Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dark horses of the US open

                               Can Pavlyuchenkova make her mark  

If we think of women's tennis, year 2010 hasn't exactly gone according to form back. Yes, the strongest player in women's tennis Serena Williams has gone onto win the 2010 Australian and the Wimbledon championships, but we  have also seen relatively unknown  players like  Kvitova and Pironkova reaching semifinals and players, who are consistent on the tennis circuit, but not considered as favourites  reaching the later stages of a grand slam. For instance, the veteran Italian Schiavone won the French, her good friend Stosur finally showed that she may fulfill her potential by reaching the final at French, though she was beaten by Schiavone and Zheng Jie of China too reached the semifinals at the Australian open.

So, if we think of the last grand slam of the year US open, who are the players that may surprise tennis fans by reaching the later stages of the tournament and are worth a punt?

Here are my picks

Pavlyuchenkova- First of all, I do hope I have got  her name right! The 19 year old Russian lass has been a steady player on the tour and is ranked number 22 in the world. She was ranked in top 50 during both 2008 and 2009 as well. Her recent form too has been rather good as she won at Istanbul and defeated Dementieva and Wickmayer, en-route to reaching the semifinals at Cincinnati.

The problem with her seems to be a case of not performing well at the majors as Pavlyuchenkova hasn't gone past the third round in any of the majors. Only a few may pick her to do well, but looking at her recent form and  the relatively easier draw that she is in, I feel that she can do well at the US open.

Kleybanova- Kleybanova is another steady player on the tour and is ranked number 30 in the world.  The 21 year old big built Russian can be a dangerous opponent, as she can crack the ball aggressively from the baseline. Her recent form has been decent as she defeated the struggling Jankovic at San Diego before going down to Hantuchova and saved as many as 13 break points,  though it wasn't enough as Pennetta defeated her at the Pilot Pen open. She is another player, who hasn't been good at the majors, but she still has plenty of time left on her hands to make a mark.

Pennetta- The veteran Italian has been in decent form as she reached the semifinals at San Diego and the quarterfinals at Pilot Pen open, though she withdrew from the tournament at the quarterfinal stage citing a foot  injury. Pannetta also reached last year's quarterfinals at the US open. I do expect another fine performance from the veteran Italian at the US open.

Kvitova- The Czech girl has notched up some impressive results in recent times like defeating Safina at last year's US open and reaching as far as the semifinals at this year's Wimbledon.  Since her great run at the Wimbledon championships, Kvitova has  seen a slump in her form as if I am right, Kvitova hasn't won a single match since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, but I like the attitude of the lefthander as she never gives up and I do expect her to make a mark at this year's US open as well.

Other players to look out for can be, Oudin, Navarro and the veteran Bartoli. After her impressive showing at last year's Wimbledon and the US open, Oudin hasn't been at the her best,  but playing at home can help the girl to raise her game. Navarro suffered a bad ankle injury in one of her matches earlier this year against Keothavong, but is making a comeback at the US open. She has seen her ranking slide to below 50 and  has Wozniacki  in her draw, but the diminutive Spaniard with a fine cross-court backhand can still cause a few ripples in the tournament. The 2007  finalist at Wimbledon Bartoli is still around, though her serve can always be suspect.

Yes with Serena's withdrawal, the US open would be more about how the game's other elite players like Clijsters, Wozniacki, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Azarenka and co. would perform, but I would always like to keep an eye on players, who may not be well known, but can cause a few surprises.

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