.S. Open career, the only slam at which she's never posted a win (she's 13-13 at the others). And, yeah, I'm just itching to say, "Oh, Nadia!," too.

THE POOR SOUL: Ekaterina Makarova, RUS Jelena Jankovic, SRB
...normally, this "honor" goes to the poor soul drawn to face Serena in the 1st Round. But, this time, Williams' opening opponent is not your run-of-the-mill cannon fodder, no matter what ultimately happens in the match. So, unfortunately, I'll have to go with JJ. The now 31-year old has been seen diminishing on-court returns and lingering injury issues derail her '16 season, and has lost her opening match at five of the last eight slams (and failed to win two matches at six of seven). She gets Mariana Duque in the 1st Round this time and would be favorite to advance, but it's hard to imagine her lasting beyond that. It's sad, and it's hard not to wonder just how much longer we'll have Jankovic around to make us smile... just by being as JJ as any JJ can be.


=#4 RADWANSKA QUARTER=
THE FAVORITE: #6 Venus Williams, USA
...in a quarter that has "Shenanigans are Possible Here" posters hanging on every available wall, Venus (playing in her record 72nd slam) has the Open history to go in as the "favorite" to emerge, even if her ill/lackluster (even with her Mixed Doubles Silver rebound) performance in Rio raises all sorts of red flags when it comes to whether she's actually capable of a SECOND 2016 slam semifinal run. While she's not the highest seed in the quarter, Williams -- assuming good health for two weeks, which isn't a given -- would be "expected" to win almost every match-up that she might face. But, no, this isn't an announcement of a brilliant Summer of Venus final chapter... it just takes more effort to roll out anything else as a better possibility, and someone had to fill the top line here.
THE ALTERNATE CHOICE: #10 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
...see what I mean? How far does one have to bend backwards to pick the Czech to win this quarter? Still, Pliskova was confident and ON IT in Cincinnati, but that she's never advanced past the 3rd Round at a major is a BIT of a red-lights-flashing-warning-signal, wouldn't you say? She'll get a teenage WC (Kenin) first, but Danka Kovinic (2nd Rd.) could be the first true, we'll-know-more-after-it's-over obstacle she'll face in this slam. Pavlyuchenkova or Mladenovic might be up next. Then things would get really scary, with the likes of Venus and Radwanska ahead. Which Pliskova will show up -- the one saying the right things and backing them up on the court, or the one who shrivels like a raisin on the slam stage? It could tell not only the tale of this quarter, but maybe even one HALF (at least) of the women's singles draw. In a crazy season, Pliskova going from career slam bumbler to ultimate slam achiever wouldn't really even register beyond a 4.0 on the Tennis Richter Scale. Not in 2016. After Cincinnati, such a result IS in play, though. At least for a few more days.

