Simon Reed

Four to win US Open

Simon Reed

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Kim
Clijsters's return to tennis just keeps getting better, and it seems to be
building all the time. She fell to Jelena Jankovic in the last 16 in Toronto last week, but
Jankovic had to play some fantastic tennis to knock her out.

And in the round before that
against Victoria Azarenka, Clijsters looked superb, playing the best tennis
she's yet produced in her comeback.

She is now installed as fourth
favourite with most bookies for the US Open, and that seems a very fair
assessment for a player who is still getting back the sort of match fitness
that you only really gain in tournament play.

Serena and Venus have to be
favourites in New York,
even though they have looked shaky in the warm-up tournaments - you just know
that once the starting pistol fires at Flushing Meadows, the real Williams
sisters will show up.

But while Serena will no doubt be
awesome, I am beginning to think that Venus's days of winning Grand Slams are
over.

She is starting to look like a
boxer late in his career: shot, as if there's nothing left in the tank. I still
wouldn't write her off, but I would be very surprised to see her win.

And what about the Russians? Dinara
Safina played the best I have ever seen her play when she beat Clijsters in Cincinnati the week
before last. She was positive, gutsy and kept on slugging away no matter what
happened.

I honestly thought I was watching a
player who had turned a corner and conquered the mental demons that have
blighted her career. But then she went and lost the final to Jankovic and
promptly got knocked out in the second round last week.

Dementieva is another one who
doesn't show consistency. She is running into form, as she showed in Toronto last week, and is undoubtedly capable of sublime
tennis, but the way she fell at the last hurdle at Wimbledon
makes me think that she cannot handle the pressure of a US Open.

Of the two, Safina is the one who I
can see winning the title, but she needs to to show grit and skill
consistently, right through the tournament.

There are other contenders on
paper, but I hold out little or no hope for them.

Caroline Wozniacki? I don't think
she quite has the weapons, and needs to change her game to reach the very top.
Jankovic? Her problems on the mental side dwarf those of Dementieva.

Honestly, I can't see beyond the
Williams sisters, Safina and Clijsters when it comes to the US Open. But the
women's game is so open at the moment that anything could yet happen.

It will be a fascinating fortnight,
whatever happens.

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