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With field down to 32, which woman is favored to win U.S Open?

Patrick Mouratoglou is a world-renowned tennis coach who has worked with Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai. His French tennis academy is considered one of the top in the world. He'll provide commentary for Busted Racquet during the 2010 U.S. Open.

Since Serena Williams, the world No. 1, was forced to pull out of the U.S. Open, her main rivals are engaged in a fight for the title. Having Serena out of the picture will undoubtedly lead to a fierce battle, considering how she usually is the main obstacle for the rest of the field. For some, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get their career to the next level. But this situation also means huge pressure for the players who know that such a big chance might not come back very often in the near future.

The favorites

1. Kim Clijsters -- Kim is the favorite in New York. She's coming into the event as the main contender, because even if she's only No. 3 in the world right now, everybody agrees that she's above Caroline Wozniacki. She proved it last year when she beat the Dane in the final. This summer, Kim has been pretty convincing, winning with ease in Cincinnati. Her game is in shape, but it'll be very interesting to see how the Belgian is dealing with the pressure of being the favorite. Before her retirement, she showed a real fragility in being top dog and even this year we've been often surprised to see her totally out of sorts during Grand Slams or other big tournaments (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Wimbledon). She sometimes seems to lack calmness in a big moment.

2. Caroline Wozniacki -- This U.S. Open is taking on a whole new meaning for the young Danish player. The world No. 2 is here to defend her 2009 finals appearance and the large amount of rankings points that go with it. But, forgetting the numbers, she has a huge opportunity to win her first Grand Slam with Serena being out. She's coming off a very successful summer with a great level of play and three titles won: Copenhagen Montreal and New Haven. She seems stronger than ever now following a tough clay season disturbed by a bad ankle injury. The only downside for her is that her habit of playing too much. She went to New Haven last week after winning Montreal, an unnecessary move. Her ability to stay fresh enough, physically and mentally will be put in question, especially as the seven-match Grand Slams are more like a marathon than a sprint. This choice of playing so many matches before a Grand Slam leaves me wondering. Of course we can be sure that the confidence she earned in winning this titles will be able to overcome the fatigue. Overall, I feel like she has improved a lot, especially on her serve and on her forehand, the two shots that have hampered her game in the past.

The outsiders

1. Venus Williams -- There are many questions surrounding Serena's big sister, because we left her in a totally underperformed Wimbledon quarterfinal against Pironkova. Since then she hasn't been playing a single tournament. Officially injured for the past two months, I believe she has been preparing very carefully for this edition of the US Open. She's playing at home and obviously wants to erase the Wimbledon disappointment from her memory. Her first match against Roberta Vinci was very convincing. She started the match like a storm, hitting winners from all over the court and preventing the Italian from resting for an instant. Her serve worked well, as always, very aggressive. That and her return are what make her game so dangerous. She also seems really fit. No doubt, we should count on her in this tournament.

2. Maria Sharapova -- What a pleasure to watch the great Maria finding her game back! Her serve is finally working again; she has been able to take her old motion because obviously her shoulder issue is history. She's also moving so much better and her fighting spirit i rallies is back too. Even if she's maybe still not at her very best, she's getting there little by little and isn't too far now from her goal. Her Montreal final proves that. She'll be really determined in this U.S. Open, an event that she loves, having spent so many years in the United States. I consider Maria as a very dangerous opponent right now and i won't be surprised if she's making her way into the last four.

3. Ana Ivanovic -- The Serbian seems to be feeling better since her win over Azarenka. Beating Zheng Jie in the second round will only increase that. She's clearly on the downhill, going from being No.1 in the world to No. 80. With coach Heinz Gunthardt she succeeds in forgetting about her weak backhand in order to focus more on her great forehand and efficient serve. Gunthardt worked with Steffi Graf and he has obviously tried to give Ana some of the champion tips: big serve, big forehand and great footwork in order to turn on her backhand. This win over Azarenka could be a key in her way back to her best, and she already feels relieved of a burden. We can more and more find similarities between her game and Steffi's one. But you can't erase two years of struggle easily. Ana is playing better, she's gradually finding back the game that has lead her to be the No. 1 player in the world, but the whole process will take time. Players should always be very wary about her though.

4. Svetlana Kuznetsova -- Svetlana seems motivated again by tennis. Earlier this year she was looking lost and unfocused. After Wimbledon, she did very tough physical work, lost some weight and is back and very ambitious. She won in San Diego, then played the semifinals in Montreal. But she still looks fragile and often lacks consistency. She can get weak if you're attacking directly on her forehand. And, as much as she's able to display some great tennis, she's also able in the same match of totally losing her focus and then game plan. She's a really great player, but she'll need more time in order to win an other Grand Slam. She still can hope for a semifinal here.

5. Jelena Jankovic -- It's really tough to find some steady players in the women draw nowadays! The Serbian hasn't done well summer at all, whereas she was so much more efficient in the first part of the season. She can't be put in the favorites side for this tournament, but she remains a really big fighter, a player who moves amazingly well, a real counterpuncher who will give her all every time. So she's still to be counted as a dangerous opponent.

6. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova-- Nastia is improving, slowly but surely. Her potential is huge and she's among the ambitious ones. She gave her game a new dimension this summer and seems way stronger. She's still a bit young in order to win such a big event, but she totally could pull an upset on some favorites. Keep an eye on her.

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