THE THIRD WHEEL: #4 Aga Radwanska, POL
...Aga put on a last second push to save her summer season, winning in New Haven by simply destroying the likes of Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina for three sets in the semifinals and final. But while she grabbed the title and won the U.S. Open Series, the way she seemed to tighten and lose her razor sharp edge in the 2nd set vs. the Ukrainian makes one wonder what she'll have left for the Open. Flushing Meadows has never been her favorite place. It's the only major at which she's never reached at QF, and she's lost in the 2nd Round in four of her last seven trips to the city. She'll open against a New York native, qualifier Jessica Pegula (who notched a 1st Round win last year, and took Cibulkova to three sets), with Robson/Broady up next and Bouchard/Garcia/Siniakova after that. A tough, but do-able road in a winnable quarter... well, unless the Pole has already peaked for the summer. Oh, if only Halep had managed to hold onto the #4 seed.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
...the Russian has improved her fitness and (not coincidentally) consistency in 2016, but will it make a difference in New York? She's coming off a QF at Wimbledon, her first at a major since 2011 at the Open. Since that run, though, she's lost in the 2nd Round three times in four U.S. appearances (and has failed to reach the 3rd Round at seven of her last nine hard court slams). She faces Louisa Chirico in the 1st, with the winner of Mladenovic/Hibino on deck in the 2nd.
THE BRACKET BUSTER: Laura Robson, GBR
...after winning a recent challenger event (her first post-wrist surgery title run), Robson went off for an end-of-summer holiday, thinking she'd have no chance at being granted a WC into Open qualifying. But then she got one. Seven hours after getting off a plane, she was heading back to North America. Three Q-rounds -- and six straight sets won -- later, she's back in the U.S. Open MD, riding an eight-match winning streak and positioned to cause havoc. She'll open vs. countrywoman Naomi Broady, but a win there would likely put her up against #4-seeded Radwanska. A possibly tired Radwanska, with no history of U.S. Open success, mind you. Could the sport be ready for another surprise slam run by a Brit (after Konta Down Under), AND a second heart-warming post-wrist surgery tale of success (after Delpo in Rio) in the same season? It could happen.
THE WILD CARD: Genie Bouchard, CAN
...those devilish Tennis Gods couldn't have been waiting all season to spring this story -- and all its shadowy corners, quite literally -- anew on the sport, could they? One year after Bouchard looked to have rediscovered her form at the '15 Open, only to slip and fall on a wet locker room floor and suffer a concussion that troubled her for months afterward, the Canadian returns with her lawsuit vs. the USTA regarding the accident still in play and once again getting publicly heated. Bouchard has flashed her old orneriness and great play at times in '16, but her consistency of results has lagged far behind. With a target to push back against (the USTA... which, really, is a grudge that isn't too hard for anyone to get behind, is it?), could it all come together for her again in New York? A 1st Rounder vs. Katerina Siniakova is no easy-peasy opener, but if she can string some good performances together she could blow up this quarter. #25 Caroline Garcia is in her section, as is Aga Radwanska. But she could just as easily exit meekly, leaving the USTA's lawyers to crow a little more about how it'd be proof that she needs to focus on her tennis rather than any sort of work-related injury lawsuit that the organization seems intent to bring to trial. Perhaps as a lead-up to her upcoming on-the-sly "bad" treatment by tournament officials at the Open, Bouchard recently got an opportunity to practice being on the receiving end of something that, in the right frame of mind, might have been perceived as a bit passive aggressive. She handled it well.

DON'T CALL HER AN UBER (well, actually, maybe you should): Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
...a year ago, the Russian became Serena Williams' U.S. Open 1st Round Victim, retiring down 6-0/2-0 and being forced to wear a boot soon after. Well, she's back and still seeking her first career Open MD win. This time, on the side of the net will be #15 Timea Bacsinszky (a quiet presence in this quarter, especially after her Rio 1st Round flame-out... but one who could legitimately be left standing after all the other bigger-named stars crash out of a very volatile quarter). No matter what, at least Diatchenko's got her social media sidewalk posing game down cold.

QUALIFIER TO WATCH: Aleksandra Krunic, SRB
...two years ago, Krunic rode a qualifying run all the way to the Round of 16 in New York after posting star-making wins over Keys and Kvitova, and taking Azarenka to three sets. Well, the Bracelet is back, ready to rage on the city. Maybe. She opens with Nicole Gibbs, and a win there would allow the seeds to once again line up in front of her: #26 Laura Siegemund, #6 Venus, #10 Pliskova, etc. Is she up to an encore performance?
THE POOR SOUL: Varvara Lepchenko, USA
...Lepchenko just can't catch a break. After being constantly referred to by ESPNers and the like as a "naturalized American" a few years ago when she finally gained the right to represent the U.S. in international competition, this year she's been caught in a whisper campaign about having served a secret/silent provisional suspension earlier this year for a positive test for meldonium. Not only does the whole thing serve to allow many to once again refer to her origin of birth and background (or even use her U.S. citizenship as a weapon, as if it "conveniently" shielded her from a public reprimand), but last week's announcement that all provisional suspensions will now be made public only served to drag her name into the conversation again... even while she can't really publicly comment on the matter. She opens up vs. Peng Shuai in the 1st Round, but I doubt if the match will be the main topic of conversation where she's concerned at the start of the coming week.




