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Sonja
Aug 23rd, 2002, 09:00 PM
http://www.msnbc.com/news/796721.asp

Picking a surprise winner on the women&'s side of the U.S. Open is extraordinarily difficult because of the omnipotence of the Williams' sisters. However, if we can define a dark horse as anyone who makes the semifinals, the upset pick here is France's Amelie Mauresmo. Others who could make it interesting at Flushing Meadow are Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova and American Chanda Rubin.

MAURESMO HAS THE best chance because her game appears to be coming together at precisely the right time. She advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals by defeating Jennifer Capriati and stopping her streak at six consecutive grand slam semifinals. Mauresmo then went out and recently beat Capriati again for the title at the Canadian Open, her eighth career triumph.

Although Mauresmo has not defeated either of the Williams sisters, to beat Capriati twice in two months on different surfaces is a confirmation of her ability.

Mauresmo has been lurking in the bottom half of the Top 10 now for a couple of years. Her career-high ranking of five came last spring and right now she is ninth on the computer.

Mauresmo's breakout tournament was the 1999 Australian Open where she advanced to the final and lost to Martina Hingis, who then in a well-publicized incident, had some unflattering things to say about Mauresmo's physique. After that tourney Mauresmo's game crashed, brought on by some personal problems and major failures at the French Open, where because of her nationality she carries quite a burden of expectation. In the last year and a half her game has started to rebound and she remains dangerous for almost any player she faces.

Given the past state of her mental game, what was impressive about both of Mauresmo's wins over Capriati was that Amelie was the more stable player emotionally. Capriati was the one who unraveled which would not be expected from someone who has captured three grand slam titles.

Mauresmo is the complete package physically. She is tall, strong, fit and hits the ball great. When you compare Mauresmo with players ranked ahead of her, like Justine Henin or Kim Clijsters, she has the definite edge from a strength and conditioning side.

HANTUCHOVA HAS THE SMARTS
Hantuchova is one of the fastest rising players on the tour. Ranked 201st in 1999, she has improved dramatically to 108 (2000), 38 (2001) all the way up to her current career-high of eleventh. No less an expert than Venus Williams commented, she has height, moves well and she thinks on the court. She really makes you realize where you have to work harder.

Hantuchova's intelligence comes up repeatedly when querying the tennis experts. U.S. Fed Cup coach and tennis legend Billie Jean King commented, "She has a great work ethic and her choice of shots is outstanding for a young player." High praise indeed for a player who celebrated her 19th birthday in April.

To date, Hantuchova's biggest claim to fame was her stunning run through the Indian Wells tournament. Seeded 18th she was the lowest seed to win a WTA tier one event. En route to the title she defeated Justine Henin, Lisa Raymond and then Martina Hingis in the final.

Hantuchova does not yet have the bright lights, big stage experience in the latter rounds of a grand slam, but like fellow Eastern Europeans, Elena Dementieva (semifinals) two years ago and Daja Bedanova (quarterfinals) last year, she might be primed to make a nice run through the U.S. Open draw. It certainly would not surprise me if she knocked off a Monica Seles or a Clijsters, players who appear vulnerable heading into the tournament.

RUBIN IS BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED
Rubin is the Todd Martin of the women's game. Martin must have been riding with Paul Revere in a previous life given the amount of times he has taken to the court bandaged up and gimping around. Anytime Martin plays it almost invariably seems as if it will be his last match as it always looks like he is held together by chewing gum and rubber bands. Yet he continues to soldier on winning his fair share of matches.

Martin's circumstances are remarkably similar to Rubin's. At the beginning of the year Chanda was out with another knee operation, with the noted doctor Richard Steadman performing the surgery. In May she was struggling in her comeback so much that her coach Benny Sims pulled her out of a pre-French Open tourney in Europe to put her through a one week boot camp of hard-core training to see if she could rebound and play in the French Open.

Whatever happened at the camp worked because Chanda has been on a roll ever since. Rubin made it to the round of 16 at Roland Garros before falling to Venus Williams. Less than a month later she had her best Wimbledon showing ever, again making it to the round of 16, for a nice clay/grass court double.

Then the 26-year-old veteran made the best run of her career at Manhattan Beach in early August, where she defeated in succession, Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, ending her 21-match win streak that included Wimbledon and French triumphs, and world No. 5 Jelena Dokic in the semifinals. In the finals, down match point in the second set, Rubin came back and ousted defending champion Lindsay Davenport.

Rubin's career high singles ranking was a sixth in 1996 and now six years later she has inched up to 15th on the computer. On the eve of the Open she will be a tough out for any of the top players who happens to draw her on their side of the bracket.

Milly
Aug 26th, 2002, 08:10 PM
Thanks Sonja:)