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Andy says he can Slam New York
Men to watch on the cement; Thoughts on Toronto: Kim's loss, Mauresmo and Vera's returns; Close the curtain on Dani and Jelena; Anna to the Maxim

By Matthew Cronin

Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA, Inc.
It's about time that Andy Roddick pounded his chest and said that he's ready to win the US Open. He's playing significantly better than any other competitor right now – save for Roger Federer – who he came back on in Montreal last week.

Roddick could have taken a mental siesta on Thursday against his buddy James Blake in Cincy, but he didn't and proved that other than the skidding Andre Agassi, he's the only American male with a real shot of winning the Open.

"I can definitely imagine myself winning a Slam now," Roddick said after his 7-6, 6-2 third-round win over Blake. "A couple of months ago, that wasn't the case. Maybe I'm one of the favorites for the US Open."

Roddick has compiled an impressive 27-2 record since losing in the first round of Roland Garros.
"He's probably the best around right now," said Blake, who at least has to be happy that his bad shoulder appears to be at least temporarily healed.

A lot of homage has been paid to Roddick's new coach, Brad Gilbert, who has been there for all 27 of Roddick's wins. Blake gives much of the credit to Roddick himself, but there's no question that celebrity-coach Brad's presence has taken a lot of heat off Andy, as many folks are pointing their fingers at Brad's strategies, win or lose.

"Maybe I'm biased because I'm a player, but Andy is the one out there getting the job done," said Blake. "He has matured. He's the one going to bed early and making the sacrifices. He's a 20-year-old who's in the top 10 and he's only going to get better. It's a little scary. He's the player to beat at the Open. You never know with Andre taking two weeks off – he can still play better than anyone can. But Andy is playing the best on the hardcourts."

Men to watch on the cement

Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA, Inc.
Another player to watch at the Open will be the lightening quick Guillermo Coria, who destroyed Mikael Youzhny 6-2, 6-1 in Cincinatti. The Argentine has Wilander-like capabilities.

Four other men who have shined on hard courts and could reach the second week of the now-blacked out Flushing Meadows: Max "The Beast" Mirnyi; Mariano Zabaleta; David Nalbandian, who's much better than we thought he was at first look; and Rainer Schuettler, arguably '03s most consistent player. "I've had a great year so far," Schuettler said. "I hope that I can keep it up, that I can play well in New York."

You know the hardcourt campaign is in full swing when these two ghosts of the clay and grass seasons show up in big ways: Mardy Fish, who destroyed the chronically erratic Arnaud Clement in Cincy, and Robby Ginepri, who took out the very capable "No One Hunts Like" Gaston Gaudio. (That's a Beauty and the Beast reference for those of you who don't have kids or who aren't partial to fairy tales).

Thoughts on Toronto: Kim's loss, Mauresmo and Vera's returns
Before she left California, we told Golden State adoptee Kim Clijsters that her schedule was way too busy and she needed to focus more on peaking for the Open. She found that out in her 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Lina Krasnoroutskaya in Toronto. Kimmy said she was fried, so now she needs to rest up for the first Slam that she'll enter as the favorite.

Give credit to Lina though, who's seriously struggled against the elite since returning from injuries. If she can get her serve in line, she's a top-20 player.

It's great to see that both Amelie Mauresmo (who beat Fabiola Zuluaga 6-4, 6-2) and Vera Zvonareva (who thrashed Jelena Dokic 6-3, 6-2) have recovered from the their injuries. The tour needs their dogged competitiveness and oncourt flair at the Open.

Two other Russians scored notable victories when Elena Dementieva took out Fed Cup teammate Anastasia Myskina 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 and the always mentally questionable Elena Bovina thrashed Amanda Coetzer 6-2, 6-1. Myskina should have made it North American side sooner. Dementieva is gradually regaining her confidence and will be a threat at the Open – at least for two sets.

Speaking of Mother Russia, Nadia Petrova's hardcourt season has been awful. She wanted to go into NY as one of the top 16 seeds but has done nothing in her last four events. However, at least she played respectably in her 6-3, 7-5 loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Close the curtain on Dani and Jelena
Gabriela Sabatini told us last summer that her countrywoman, Paola Suarez, had peaked, but Suarez has been formidable on hard courts this summer, nearly upsetting Lindsay Davenport in LA and in Toronto, trouncing Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-0. Suarez can't knock anyone out from the baseline, but she's a very smart player and has beautiful hands at the net. Go watch her play doubles sometime with her partner, Virginia Ruano-Pascual, and you'll see one of the world's most feared poachers.

Turn out the lights, the 2003 party is over for Dokic and Hantuchova, who both need extended mental breaks and some serious offcourt training if they are to be factors in 2004. We all knew that Dokic was capable of going on a yearlong walkabout, but who knew that Hantuchova would mentally quit this early? It's funny that Dani was being touted as the Anti-Anna by some handlers (capable and nice). We recall that last summer when Kournikova was healthy, she posted much better results than Dani has this summer. Plus, she was being nice to boot.

Fred Mullane/
Camerawork USA, Inc.
Anna to the Maxim
Speaking of Anna, her appearance on the cover of the vacuous magazine Maxim this month must have pleased her sponsors a great deal, but what does it do for her, other than increase the perception of her that's she's a model wannabe with no serious tennis ambitions? Sure, she looks good in the photo spread, but the article about her is silly, frat-boy mumbo-jumbo that has no redeeming value whatsoever. The author apparently forgot that she's a tennis player, which is the only reason she entered the public eye in the first place.
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