=#3 MUGURUZA QUARTER=
THE FAVORITE: #8 Madison Keys, USA
...coming off a 4th place finish in Rio and Montreal final, Keys is surely the in-form player in this quarter. Picking up steam as the season has gone on, she's turned a 6-4 hard court start into a surprising 11-4 clay campaign, leading into a summer where she's gone 8-1 on grass and 9-3 in her return to hard courts. In a quarter filled will sorts of great early-round matches, the Bannerette's path looks to littered with her countrywomen. Alison Riske, Madison Brengle/Kayla Day and then, likely, CoCo Vandeweghe are squarely in her first week path, so she stands a good chance to play one night match (if not more) in the early rounds (and she's been scheduled to get the first on Night 1). This looks to be most straightforward of the draw's four quarters, as far as a truly shocking semifinalist emerging here not seemingly in the cards. But the field IS still chocked full of players who can run hot and cold. Muguruza, Keys and Kuznetsova are the three high seeds here, so you get the idea. It's just a matter of which one of the lot can hold it together the longest and/or limit the damage of an occasional error-strewn walkabout. The good money would seem to be on Keys.
THE ALTERNATE CHOICE: #3 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
...we know that the Spaniard CAN win this quarter, but whether or not she's up to doing that is another thing. She's gone 6-4 since winning Roland Garros, a mark greatly bolstered by a SF result in Cincinnati. But that event ended with a blink-and-you-missed-her loss (1 & 3 to Pliskova) after she'd failed to lose a set prior to her defeat, the same as happened in Rio when back-to-back dominating wins were rendered meaningless by a 1 & 1 loss to eventual Gold medalist Monica Puig. If things go according to plan, Muguruza might get another shot at the Puerto Rican in the 3rd Round. But even if she won there, could she sustain her momentum beyond that? Overall, Muguruza is the best player in the this quarter, but she's not the best player there RIGHT NOW.
THE THIRD WHEEL: #13 Johanna Konta, GBR
...the Brit has already reached a hard court slam semi this year (AO), won a title in Stanford and narrowly missed out on the U.S. Open Series title. Thing is, Konta's draw might be quite the nut to crack. Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the 1st Round, with Belinda Bencic lurking, as well as the never-look-past-her-because-that's-when-she's-most-dangerous specter of Tsvetana Pironkova. If she makes it through, Konta could be positioned to face the Muguruza/Puig section survivor for the right to play (vs. Keys?) for another slam semifinal berth.
ENDANGERED SEED?: #32 Monica Puig, PUR
...Rio Gold medalist Puig has been having a career season, but she's been experiencing a long celebration period back home since the end of the Olympics. Armed with her first career slam seed, how prepared can she possibly be to jump back into the fray? She's pulled herself through some epic matches this season outside of Brazil (see vs. Kr.Pliskova in Melbourne), but she's about to experience the big-success-big-expectations phenomenon that has sidetracked so many young players who have put up career results in recent seasons. If she manages to not be negatively impacted by all the hoopla, it will say a great deal about her career prospects from this point forward. She starts off with Zheng Saisai, who upset Radwanska in the 1st Round in Rio. It'll be interesting to see whether #PicaPower has its own cheering section at the Open. Or maybe I should say it'll be interesting to see just how BIG the cheering section will be?

THE BRACKET BUSTERS: The Women in the Mirror
...the only thing most of the top women in this quarter should really fear isn't their opponents, or even fear itself... but themselves. The presence of the likes of Keys, Muguruza and Kuznetsova, and well as the always-fighting-injuries-or-on-the-cusp-of-doing-so Bencic and Petkovic, not to mention the sliding-badly Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and likely-to-have-an-Olympic-hangover Puig and star-crossed Schiavone (vs. Kuznetsova in a slam 1st Round AGAIN!) makes this the quarter probably most in need of a session on the couch at the moment. In most cases, one can say that there will be three (or four) players effectively on the court when some of the singles matches in this quarter take place.
THE WILD CARDS: The Crazy Ones survivors
...make no mistake, those Tennis Gods are little stinkers. How else would you explain a single quarter serving as the host of two of the wildest 1st Round slam matches possible? For about the millionth time, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone (maybe for the last time) will face off in a slam match. If history is any indication, it'll be long, fun, epic and everyone will be sweaty and smiling by the time its over... but one will be out of the tournament, and the other might be exhausted enough to make her survival chances limited. Just a few spots away in the draw is a match-up of two of the most, umm, "active" in-match players on tour -- Barbora Strycova and Monica Niculescu. It'll be a battle for points, and a case study of just how much emotion (good, bad and otherwise) two players can pack into a single match perfectly suited to the most twisted of tennis fans. And, just as a eye-rolling tip-in, we have the footnote that these two have BOTH shared the court with Sania Mirza in title-winning doubles runs the last two weeks. What. Are. The. Odds?

