Venus feeling invincible
August 25, 2007
Special to PA SportsTicker
FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- Wimbledon champion Venus Williams has shrugged aside a tough draw and likes her chances to win a third U.S. Open title.
The No. 12 seed - along with her sister Serena - has been drawn in the same half of the draw as top seed and French Open champion Justine Henin as well as rising Serbian stars Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.
Yet so buoyed has Venus been by her march to the Wimbledon crown in July - with wins over defending US Open champion Maria Sharapova, 2004 US champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli - that the American goes into the tournament on Monday feeling virtually invincible.
Venus drew a qualifier in her first-round match but faces a potentially awkward third-round match against the Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko - the 21st seed - and possibly Ivanovic in the fourth round. Jankovic could be her opponent in the last eight, while either sister Serena or Henin are in the mix as semifinal opponents.
"If I can match my form at Wimbledon, I'll be unbeatable," said the 27-year-old Williams in an interview with USOpen.org. "I feel like I'm playing better, but I need to get out there and execute in the matches, like I did at Wimbledon. That's what it's all about."
American tennis broadcaster and two-time Grand Slam finalist Mary Jo Fernandez believes Williams has what it takes to be successful at Flushing Meadow in the final grand slam of the year.
"Venus has only played in San Diego since Wimbledon," Fernandez said. "She had match points against Anna Chakvetadze but lost that match but I think she's played enough tennis for me to predict another win," Fernandez said. "Winning Wimbledon for the fourth time will mean she's pretty confident."
The Williams sisters are the United States' only seeded women's players at their national championship and will play back-to-back matches in Monday's opening night session - which is dedicated to the first female African American tennis star, Althea Gibson.
They have also landed two of the first three Grand Slam titles of the year with Serena winning the Australian Open at the start of the season before Venus' Wimbledon triumph. They also kept the US Open title in the family for four years in a row, Serena's successes in 1999 and 2002 bookended Venus's back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.
Fernandez believes Serena can also shake off a strained left thumb which has kept her on the sidelines since Wimbledon to make a run deep into the second week in New York.
"The only good news for Serena is that she's been able to practice," Fernandez said. "I saw her in San Diego, and she's out there hitting balls every day. So if her left hand is better, I think she's going to be ready to go. She's made a huge believer out of me that she does not need matches to win at the majors."
Henin may have something to say about that.
If Serena overcomes Germany's Angelique Kerber in the first round and then makes it through a tough route - if the seeds hold up - to the quarterfinals by defeating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, Russia's Vera Zvonareva and No. 10 Bartoli, then top seed Henin could be waiting for her in the last eight to set up a meeting between the two for the third time in a row at the same stage of a grand slam.
With such a potential war of attrition awaiting those in the top half of the draw, US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe believes the bracket lines up nicely for defending champion Maria Sharapova - sitting pretty in the other half of the draw.
"Five of the top six 'picks' I made for the US Open are in the top half of the draw - Henin, Serena, Venus, Jankovic, Ivanovic," McEnroe said. "The sixth one would be Sharapova.
"In my opinion, they are the ones that can win this tournament and now five of them are in the same section of the draw. So the big question is going to be whoever gets out of that draw, 'will they be worn out just by doing that?' That presents an opportunity for Sharapova."
Go get em Venus