The main story line on the women's side heading into next week's U.S. Open: Can anyone stop Serena Williams?
The 14-time Grand Slam champion ruled on grass this summer, with a Wimbledon title and singles and doubles gold medals at the London Olympics. She not only won those titles, but also she looked dominant doing so.
She lost two weeks ago in the Cincinnati quarterfinals to on-the-rise No. 6 Angelique Kerber of Germany, which did not come as a huge shock because many Olympic players were fatigued. But it is a hiccup worth noting. Kerber could prove dangerous if they were to meet again in New York. The German lefty entered last year's U.S. Open ranked No. 92 and made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to eventual winner Samantha Stosur. Kerber moved up to No. 34 by tournament's end.
Kerber beat Venus Williams in the third round at the Olympics and in Cincinnati snapped Serena's 19-match win streak and beat Petra Kvitova to reach the final, where she lost to Li Na. The German is a counterpuncher like Caroline Wozniacki.
That said, Serena remains the player to beat in the eyes of most experts.
"I think Serena has proved that when she's motivated and healthy and playing well, she's the player to beat," Chris Evert said Wednesday on an ESPN conference call. "If you put [Maria] Sharapova at her best against Serena at her best playing for a title, you know, Serena is going to win.
"The question is: As we saw at the Australian when she was out early and the French Open when she was out early, and a couple weeks ago when she lost a match, the question is, can she keep that level of tennis for over a two-week period consistently. She is going to be her rival or worst opponent. I don't think it's going to take a player who has a hot day to beat her. I think it's more likely going to take Serena, if she's below par, and that very well happens the older you get. You have more flat days."
Evert said she expects Williams to have to work harder at the U.S. Open than she did on the Wimbledon grass.
"It was really good luck to her that the two big tournaments, Wimbledon and the Olympics, were on grass. Basically, that's her surface and that's basically where no one is going to return her serve, and she's going to get 20 aces a match. That's the surface that balls don't come back as much as they will on the hard court. She will have to work hard the next two weeks."
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