Of course, the USTA being how it is, the match that every twisted tennis fan is begging to see will probably be sent out to the hinterlands of the grounds on a camera-less court with the least space provided for fans with a penchant for this particularly sporting intoxicant to get their fill.
DON'T CALL HER AN UBER (well, actually, maybe you should): Andrea Petkovic, GER
...this isn't exactly an Open with good news for some fan favorites. Once an entertaining, budding comedy duo, both Jelena Jankovic and Petkovic might have a lot of free time on their hands in New York. It's difficult to see the Serb lasting long in the draw, and the same can be said for the German. Petko has a tricky opening match vs. qualifier Kristina Kucova, and then immediately would begin to wade into seeded waters (she's ranked outside the Top 40), as #24 Belinda Bencic and #13 Johanna Konta form the first wave of top seeds (or in the Swiss' case, a former-top-seed-who's-injury-plagued-but-still-deadly-if-healthy) that Petkovic isn't likely to penetrate.

QUALIFIER TO WATCH: Taylor Townsend, USA
...there are actually quite a few qualifiers who could make a dent in the draw in this quarter. Duan Yingying faces Maria Sakkari, Ana Bogdan goes into an all-Swarmette clash with Sorana Cirstea, Montreal semifinalist Kristina Kucova plays Andrea Petkovic, and even Elise Mertens has a shot to face THAT OTHER Muguruza. And then there's Townsend, the only one who might actually be considered the favorite in her 1st Round match. She faces Caroline Wozniacki, who comes in on a 1-5 slide, 13-14 on the season (19-20 over the past year) and with her last three-win event coming at LAST year's New Haven tournament. Speaking of the Dane...
THE POOR SOUL: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...was it really just two U.S. Opens ago that Wozniacki was playing in the final vs. Serena, having re-established herself as a Top 5 player after finally adding a touch of aggression to her game? It seems like about ten years ago at this point. The Dane will enter this Open ranked at #74 in the updated Monday rankings, having ended the brief coaching relationship with David Kotyza (who didn't see that coming weeks ago?) just a few days before the start of the tournament, and will be coached in NYC by (wait for it...) her father Piotr. Even worse, she's facing an upset-minded (and capable) opponent in qualifier Taylor Townsend. Whether she survives that one or not, Wozniacki won't likely last much longer than an additional round in the draw in this or any other reality (and certainly not in the trapped-in-amber WTA one in which the Dane currently resides/is encased, perhaps for all eternity).


=#4 KERBER QUARTER=
THE FAVORITE: #2 Angelique Kerber, GER
...Kerber has been a big event workhorse in 2016, winning the Australian Open, and reaching the Wimbledon and Olympic finals. But how much did her run to the final in Cincinnati, immediately after Rio, take out of her? The German came within two sets of swiping the #1 ranking from Serena Williams, but instead had her third missed-it-by-that-much moment (w/ SW19 and a Gold medal) of the summer. While her Player of the Year and "Ms. Backspin" resume is as full or fuller than any other player on tour, is another two-week trudge in her wheelhouse after a brilliant-but-exhausting 21-5 summer stretch? Outside of the condition of Williams' shoulder, it's the biggest question heading into this U.S. Open. Because if Kerber runs out of steam (as she did in Cincy), the entire bottom half of the draw opens up wide. Assuming a 1st Round win over Polona Hercog, things will immediately get interesting one round later. Cornet or Lucic-Baroni would be waiting, and the quarter is also stocked with players who have flashed both early (Cibulkova) and late (Svitolina) this summer. Kerber is still the likely survivor, but if her HUGE season doesn't include a New York chapter, it won't be a black mark on her record.

Hello NYC ?? #whenInNewYork #UsOpen2016 #teamangie

A photo posted by Angelique Kerber (@angie.kerber) on


THE ALTERNATE CHOICE: #22 Elina Svitolina, UKR
...Justine Henin's charge is learning and winning, and winning and learning, as the final days of summer drift away. In Rio, she held her nerves and took out Serena, but couldn't follow up the win. She reached the New Haven final, falling behind a frighteningly-in-form Radwanska before getting herself back into the match, but couldn't quite push things to a 3rd set. If she had, a fifth career title might have been in her grasp as the Pole seemed to be straining to maintain her form after a long couple of weeks (which began with a 55-hour ordeal just to get to Rio). Petra Kvitova (3rd Rd.) is squarely in Svitolina's way in her section, but nothing says the Czech will survive long enough to face her, nor be in any shape to compete if she does. That leaves a possible match-up with Kerber in the Round of 16. Kerber would be expected to win, but Svitolina is showing signs that she knows she can pull out matches such as that. It'd be great to see her get another chance at one more before the summer turns to fall. And, of course, it's always nice to see La Petit Taureau in the stands for as long as possible.

