Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova favorites

The US Open starts on Monday and it looks like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have the best chances for the title. Let’s quickly review the recent action on the women’s tour and then look at the upcoming US Open, which is certainly one of the most exciting tournaments of the year.

Over the last 8 weeks the US Open Series was played out and Serena Williams ended up in first place in the US Open Series rankings. In case she wins the US Open tournament she would receive a $1 million dollar bonus on top of the regular prize money.

Serena is back to top form and did not lose a match in the US Open Series until pulling out of the second round in Cincinnati to rest a troublesome right big toe. She won the tournament in Stanford and the week after she won the Premier-level event in Toronto.

Since she won the US Open Series, Serena can now compete for the biggest paycheck in tennis history. If she wins the US Open she will collect $2.8 million dollars. She would get $1.8 million for winning the US Open, and a $1 million dollar bonus for winning both the US Open Series and the US Open. I believe this provides some extra motivation for Serena, especially since she hadn’t played for almost a year.

The other player next to Serena that I see with good chances to win the title is Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova has improved consistently over the last few months. I think she has been working really hard in order to put herself in position to contend for another major. She did well in the US Open Series, winning the Premiere-level event in Cincinnati and she also has the belief and the experience that are usually necessary to win a Grand Slam tournament. For her a lot depends on whether she gets her serve going or not.

The rest of the field is pretty wide open but I see a small group of players with outsider chances to win the title:

  1. Vera Zvonareva
  2. Agnieszka Radwanska
  3. Andrea Petkovic
  4. Sam Stosur
  5. Sabine Lisicki

Vera Zvonareva has good memories from last year's US Open where she reached the finals. The fast surface suits her flat shots very well and she also played pretty solid since Wimbledon.

Agnieszka Radwanska has done really well in the US Open Series, finishing in a tied second place, and she seems to be playing very good tennis right now. Nevertheless she has never gone past the quarterfinals of a major and it will have to be seen whether she is mentally ready to contend for a Grand Slam title.

Andrea Petkovic has been improving on a consistent basis. She reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and French Open this year. I don’t think she was mentally ready to take it a step further, but she might be now with a little more experience.

Sam Stosur has a very dangerous game on a fast court with her big serve and big forehand. After going through somewhat of a slump earlier in the year she has shown some strong form recently, reaching the finals of the Toronto event. She has also been to a Grand Slam final and knows what it’s like.

Sabine Lisicki surprised many people by reaching the Wimbledon semifinals this year. Most experts in the circuit were long aware though that she has a great game and the ability to beat anybody in the world if she can stay mentally tough. In addition, this weekend she won the Texas Tennis Open.

Caroline Wozniacki the number 1 player in the world, because she seems to be out of form. She was victorious at the New Haven Open, but had not won a single match in the US Open Series previously. I doubt that she has the game at the moment to compete for the title at the US Open.It's interesting thing to note that Serena Williams is seeded at number 28. The tournament officials decided to seed her according to her ranking and not make an exception because she was injured for so long.

Serena and Maria are in opposite halves so that would make a final between the two possible. Serena could also face number 4 seed, Victoria Azarenka, in the third round already, which I am sure Azarenka is not very happy about.