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Are you looking at the sports news today and scratching your head trying to figure out if you know these surviving women in the US Open? If there is anyone in the world who predicted these 8 women would make the quarterfinals of the Open, I just hope I am facebook/orkut/myspace friends with them, because they are sure to win a lottery sometime in the future.
But let's pause for a moment, take a deep breath and reanalyze the women's field. We absolutely have to begin with Oudin. The clearest dividing line between those that win at the slams and those that don't is mental toughness. At the tender age of 17, Melanie has already proven that this is a quality that she possesses in abundance. The serve and th e muscles will hopefully come as the years go by, but for now we can all enjoy youth in action. Dementieva, Sharapova and then Petrova. And after losing the first set in each of those matches! Jankovic after her loss to Oudin at Wimbledon claimed that this girl has no big weapons. Well Jelena, if you only had a quarter of the courage that Melanie has, you would have won a few Slams by now. At this point, it definitely seems like the US Open will be remembered more for her run than for the eventual women's singles champion.
Oudin's opponent, the Woz (Caroline Wozniacki), is another example of youth being served this year. Just 2 years older and from the evidence of that thriller against Kuznetsova in the fourth round, her nerves might be just as steely as Melanie's. The partisan crowd is definitely going to be pulling for Melanie and Wozniacki's relative lack of experience in the quarterfinal stages might just prove to be her undoing. Prognostication can be a scary occupation these days though, especially when it comes to the women's game. The tennis Gods seem interested in a teenaged finalist, and they might not distinguish all that much between Caroline and Melanie.
What then of these two women - Yanina Wickmayer and Kataryna Bondarenko. Let's look at the one you've probably heard of first.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â KatarynaÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Bondarenko is the lesser known half of the Ukranian Bondarenko doubles pair. Her upset of the free falling Ana Ivanovic is unlikely to change that. Older sister Alona is more recognized, more talented and more photogenic and hence has managed to garner all the attention. Well,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â KatarynaÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â has managed to surpass her sister now. Alona's never been past the 3rd round of a Slam. KatarynaÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â avenged her sister's loss at the hand of Gisela Dulko and how! Dulko has been lurking around the top 30-40 of the women's game for quite a while now and a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Bondarenko is a result no one would have predicted.
That brings us to Yanina Wickmayer.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Well I'd have to confess I knew nothing about her before today. Now all of a sudden the world knows that Brad Pitt is her favourite actor and Rihanna her favourite singer. A 19-year old Belgian, Wickmayer has been party to her country's emergence on the tennis scene with Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters as role models in her formative years. The 6 foot tall teenager had jumped from 500s in the world to a place in the top 50 in just 2 years on the back of a fantastic run on the ITF Challenger circuit and won her maiden WTA tour title earlier this year at Estoril.
Wickmayer and Bondarenko are likely to benefit immensely from the lack of attention their match will garner, and should be able to play their natural game. Very evenly matched, Bondarenko takes a 2-1 head-to-head lead into their quarterfinal, including a win a few weeks ago at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
While the top half of the draw has been laid to tatters by all the upsets, Serena Williams still holds the lower half in her hand. She is the player to beat. She has not lost a set yet and most of the locker room probably doesn't even believe they can beat her. There will be no crying and mental breakdowns from her, so Flavia Penetta's dream run might just be coming to an end. Despite the 10th seeded Italian being the hottest player of the summer, beating Serena at a Grand Slams may be a hurdle too many.
Even if Papa Fed manages to win slam title number 16, the parent of the US Open is definitely Mommy Kim. Returning as a mother is an order of magnitude tougher than returning as a father. And after the bageling that she received in set 2 against Venus Williams, there was definitely a possibility that we might have seen the last of her. A gritty final set, and now a quarter final with Li Na should put her into a semi final against Serena. Regardless of what happens, she deserves all the accolades and the women's tour is infinitely better off with her around what with all the mentally fragile Serbs and Russians.
We've experienced a weird Open. We've seen the frailty of the top women. We've been left to wonder if Serena can ever be beaten. But we've also enjoyed a mother coming back. We've been treated to the tenacity of a teenager. We've learnt some new names. If the men have provided us great entertainment with their consistency and their quality, then the women with their drama and their unpredictable script have been just as entertaining.
As the quarterfinals begin, let's hope for more material for us to add onto the script of the 2009 US Open: the leading contender for the most dramatic women's slam of the year.
Women's Quarterfinal Line-up
Yanina Wickmayer BEL v Kateryna Bondarenko UKRÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Melanie Oudin USA v (9) Caroline Wozniacki DEN Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
(18) Na Li CHN v Kim Clijsters BELÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â
(10) Flavia Pennetta ITA v (2) Serena Williams USA
File Photograph Copyright: Neal Trousdale
- 10/09/2009 03:52 - US Open Day 10: Djokovic makes 3rd straight semi; Wickmayer through to her first
- 09/09/2009 07:48 - US Open Day 9: Nadal, Serena record entertaining wins
- 09/09/2009 02:39 - Murray dumped out of US Open by Cilic, Kim's perfect comeback continues