By Christopher King
While all eyes will be on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the men’s competition of the US Open, it’ll be the Williams sisters who are looking to be the first Americans since Andy Roddick in 2003 to win a Grand Slam title.
From 1999 to 2002, Serena and Venus Williams were virtually untouchable at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with Serena taking the US Open crown in 1999 and 2002 and Venus the two titles in between.
They may be getting some outside help, though. Since Serena’s US Open victory in 2002, four women have won the tournament, but only one, Svetlana Kuznetsova who won in 2004, will be in Queens for this year’s Open.
The 2003 and 2007 winner of the US Open, Justine Henin of Belgium, abruptly retired earlier this year even though she was ranked No. 1 in the world, citing charity and her tennis school as reasons for leaving the sport. Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters, who won the Open in 2005, is nursing a newborn baby and 2006 title winner Maria Sharapova will be forced to sit out with an injury.
And while the Williams sisters will be performing at this year’s Open, which begins Monday, in their prime, the 1998 winner of the US Open Lindsay Davenport will be returning in the twilight of her career after missing last year’s tournament due to the birth of her son.
The former No. 1 ranked player hadn’t miss a tournament for 16 years since joining the tour in 1991, and while the 32-year-old will have to work a bit harder to keep up with younger athletes, she has continued to show a penchant for winning. Davenport has won four tournaments since returning to the tour as she is now ranked No. 7 all-time in tour wins with 55.
Adding to the stars who will be performing in Queens, the seven women earning singles main draw wild card entries were announced. Gail Brodksy, Jamea Jackson, Asia Muhammad, Melanie Oudin, Ahsha Rolle, CoCo Vandeweghe, Séverine Bremond will be competing for the US Open title and may also be helped by the slew of injuries to top-ranked players.
The 2008 Open may not be the most star-studded in recent memory, but it has the potential to be one of the most interesting as the wide-open field could make for a Cinderella story or two.