We assess what's at stake for the top 10 women until the end of the year, starting with the world No. 1, who was conspicuously absent in New York.
1. Serena Williams: This time of the year has never been a top priority for Serena, nor should it be. The majors are over. However, given foot surgery ruled her out of the U.S. Open, Williams probably has a little more desire than usual to return to the tour. Will she or won't she play in the Fed Cup final? That's the big question.
2. Caroline Wozniacki: It was all going so well for Wozniacki in New York. She swept to the semifinals without breaking a sweat. Then came that ugly match against Vera Zvonareva. Wozniacki is still at that stage where she plays a heck of a lot, and that won't change in the fall. The Danish teen is chasing the No. 1 ranking. Let the education continue.
3. Venus Williams: How Venus would love to have that second-set tiebreaker against Kim Clijsters in New York back. The elder Williams blew a golden chance to win a first major outside grass in nine years. Given she's 30 and coming off knee woes during the U.S. Open Series, Venus should get in just enough matches, not more, to prepare for the year-end championships.
4. Vera Zvonareva: What a year for Zvonareva, reaching two Grand Slam finals. Unfortunately, and similar to fellow Russian Elena Dementieva in 2004, she failed to win a set in both finales. Zvonareva needs to work on her emotions. Although much improved, Zvonareva let rip on her coach in the U.S. Open final.
5. Kim Clijsters: She returned to the tour on her own terms and nothing has changed. She'll play as little as warranted. If it keeps her going for a while longer, then great. Clijsters plans to participate in only one event prior to the year-end championships. Don't get injured heading into 2011.
6. Jelena Jankovic: It seems Jankovic hasn't recovered from her exertions in the fall of 2008, when she played five weeks in succession to grab the No. 1 ranking. She's fading, barely above .500 in her past 13 matches. The Serb could thus do with a huge boost of confidence. Getting a full-time coach must be near the top of her to-do list.
7. Samantha Stosur: Has Stosur underachieved since reaching the French Open final? Perhaps. An arm injury didn't help. Stosur would gain a huge spark by qualifying for the year-end championships for the first time, because it appears she still doesn't think she should be mixing it with the elite.
8. Francesca Schiavone: Like Stosur, Schiavone has never played at the year-end championships. Unlike the Aussie, the confidence isn't lacking. Schiavone got her swagger back at the U.S. Open, where she delighted fans with her all-court game. Schiavone likes the fall swing, evidenced by her productive 2009. She'll be looking forward to another Fed Cup final.
9. Agnieszka Radwanska: Unless she turns into a power player, Radwanska will never become a serious threat at the majors. She failed to exceed the fourth round at the Slams in 2010. The serve, especially the second serve, is a weakness. Reaching the quarterfinals and semis the next two months probably won't be enough to land the Pole a direct spot at the year-end championships.
10. Elena Dementieva: She can't seem to win the big matches. There was the Australian Open. There was the U.S. Open. And at the French, a torn calf muscle prevented Dementieva from finishing her tussle against Schiavone in the semis. Dementieva will go hard during the fall -- just as she does every week on the tour.