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Aug 22nd, 2006, 09:34 PM
Bummer of a summer is poor precursor for U.S. Open

Aug. 22, 2006
By Joel Drucker
Special to CBS SportsLine.com

http://images.commissioner.com/images/tools/print-over.gif (http://cbs.sportsline.com/print/tennis/story/9613954/rss) http://images.commissioner.com/images/tools/send-over.gif (http://cbs.sportsline.com/emailafriend/index?location=http://www.sportsline.com%2Ftennis%2Fstory%2F9613954%2Frs s&title=Amelie%20Mauresmo%2C%20Elena%20Dementieva%2C %20Justine%20Henin-Hardenne%2C%20TENNIS) http://images.commissioner.com/images/tools/xml-over.gif (http://cbs.sportsline.com/xml/rss) Checking out what's been happening on the WTA Tour this summer conjures up the title of a Bob Dylan song, Desolation Row.

As has happened for several years, a spate of injuries, withdrawals and calculated scheduling decisions left the women's portion of the U.S. Open Series an unsatisfying mix of weaker-than-desired fields, spotty play and a set of results hardly revealing much of anything about what's to come in New York.

Kim Clijsters fell on her surgically repaired wrist and will be out of action until late October.

(AP) The U.S. Open deserves a better lead-up than what has happened to so many marquee players.

Kim Clijsters' (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201629) improper reward for an arduous summer was yet another injury to her left wrist that leaves her unable to defend her U.S. Open title. Justine Henin-Hardenne (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/219904), finalist in all three Slams this year, is only this week playing her first post-Wimbledon tournament. Ditto for world No. 1 and dual Slam holder Amelie Mauresmo (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201679).

So, in essence, the two top players of '06 are using the Pilot Pen Open in New Haven as a trumped-up practice session. I'll also note that it was rather shameful to see Maria Sharapova (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/385878) expediently pull out of Montreal moments after she lost in Carson, Calif.

And the Williams sisters? Don't get me started. We'll likely never know if Serena's (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201739) spiral of injuries is caused by bad training or no training. Venus (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201740), to me, is becoming more like Marat Safin every day: In New York she could lose on the first day or win the tournament.

That said, I still see the favorites, in no particular order, as Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo, Sharapova and, yes, Venus and Serena. Amid so many injuries and such in-and-out play, the telling factors for the women this year in New York will be confidence and past Slam experience.

Henin-Hardenne is a joy to watch. She can do so much, playing with a variety of power, touch, range and intensity unlike any woman in tennis history. But she's also a fine-tuned racing car, a competitor who must so carefully calibrate her mix of action and rest that hanging one's hopes on her is a delicate proposition, particularly on the hardcourts of the U.S. Open. Anything from schedule-shuffling weather to a tough early match could derail her.

If a bit less versatile and aesthetically pleasing than Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo is, to her credit, physically sturdier.

This year she's at last come into her own, particularly when she won Wimbledon, a victory highlighted by wins over Sharapova in the semis and Henin-Hardenne in the final that included ample doses of newfound emotional and tactical fortitude. Mauresmo's all-court playing style and kindly manner makes her increasingly popular.

Sharapova played well to win in San Diego, but I was surprised to see her stumble vs. Elena Dementieva (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201637) in the semifinals of Carson. Much like Andy Roddick, she's hoping that her jingle-jangle power game can earn her a second Slam singles title. Much as I'd like to see Sharapova employ more variety, the smarter bet is to see her demonstrate more patience and not always try to force her way through every point.

I'm at a loss on what to say about Venus and Serena. We've seen them win big, lose big, take time off, speak about dedication and desire, speak of life away from tennis.

In large part these two personify the deregulated aspects of an individual sport. Every player is her own franchise, utterly free to build a game to her own liking. So be it, right? Wrong? You tell me.

There are a number of players just behind these five who've got a mix of skills and results that could take them far in New York.

