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Week One at U.S. Open: Wozniacki Living Up to Seeding, Jankovic Makes Early Departure

With Serena Williams out of the running, one established truism at this year’s U.S. Open was that the list of potential champions had expanded.  Yet, Caroline Wozniacki’s form the first three rounds is giving many room for pause as she is invariably validating her top billing.  With the initial week of competition concluded, here’s a recapitulation of the event thus far and a peak at what’s ahead.

Wozniacki has permitted her opponents only three games on her way to booking her spot into the round of 16.  Although Maria Sharapova needed three sets in the first round against Jarmila Groth, since then she has also been stingy. Sharapova allowed Beatrice Capra, the 18 year old American who upended 18th seed Aravane Rezai, just one game in their third round match.  As a result, the much anticipated  fourth round match between Sharapova and Wozniacki will take place on Monday.

After scraping by to reach the third round, Jelena Jankovic, the 4th seed, had her progress halted by Kaia Kanepi, the 31st seed.  Therefore, for Jankovic, the disappointment at the majors go on.  Kanepi will face Yanina Wickmayer, the 15th seed and 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist, in the round of 16.

Vera Zvonareva, the 7th seed, has been keeping a low profile while calmly taking care of business.  Without dropping a set, Zvonareva is now in the fourth round where she will battle Andrea Petkovic.  Zvonareva is clearly the favorite in that clash and with Jankovic ousted, she has a great chance to earn a berth in the semifinals.

Na Li, the 8th seed, and Agnieszka Radwanska, the 9th seed, were booted in the first and second round respectively.  With Li sent packing, Dominika Cibulkova was the beneficiary.  Cibulkova is alive for the first time in the fourth round at the U.S. Open and will face Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Since falling under the tutelage of Amelie Mauresmo’s former coach, Kuznetsova has rediscovered the road to success.  Kuznetsova should have no trouble punching her ticket to the quarterfinals for a date with either Sharapova or Wozniacki.

In the bottom half of the draw, Melanie Oudin, last year’s American darling, was bounced in the second round.  Franscesca Schiavone, the 6th seed  and reigning French Open champion, has finally found her game on hardcourt.  The Italian heads to the round of 16 having yet to surrender a set.  Schiavone’s next obstacle will be 19 year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  The Russian’s third round showdown with one of the favorites for the title Victoria Azarenka never came to fruition.  In her second round match, Azarenka collapsed and was forced to retire.  Initially, the problem was ascribed to the scorching temperatures.  Later on, the news was released that Azarenka had suffered a mild concussion prior to taking the court which was the culprit for her abrupt egress.  With Pavlyuchenkova dominant on hardcourt this season, it will be fascinating to see whether teenage fearlessness or experience wins out.

Sam Stosur, the French Open finalist and 5th seed, seems to have regained the shape which led to her spectacular run in Paris.  In the fourth round, Stosur will duke it out with Elena Dementieva who is always a tough competitor.  The two last met a year ago and Dementieva has a 4-1 advantage in their head to head. Without question, this will be an intriguing contest.

Although Venus Williams has prevailed in straight sets, considering the caliber of her three opponents, there’s room for improvement.  Venus’ subsequent test will be Shahar Peer.  With the knee still an issue, despite a 5-0 record against Peer, Williams will have to bring her A game if she plans to move on to the next stage.  As a 2007 quarterfinalist at this venue, Peer knows what success tastes like and an injured Williams presents a great opening.

Ana Ivanovic is going through a revival this summer and her fortunes have extended to this tournament. Ivanovic has equaled her best results in New York which was a fourth round placement in 2007.  Ivanovic will clash with Kim Clijsters in the round of 16.  Although Clijsters has carried her encounters in two sets, she has shown moments of vulnerability.  These two had a semifinal encounter in Cincinnati cut short by Ivanovic’s foot injury.  Thus, for Ivanovic, this will be a veritable measure of where her game is while for Clijsters a chance to further distinguish herself from her peers in her section.

In the top half of the draw, with Wozniacki and Sharapova unmerciful towards their rivals, one has to think that whoever wins that encounter will be the finalist.  In the bottom section, as a two time and defending champion, Clijsters has a slender edge as a top choice.  However, with Stosur’s and Schiavone’s results at the French Open and the fact they are playing well, they cannot be overlooked.  Moreover, Venus as a holder of seven majors once into the second week raises her level.  In her sister’s absence, there’s additional pressure for Venus to be flag bearer for the Williams clan, the snag could be her knee.  Still, the surprise semifinalist out of that region could be Pavlyuchenkova.  The teenager is sizzling on hardcourt this year and has beaten Venus twice in her budding career.  Therefore, a Clijsters-Pavlyuchenkova semifinal is a concrete possibility.

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