The Women's Side, Predictions … Perspectives

By Jane Voigt

August 24, 2013 -- ESPN analyst and former player, Mary Jo Fernandez, is right. "Whenever Serena's in the tournament, she has to be considered the favorite." This
U. S. Open is no different. 

No matter who landed in her quarter or half, when Serena Williams is on, which lately has been most of the time -- she has won 8 titles this year -- no one has much of a chance. There have been exceptions this year, though. 

Sabine Lisicki's hard hitting and big serving proved too much for Serena in the semifinals at Wimbledon. And, Sloane Stephens' tight composition of points in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open were enough to oust Williams. In Paris, though, Serena pushed herself mentally and physically. Her reward, a second Roland Garros title. She won her first in 2002. 

The other heavy hitters are: Samantha Stosur; Li Na; and Victoria Azarenka who held a match point against Serena in last year's final. 

Stosur defeated Williams in the 2011 final, too. Her performance that evening was a breath of fresh air from the Aussie. Her mind was lock tight, and Serena's floated around Arthur Ashe Stadium like an unmoored boat. 

Stosur recently parted ways with David Taylor, her coach of 7 years. The split was unexpected, but coincides nicely with her renewed passion for her game. At last, Stosur seems to play for herself. Her game shined against Azarenka in the final of Carlsbad at the end of July. Stosur won 62 63. Earlier in the week she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, too, continuing her dominance over the Pole when few can figure a way out of her game plans. 

Serena Williams is aware of history and wants to be part of it; if she wins New York she will take another step -- her 17th major -- in a quest to be the greatest of all time. 

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Serena Williams lines up a backhand at the Western & Southern Open. In this match she defeated Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. Photo credit tennisclix

As reminded in a video on Tennis.com's story Fan Club: Venus Williams, Serena has wanted people to play like Serena, be like Serena. She did not want to follow, even as a 12-year-old. She did not want to emulate anyone, not even big sister Venus. Cut from a different cloth, Serena's determination and self perspective are high on a list of assets.

There are other women who are steeped in those characteristics. However, they have not received the amount of attention as have the Williams sisters. We know more about those two women than we do about all the top 20 combined. 

Serena and Venus did not play junior tennis circuits. Their father and coach, Richard Williams, thought they should go to school, mature, and remain with their family. 

Mats Wilander, in an interview with Jane Voigt in 2011, made similar comments. Packing up kids when 10-13, shipping them off to academies too far away for regular family visits will not serve the child, he said. In the end, they are the ones who must love tennis. They will not continue, otherwise. Pushing, finagling and mapping a course to high stakes prize money is not a super highway without heavy tolls. 

Richard Williams did want his girls to get out of the ghetto of Compton, Calif. He discovered tennis was an avenue. Little did he know what would eventually transpire. His faith was sincere. His commitment to the girls was too. 

Serena Williams' draw has a scattering of complications. Sabine Lisicki would only face Serena in the semifinals, if they progress on course. Li Na could be a likely semifinalist and another woman with formidable power. Both Lisicki and Li could spell trouble, but consistency in performance is a big negative. 

Sloane Stephens lurks as a possible 4th round match-up. Serena is not likely to let the opportunity slip to assert her dominance over the talented, yet raw, No. 15 seed. Stephens can battle the power, but strategically she lacks foresight and tactical acuity. 

Jelena Jankowicz, the No. 9 seed, has climbed back to the top of her game. She plays Serena closely, and likes the battle. Their head-to-head is 4-6, Serena with the advantage. Serena last defeated Jankowicz in Charleston, in the final of the 2013 Family Circle Cup. The Serbian has whipped up on Serena three times on a hard court, and once on red clay in the 2010 semifinals. 

Agnieszka Radwanska is another potential semifinal opponent. Radwanska's game is the antithesis of Williams'. It's the un-power game, flaunting spin and magical variety and a heavy dollop of fleet-of-footwork. 

Radwanska has never beaten Serena in their six matches. The Polish variety master did stretch their 2012 Wimbledon final to three sets, though. Williams fell like many do against Radwanska, into a web of confusion spinning around offense and defense. Once Williams realized the conundrum, she dominated and won the title. 

Down The Tee picks Serena Williams to go through to the final, given her draw, history at the Open, and game. She has won four Opens, following Chris Evret's six and Steffi Graf's 5. A fifth, and second consecutive title, would suit her well.

Azarenka is clearly Serena's biggest threat for an upset. They could meet in the final, given Maria Sharapova's withdrawal at No. 2. Azarenka defeated Serena in the final of the Western & Southern Open last weekend. Azarenka did not walk on the Linder Family Court with high expectations. She had not played well throughout the week-long tournament. However, as the minutes passed in the final her game went up and up. Her errors fell. Her serve percentages rose along with her confidence. 

There is absolutely no reason Azarenka could not win the U. S. Open. It only takes seven wins, steely nerve, and a healthy dose of self confidence. 

All players, though, no matter the experience and record can fall prey to mental lapses. With matches decided by points, the mental side of the game is similar to the glue that binds a book. Watch scores go up and down, as players' minds wander after a bad point or game or set. The ones that back-burner adversity will triumph. 

 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013