|ESPN.com: News & Opinion||[Print without images]|
1. She's back: Serena Williams didn't compete at the U.S. Open last year because of injury, and we can see that she's taking out any lingering frustrations on her opponents. Williams gave up just three games in her first two matches combined, then outdueled fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka in a second-set battle Saturday to move on to the fourth round. Williams is on a run that seems inevitably headed toward the final and a re-coronation of the queen of tennis. Yes, she's really back. Does anyone else stand a chance?
2. She's gone (for good?): Who knew when Venus Williams walked off of Arthur Ashe Stadium court on Monday night that it would be her last match of this year's U.S. Open, and perhaps the last for a while? Williams dispatched with Vesna Dolonts in the opening round, but withdrew before her second-round match with German Sabine Lisicki. Later, Williams revealed she had been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and other symptoms. There is no cure, but it can be controlled and Williams is undergoing treatment and hopes she can return to the tennis tour. But right now, there's no telling when, or if, she will be back. If it turns out her last match was a victory on Ashe in the U.S. Open, where she walked off to the cheers of her fans, it's not the worst way to end a career.
3. They're here: The bubbly effusiveness of Sloane Stephens is a welcome contrast to the occasionally dour and jaded demeanor of women's tennis. Fortunately, Stephens hasn't been around long enough to be unduly influenced by such glumness. The same holds true with Christina McHale, Irina Falcone, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe, five good reasons why the future of American tennis is in solid hands.
4. Where'd they go? If the U.S. Open has proven anything in the first week, it's that the depth of women's tennis is highly suspect. There's Serena, and perhaps a small group of lesser contenders/pretenders, and a vast pack of players who will knock each other off on any given weekend regardless of where they're seeded or ranked. That's what happened at the U.S. Open in the first week, which saw No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Petra Kvitova, No. 6 Li Na and No. 8 Marion Bartoli fail to advance past the third round. Of the final 16 players to reach the second week, only eight are among the top 16 seeds.
5. Where'd he go? After two weeks of cutesy photo ops in the hinterlands of Cincinnati and New Haven, Rory McIlroy decided to stiff his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, and go off to play golf this week rather than sit by her side while she tries to shut up the critics and finally win a Grand Slam. McIlroy is in Switzerland playing the Omega European Masters tournament instead of in New York, frustrating untold numbers of photographers, bloggers and purportedly respectable news and sports Internet sites that really just wanted them together for the added web traffic they would generate.