THE THIRD WHEEL: #12 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...the Slovak has gone just 4-4 since winning that epic Round of 16 match over Radwanska at Wimbledon (4-3 since getting married). The hard court slam where Cibulkova has shined the brightest is in Melbourne (RU and QF in the last three years), not New York (a single QF in '10), but the opportunity for another big run is present at this event. As the #12 seed, she's got a Top 4 seed sort of draw, and very well could reach the QF without even facing a seeded player (depending on whether or not #7 Vinci recaptures her '15 NYC mojo), or having #30 Misaki Doi being the first. But while she's a legit threat, Cibulkova just doesn't realy FEEL like one heading into this slam. But if she can play her way into her something remotely resembling the player who put together a 23-4 stretch on hard, clay and grass courts during the spring and early summer, well, that assessment will change dramatically.
ENDANGERED SEEDS?: #27 Sara Errani, ITA and #7 Roberta Vinci, ITA
...both vets had their best '16 moment early in the season, and come to New York with no momentum to speak of. One year after two Italians (including Vinci) met for the U.S. Open title, there's a legit chance the nation's five women in the draw could go winless in the 1st Round this time around. '15 runner-up Vinci was 3-4 this summer hard court season, while former Open semifinalist Errani was 3-3. Errani faces Shelby Rogers in the 1st Round, while Vinci goes up against Anna-Lena Friedsam. Both will be favored to win. It wouldn't be shocking if neither do.
THE BRACKET BUSTERS: Alize Cornet, FRA or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
...both women, who play each other in the 1st Round, have a history of recent big-time upsets on slam stages. Lucic knocked off Halep at both the U.S. Open and Roland Garros in recent years, while Cornet had Serena Williams' number a few seasons back. The winner here will likely get Angelique Kerber it the 2nd Round. Kerber is a combined 6-0 vs. the two, but Lucic took the German to three sets in Montreal this summer, just as Cornet did the same in Eastbourne two years ago.
THE WILD CARD: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
...Ostapenko is one of the more volatile players out there, but with that unpredictability comes an accompanying ability to knock off big names, too. Well, she's about to get another chance when she faces off with Petra Kvitova in the 1st Round. The Latvian teen has played the Czech twice, both time this year, and walked away with three-set victories on both occasions, on hard court in Doha and even the grass in Birmingham. Kvitova is coming off looking exhausted and ill in the New Haven semis, putting up just two games vs. Radwanska at a tournament at which she was the two-time defending champ. Needless to say, the Bad Petra Alert will be sounded at the start of Day 1. Which is quite convenient, since...
DON'T CALL HER AN UBER (well, actually, maybe you should): #14 Petra Kvitova, CZE
...Petra's opening round match vs. Ostapenko has been scheduled for Day 1, at 11 a.m. on Court 12. So, if the teen can push things deep, the east coast heat and humidity could work their wonders on what is possibly an already ill Czech. This could get ugly. Well, unless you-know-who shows up. But the sightings of her are becoming fewer and farther between, and playing without a coach in recent outings doesn't seem to be working out all that well (one has to wonder if the suddenly-free-again David Kotyza might be back in the picture by the start of 2017).
QUALIFIER LUCKY LOSER TO WATCH: (LL) Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
...a year ago, Daria Kasatkina rode a LL second-chance-pass into the MD all the way to the 3rd Round. The Belgian has that opportunity at this Open. She opens with qualifier Wang Yafan, the only 1st Round match-up of players who participated in this past week's qualifying tournament, so they come in on equal footing, and Van Uytvanck is the more experience slam player. She reached the QF at Roland Garros last year, though she's 0-5 in the MD of hard court majors. Wang has played just one MD slam match in her career, losing in the 1st Round of the Australian this January. CiCi Bellis, who handed Van Uytvanck her Q3 loss on Friday, faces Viktorija Golubic in this same quarter.
THE POOR SOUL: Sabine Lisicki, GER
...the German surely can't wait to get this season over with. She'll enter the U.S. Open fighting against the tide to just stay in the Top 100, coming in at #84 in the new rankings. Her only worse season-ending ranking since 2008 came in 2010, when she missed five months with an ankle injury. This year, it's mostly been just poor play that has her sinking down the charts. She won a wild night match over Strycova en route to the Round of 16 at last year's Open, but might be lucky to get past Yulia Putintseva in the 1st Round this year.