If not quite in the elite, Martina Hingis (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201658) is certainly knocking on the door. In contrast to the up-and-down qualities of the Williams sisters, what I love about Hingis' return to the game is her thorough immersion in the tennis process. She practices, she competes, she wins, she loses -- then moves on to play again.

It remains a delight to watch Hingis' textured game, a spider web paced by her superb backhand and keen court sense. Yet even as Hingis has spent more time in the gym, she just doesn't have the guns to get through an entire Slam. It would be interesting if she played with more enterprise and came to net even just 10 times more a match. But can her serve and forehand help more than hurt?

Others near the top include Nicole Vaidisova (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/484855), Svetlana Kuznetsova (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/385733) and Dementieva. Vaidisova, a player I'm convinced can be in the top five by the end of the decade, seemed tired this summer after her run to the French Open semis. Kuznetsova's up-and-down play continues to baffle. Dementieva -- probably the best player without a Slam -- could be fit and surefire enough from the ground to break out from the pack, particularly given how stale so many top players currently are.

And just as the men's side features an American headed to retirement, so does the women's field.

Though Lindsay Davenport (http://cbs.sportsline.com/tennis/players/playerpage/201634) hasn't announced that she's quitting, I have a hard time thinking she has the physical soundness or mental desire to schlep through another European autumn. As with Andre Agassi, I'm just hoping Davenport can even play.

On a broader basis, I await WTA Tour commissioner Larry Scott to further refine Road Map 2010, his vision of a streamlined tour that simultaneously keeps players healthy and helps the season build up to an appropriate series of crescendos. Otherwise, I'll be pondering these lyrics about a woman from Desolation Row:

Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her 22nd birthday
She already is an old maid
I like watching these women players too much to let them disintegrate like Ophelia.

Winner: Henin-Hardenne
Americans in the quarterfinals: none for the first time since 1993
Joel Drucker has worked for a variety of print and broadcast media, including Tennis Magazine, USTA Magazine, Cigar Aficionado, Los Angeles Magazine and the Tennis Channel.

Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:17 PM
Hey All,

I see Venus and others will particpate at the opening ceremony Monday nite. Wonder what she'll do? They'll be honoring BJK. Diana Ross will sing. I'll say!


Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:36 PM
Vaidisova, a player I'm convinced can be in the top five by the end of the decade

what an incredible crystal ball this guy has, genius predictions :yawn:

Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:36 PM
I think Lindsay and Serena have very good shots at making the quarters. If neither one does, I'll be shocked.

Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:44 PM
I think Lindsay and Serena have very good shots at making the quarters. If neither one does, I'll be shocked.

yea i definitely think it depends on the draw but if venus, serena and lindsay are all in the draw then surely one of them can make it to the quarters ...if not then :tape: :help:

Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:46 PM
I'm shocked he was so dismissive of Lindsay.


Aug 22nd, 2006, 10:50 PM
I find his comparison of Lindsay and Andre a bit too dramatic as well. Lindsay admits to being pain-free (in the back) now whereas Andre literally limps off the court after a match.

Aug 22nd, 2006, 11:05 PM
i don't agree with him AT ALL. the Americans are going to surprise a lot of people, just wait...

Aug 23rd, 2006, 12:33 AM
I think Lindsay and Serena have very good shots at making the quarters. If neither one does, I'll be shocked.

Same here. I can't think of a major EVER where the three of them played and none reached @ least the quarters

Aug 23rd, 2006, 01:06 AM
Wow. This guy Drucker is the "be all" and "end all" of tennis,for sure!

He courageously and boldly goes out on a limb and picks the #1 and #2 in the world as favorites for the 2006 US Open. What prognosticator in the history of sports has ever before shown such bravery in making predictions?

Although the laundry list of the other, second rate, possible contenders includes, apparently, every living female over the age of 15 on the five habitable continents, he does note, however, that most of them are not fit to play, stupid or injured and have no game, less talent and lack desire. Such incredible insight.

We really need more articles like this one. Drucker for GOAT!!!

Aug 23rd, 2006, 01:16 AM
Surely you would give maria better odds than JHH and Amelie, they have barely played since wimbledon.