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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 11:13 PM   #629
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

Assessing the forecast of these WTA stars


By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com

For the second time in three seasons, the women's year-end No. 1 goes to a player who has never won a major. Caroline Wozniacki earned the, uh, distinction, duplicating Jelena Jankovic in 2008. Wozniacki reached only one Grand Slam semifinal in 2010.


As Serena Williams might say, Wozniacki did win Ponte Vedra Beach. Of course, she played a ton, while Williams and Kim Clijsters didn't.


With the curtain almost drawn on 2010, we pose five burning questions looking ahead to 2011.


Will Wozniacki win a Slam?


No.


Wozniacki's stint in Doha told us much. The vivacious blonde faced two power players, Samantha Stosur and Clijsters, and lost. If Clijsters didn't get nervy in the second set Sunday, Woz wouldn't have claimed a set. As much as the 20-year-old has improved the serve and forehand, Wozniacki simply doesn't have the massive weapons -- yet.


The Dane figures to face one obstacle or another at the majors in 2011. For a start, Clijsters will be pumped more than usual for the Australian Open, given her embarrassing loss to Nadia Petrova last year. Justine Henin might rediscover the joys of Roland Garros, and grass is a difficult surface to master for young players. Serena is bound to recover from her foot injury.


Going deep won't be the problem for Wozniacki. Finishing the job will.


What's in store for Venus Williams?


Venus competed admirably at the U.S. Open, despite suffering from a knee injury that subsequently shut her down for the remainder of the campaign. It's hard not to think, though, that September's tournament at Flushing Meadows was her last real opportunity to land another non-grass major. Williams collapsed against Clijsters at the U.S. Open, mirroring a defeat to Na Li in Melbourne.


Williams, at 30, can't count on her body to heal the way it did 10 (or even four or five) years ago. Further, the last 30-plus women's player to win a major was Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990.


Will Justine find her best form?


"Best" may be pushing it, but Henin and her fluid all-court game will have a much better season. The signs are certainly good.


Henin returned to practice in late September following her elbow injury, saying all the "doubts" are gone. The seven-time Grand Slam winner committed to playing in the Hopman Cup the first week of January and made herself available for Fed Cup duty against the U.S. in February.


Carlos Rodriguez, Henin's longtime coach, suspected the 28-year-old would take a little longer than many thought to win a Slam in her comeback, even though Henin reached the Australian Open final.


Can we write off the Serbs?


Yes, as serious Grand Slam contenders.


Funny, a few years ago Jankovic and Rafael Nadal had similar styles. Both were pure counterpunchers. Although Rafa has evolved, Jankovic has been pretty static.


Her serve remains a liability, and the forehand doesn't frighten opponents. She's the undisputed No. 1 at making excuses. The only reason Jankovic might linger in the top 10 or 15 is lack of depth.


Ana Ivanovic's 2011 is promising, although less so now that she parted company with Heinz Gunthardt. Gunthardt was unable to travel with the seemingly high-maintenance Ivanovic (how many coaches has she gone thorough?) full time.


Under Gunthardt, Ivanovic found some of her old form. She won a title in Linz, Austria, without Gunthardt present, so why not settle for a limited partnership? The last thing Ivanovic needs now is instability.


Still, Ivanovic should pass Jankovic in the rankings. Maybe Ivanovic will become a major threat again in 2012.


Which Russian is most likely to rebound?


Based on mental toughness, it must be Maria Sharapova. Sharapova's engagement to L.A. Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic caused a few, we're sure, to suggest her eye is off the tennis ball. Nah.


Sharapova wants to start winning majors again, and she provided a glimpse of her motivation in signing to play at the smallish ASB Classic in New Zealand in January rather than a lucrative exhibition in Hong Kong. Sharapova showed flashes of her finest form at Wimbledon and the French Open. Unfortunately, the serving woes and inconsistency lingered.


Svetlana Kuznetsova is extremely unpredictable, and the two-time Grand Slam champ had issues with motivation in the past. Dinara Safina wanted to win too much -- undone by nerves, she flopped in three Grand Slam finals. A back injury means Safina will continue to fight an uphill battle.
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