**RECENT WOMEN'S U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONS**
1999 Serena Williams, USA
2000 Venus Williams, USA
2001 Venus Williams, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2006 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Serena Williams, USA
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA
2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA

*U.S. OPEN FINALS - ACTIVE*
8...Serena Williams (6-2)
4...Venus Williams (2-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2...Victoria Azarenka (0-2)
2...Caroline Wozniacki (0-2)
1...Maria Sharapova (1-0)
1...Samantha Stosur (1-0)
1...Jelena Jankovic (0-1)
1...Roberta Vinci (0-1)
1...Vera Zvonareva (0-1)

**U.S. OPEN TOP SEEDS - since 2002**
2002 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2005 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL (W)
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2014 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2015 Serena Williams, USA
2016 Serena Williams, USA

**CAREER U.S. OPEN MATCH WIN LEADERS**
101...Chris Evert
89...Martina Navratilova
84...SERENA WILLIAMS
73...Steffi Graf
68...VENUS WILLIAMS
62...Lindsay Davenport

**RECENT U.S. OPEN GIRLS FINALS**
2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR def. Alexa Glatch/USA
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2007 Kristina Kucova/SVK def. Urszula Radwanska/POL
2008 Coco Vandeweghe/USA def. Gabriela Paz/VEN
2009 Heather Watson/GBR def. Yana Buchina/RUS
2010 Daria Gavrilova/RUS def. Yulia Putintseva/RUS
2011 Grace Min/USA def. Caroline Garcia/FRA
2012 Samantha Crawford/USA def. Anett Kontaveit/EST
2013 Ana Konjuh/CRO def. Tornado Black/USA
2014 Marie Bouzkova/CZE def. Anhelina Kalinina/UKR
2015 Dalma Galfi/HUN def. Sonya Kenin/USA

**FIRST-TIME SLAM CHAMPS AT U.S. OPEN**
[Open Era]
1968 Virginia Wade, GBR
1979 Tracy Austin, USA
1990 Gabriela Sabatini, ARG
1998 Lindsay Davenport, USA
1999 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA

**BEST U.S. OPEN GIRLS/WOMEN'S RESULTS**
[won Girls & Ladies titles]
Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. Champion; 1998 Women's champion)
[others]
Martina Hingis (1994 Junior RU; 1997 Women's Champion)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (2001 Junior RU; 2004 Women's champion)
Victoria Azarenka (2005 Junior champion; 2012-13 Women's RU)

*BACK-TO-BACK WIMB/US TITLES - OPEN ERA*
1970 Margaret Court, AUS
1972 Billie Jean King, USA
1976 Chris Evert, USA
1982 Chris Evert-Lloyd, USA
1983 Martina Navratilova, USA
1986 Martina Navratilova, USA
1987 Martina Navratilova, USA
1988 Steffi Graf, GER *
1989 Steffi Graf, GER
1993 Steffi Graf, GER
1995 Steffi Graf, GER
1996 Steffi Graf, GER
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2000 Venus Williams, USA *
2001 Venus Williams, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Serena Williams, USA *
--
* - also won Olympic Gold

**RECENT U.S. OPEN WOMEN'S SEMIFINALISTS**
06: Sharapova (W), Henin-H. (RU); Jankovic/Mauresmo
07: Henin (W), Kuznetsova (RU); Chakvetadze/V.Williams
08: S.Williams (W), Jankovic (RU); Dementieva/Safina
09: Clijsters (W), Wozniacki (RU); Wickmayer/S.Williams
10: Clijsters (W), Zvonareva (RU); V.Williams/Wozniacki
11: Stosur (W), S.Williams (RU); Kerber/Wozniacki
12: S.Williams (W), Azarenka (RU); Errani/Sharapova
13: S.Williams (W), Azarenka (RU); Li/Pennetta
14: S.Williams (W), Wozniacki (RU); Peng/Makarova
15: Pennetta (W), Vinci (RU); Halep/S.Williams

