U.S. Open women's seed report
Dinara Safina can silence her ranking critics with a championship run
Recent returnee Kim Clijsters has a legitimate chance to reach semis
Can Elena Dementieva convince herself that she is capabale of winning?
SI.com's 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 watch and his predicted winners.
Top 16 seeds
1. Dinara Safina: If only to see her spared more criticism, how do you not pull for Safina to win her first major and -- all together now -- validate that top ranking? Alas, there are few indications she'll do so. Her play on the hard courts was patchy and she seems genuinely unhinged by the rankings controversy.
2. Serena Williams: She's done virtually nothing since Wimbledon, but so what? She's like the kid who annoys the other students by skipping all the classes, bombing the quizzes and then acing the final. She's the best, provided she wants to be (and there's a day to rest between matches).
3. Venus Williams: Always dangerous, but at some point when we weren't looking, Venus ceased becoming an A-list hard-court player. Very modest summer results and, unlike her sister, she hasn't won in New York since 2001.
4. Elena Dementieva: The hot pick coming in, based both on her fine play at the Rogers Cup and her fine match against Serena at Wimbledon. The problem isn't the serve so much as it's the confidence. Has she truly convinced herself she win finally win a major? If so ...
5. Jelena Jankovic: A finalist last year, Jankovic struggled through much of 2009. She's showed signs of life lately, but then backslid in Canada. She's too slight; she's too buff. She's too rusty; she's overplayed. At least you don't get cheated on the drama.
6. Svetlana Kuznetsova: We thought the French Open champion had proved to herself that she can still win big prizes. Then she regressed, losing to Kim Clijsters, among others, this summer. Puzzling player who possesses all the raw materials.
7. Vera Zvonareva: A fine year for perhaps the most consistent ball striker in tennis. Lacks the weapons to compete for the title and her ankle may still be in bad shape, but ought to be around until Week 2.
8. Victoria Azarenka: The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately meter is starting to beep a little bit. Tons of talent and undeniable game. But we still await that "next step."
9. Caroline Wozniacki: Her breakthrough season has tapered off a bit, but still a fine player worth watching.
10. Flavia Pennetta: Check her out if you get a chance. Italian is playing the best tennis of her career and, while you wish she had more wattage, she's beaten a number of top players -- including Venus -- lately. Plus, there's this.
11. Ana Ivanovic: Boy, have the wheels come off the train. Hard to recall a player reaching No. 1 and then crashing so dramatically. Would be great for women's tennis if she could return to the top echelon, but there are few signs of that right now. All starts with the serve.
12. Agnieszka Radwanska: A-Rad injured her hand in New Haven and one wonders if she can heal in time to post.
13. Nadia Petrova: A good athlete who can move, serve and play the net. But the embodiment for just how necessary mental toughness is in this sport.
14. Marion Bartoli: A player to watch. Her results tend to be as quirky as her game and temperament. She sure looked like a contender based on her play in Stanford. Then she retired in New Haven with a thigh injury.
15. Sam Stosur: Attacking Aussie playing the best tennis of her career. If she can succeed at the French and Wimbledon, you have to think she's due for a strong showing on hard courts.
16. Virginie Razzano: A tip of the chapeau for the French veteran putting in a respectably solid year. A strong player, not an elite player.
17. Amelie Mauresmo: Former champion should be OK for a few rounds. Unless they import French fans.
18. Li Na: A feast-or-famine player.
23. Sabine Lisicki: Haven't heard much from Lisicki since Wimbledon but she showed that, on serve alone, she has a top 10 game.
24. Sorana Cirstea: One of the better players you've perhaps never heard of.
27. Alisa Kleybanova: Once Russian gets in better physical shape, she too has top 10 game.
29. Maria Sharapova: Big wild card. Finally starting to look (and, alas, sound) like her old self.
Kim Clijsters: In her first Slam back, 2005 champ has a real chance at the semis.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: In something of a sophomore slump but still a fearsome ball striker.
Lucie Safarova: Results are all over the place, but she tends to play her best at the big events.
First-round matches to watch
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Melanie Oudin: Two of the better young players in the game.
Agnes Szavay vs. Shahar Peer: A pair of players better than their rankings suggest.
Serena Williams vs. Alexa Glatch: A good "big stage opportunity" for young American.
Sam Stosur vs. Ai Sugiyama: Look for actual volleying here!
Blue-plate upset special: Kateryna Bondarenko over Ana Ivanovic.
Cara Black and Liezel Huber: Simply the best in the biz -- at least when Williams-Williams aren't in the draw.
Clijsters vs. Serena Williams
Jankovic vs. Dementieva
Serena vs. Dementieva