Sharapova arrives in peak form, could be ready to win
Posted: Thursday August 24, 2006 10:04AM; Updated: Monday August 28, 2006 12:17AM
Maria Sharapova reached the semifinals at the '05 U.S. Open. Is this finally her year?
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the U.S. Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses to keep an eye on and his predicted winners.
Top 16 seeds
1. Amelie Mauresmo: The winner of two Slams this year, Mauresmo has been sensational. But she's played only one event since Wimbledon and has never brought her finest tennis to New York. An Open title would be the coop de gracie, as they say in Queens, but we're thinking otherwise.
2. Justine Henin-Hardenne: The '03 champ is a threat to win any event she enters, not least because she simply fights better than any of her peers. Still, we worry about both her knee and her lack of match play since Wimbledon.
3. Maria Sharapova: Our pick to win. The Endorsed One has played well in California and arrives seemingly in peak form and health. What's more, provided she gets by hard-serving Michaella Krajicek, she's been blessed with a kind draw.
4. Elena Dementieva: Once the rallies get going, she can hang and bang with anyone. The problem, of course, is that flutterball serve that always seems to be her undoing in the Slams.
5. Nadia Petrova: The athletic Russian was playing as well anyone this spring. Then she injured her groin and hasn't been the same since. Fully healthy, she would have a good shot to win. Unfortunately for her, that doesn't seem to be the case. She may get as far as the quarters with an unimposing draw, but don't look for her to beat an in-form Sharapova.
6. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The '04 champ is back in the mix. She seems to have gotten over some of her mental issues, and her fitness is never in question. But she lost to Martina Hingis in Montreal (and lost in the first round last year) and is in a quadrant filled with land mines.
7. Patty Schnyder: She's never a big-match player, particularly at the Slams and particularly on hard courts. It would be an achievement if she survived the middle weekend -- even with a custard draw.
8. Martina Hingis: The '97 (gulp) champ will be cast in the new role of sentimental favorite. She has shown flashes of brilliance in '06 but is still prone to getting outhit. Hingis could easily get to the quarters and live up to seeding, but between Mauresmo and Ana Ivanovic, it's hard to see a semifinal appearance.
9. Nicole Vaidisova: The talented teen would like nothing more than to break out in New York, where endorsement checks get cashed. Is she 100 percent, physically, and can she control nerves on the big stage? If so, she could last five or six rounds.
10. Lindsay Davenport: The sentimental favorite is playing her first Slam since the Australian Open. She wishes she had more match play coming in, but if she's in form -- and doesn't get so down on herself -- it's not hard to see her in the round of eight.
11. Anastasia Myskina: She has done little to build on a strong Wimbledon; an early loss in New Haven bodes ill for a long run. Myskina is fun to watch, but she seems to have settled into the role of a second-tier player.
12. Dinara Safina: She cooled off after a fine spring on the clay but could do some damage.
13. Mary Pierce: It's pretty amazing that Pierce can still be a top-15 player having played only nine matches all year. In full health she'd be as dangerous as anyone, but her prep work was so minimal, she is prime for an early upset.
14. Francesca Schiavone: Italienne is the best WTA player never to have won a title. She's fun to watch and has a swashbuckling game and a real stage presence. She's not a threat to win, but catch her if you can.
15. Anna-Lena Groenefeld: Her booming serve ought to make her a shot for the late rounds. But like so many others, she could be worn down by injuries.
16. Ana Ivanovic: A hot pick, riding high after her Rogers Cup title in Montreal. She looked like a future top-10er not so long ago but has been slowed by injuries. In full health, it's easy to see her as the surprise of the tournament.