**LOW-SEEDED U.S. OPEN SEMIFINALISTS - since 2000**
Unseeded - 2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
Unseeded - 2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Unseeded - 2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
Unseeded - 2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
Unseeded - 2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Roberta Vinci, ITA
Wild Card - 2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#26 - 2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA (W)
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
#16 - 2014 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
#12 - 2005 Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
#12 - 2007 Venus Williams, USA
#10 - 2001 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#10 - 2002 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#10 - 2012 Sara Errani, ITA
#10 - 2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (RU)

*U.S. OPEN SERIES WINNERS*
2004 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL *
2006 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2007 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2008 Dinara Safina, RUS
2009 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Serena Williams, USA *
2014 Serena Williams, USA *
2015 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2016 Aga Radwanska, POL
--
* - also won U.S. Open title

*ACTIVE SINGLES PLAYERS - FIRST SLAM FINAL*
1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2007 Roland Garros - Ana Ivanovic
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Aga Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2015 U.S. Open - Roberta Vinci
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (W)
--
NOTE: first-time finalists at 4 of last 6 slams, and 7 of 11
NOTE: Hingis (1997 AO - W), Zvonareva (2010 WI)

**RECENT WOMEN'S SLAM WINNERS**
2013 AO: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2013 WI: Marion Bartoli, FRA (ret.)
2013 US: Serena Williams, USA
2014 AO: Li Na, CHN (ret.)
2014 RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
2014 WI: Petra Kvitova, CZE
2014 US: Serena Williams, USA
2015 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2015 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2015 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2015 US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA (ret.)
2016 AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 WI: Serena Williams, USA

*SLAM TITLES AFTER AGE 30*
9...Serena Williams, USA (age 30-34)
3...Martina Navratilova, USA (age 30-33)
3...Margaret Court, AUS (age 30-31)
2...Billie Jean King, USA (age 30 & 31)
2...Chris Evert, USA (age 30 & 31)
1...Flavia Pennetta, ITA (age 33)
1...Virginia Wade. GBR (age 31)
1...Ann Haydon Jones, GBR (age 30)

*TOP 4 SEEDS TO SLAM SF - OPEN ERA*
AO (4): 1969,1970,1974,1993
RG (1): 1992
WI (10): 1973,1976,1978,1979,1988,1992,1995,2003,2006,2009
US (1): 1975

*REACHED ALL FOUR SLAM FINALS IN SEASON - OPEN ERA*
1970 Margaret Smith-Court
1984 Chris Evert-Lloyd
1985 Martina Navratilova
1986 Martina Navratilova#
1987 Martina Navratilova
1988 Steffi Graf
1989 Steffi Graf
1992 Monica Seles
1997 Martina Hingis
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne
--
# - only three slams were contested in 1986 calendar year (AO shifted from Dec.'86 to Jan.'87)
NOTE: Serena Williams has played in first three 2016 slam finals





=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#16 Stosur d. #1 S.Williams (Bam! Or, maybe "BamBamSam!")
#5 Halep d. #19 Vesnina
#15 Bacsinszky d. Bouchard
#10 Ka.Pliskova d. #6 V.Williams
#8 Keys d. #18 Strycova
#13 Konta d. #3 Muguruza
#12 Cibulkova d. #30 Doi
#22 Svitolina d. #2 Kerber (Bam, Pt.2)

...I guess I'm committed to the crazy, as that's six double-digit seeds in the QF.

=QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#5 Halep d. #16 Stosur
#10 Ka.Pliskova d. #15 Bacsinszky (oh... I'm bending back SO far right now!)
#8 Keys d. #13 Konta
#22 Svitolina d. #12 Cibulkova (LPT pick, by proxy? I can live with it.)

...and the Pliskova Slam Futility Update dies a premature death, I suppose.

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#5 Halep d. #10 Ka.Pliskova (all-in for Si-mo-na)
#8 Keys d. #22 Svitolina

...they've already played twice this summer, with Halep winning at Wimbledon and Montreal.

=FINAL PREDICTION=
#5 Halep d. #8 Keys (crazy like a fox)

...and I'll be personally conducting tours of the Cliffs of Simona throughout the fall. It's the least I could do, right?

All-in... I always keep my promises.





All for now. Day 1 -- and the Daily Backspin -- awaits, as well as a quick Week 34 recap.