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Can Venus, Jennifer or Lindsay make Runs?
by Matthew Cronin
Thursday, August 21, 2003

Eight of the nine top U.S. women have been battling injuries this summer or are out all together, but two-time champ Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport will tape themselves up and admirably compete.

However, it will take a monumental feat for any American to beat the Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. With Serena and Venus out since Wimbledon, Clijsters and Henin dominated the North America hard-court swing, combining for all four titles prior to New Haven.

Venus would have been the outright favorite had she played prior to the Open, but her abdominal tear has been slow to heal, and she'll be very rusty. However, if she can sweat through five wins and reach the semis, she'll loom large. She has a makeable draw up until the third round, where Francesca Schiavone of Italy will likely test her. Then she could face the excellent counter-puncher Ai Sugiyama, or another Italian veteran, Silvia Farina-Elia.

The quarters could see Venus facing Capriati, a player she has rarely matched up against. Capriati has an outside shot at the title if her sore shoulder and pectoral muscle holds up, but she’ll likely need to punch out 2000 semifinalist Elena Dementieva in the fourth round, who seems to be hitting her stride again.

Should either Venus or Capriati reach the semis, they will almost assuredly face a stern test in the form of Roland Garros champ Henin-Hardenne, who is brimming with confidence and has her eyes squarely set on the title and the No. 1 ranking. The 5-foot-6 Belgian is in terrific shape, has improved a ton this summer and is many analysts' pick to win the title.

No. 1-ranked Clijsters is dead set on proving her worth and winning her first Slam but needs to bring the killer instinct that she shows in winning non-Slam tournaments in New York. The Belgian does not have an easy draw, with American Laura Granville, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, Arizona's Meghann Shaughnessy and rising Russian Vera Zvonareva as possible first week foes, and the intimidating Amelie Mauresmo (who reached the Open semis last year) as her probable quarterfinal opponent.

The semis could bring either of two Americans for Clijsters, the third-seeded Davenport or the eighth-seeded Chanda Rubin. Davenport has been struggling with a foot injury, and Rubin has a shoulder ailment, but both have enough savvy to reach the quarters. Whether they will have enough to take out Clijsters – who has owned them as of late – is another question all together, but a charged up crowd in Ashe stadium may be enough for either of them to pull off an upset and reach the final.
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