Commentary

U.S. Open Serena Williams' to lose

Updated: August 24, 2011, 8:27 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

The U.S. Open is Serena Williams' to lose. On a mission, she's riding a 12-match winning streak.

Williams has mostly crushed her opponents this summer, saving her best for deeper in tournaments -- which is scarcely new.

Can the likes of Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki do any damage?

Here are three bold women's predictions revolving around the glamorous trio ahead of Monday's grand opening in New York:

Serena won't lose more than two sets

A few of you must be saying, "She only needs to lose two sets to get eliminated." True.

But the rest must have gathered that the augury implies Williams will win the tournament while conceding two or fewer sets.

Look at Williams' activity in Stanford and Toronto: She dropped three sets combined, ousting Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur, Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki comfortably. And four of the five were playing well. Only Bartoli managed to get five games in a single set.

The kind of opponent that can trouble Williams, although not exclusively, is the kind that took sets off her early in Stanford and Toronto, Zheng Jie and Maria Kirilenko, scrappers who chase down everything and make Williams hit that one extra shot. Williams got through it then and would get through it in New York, yet the first week is when the 13-time Grand Slam champion is indeed more vulnerable. There's no Kim Clijsters to contend with, either.

Another prediction, albeit not so bold: In her first U.S. Open appearance since 2009, Williams won't get thrown out for abusing a linesperson.

Sharapova won't reach the semifinals

[+] EnlargeMaria Sharapova
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesDespite a win in Cincinnati, Maria Sharapova appears to be a heavy underdog with Serena Williams in the U.S. Open field.

Sharapova has been either disappointing or very good this summer, nothing in between. Wanting to meet Williams, she was granted her wish in Stanford and was promptly pummeled in a little more than an hour. Feeling bad for the Russian, Williams applauded her off court (a nice touch; we should see it more often). Then in Toronto, Sharapova was bested by an unheralded qualifier.

That Sharapova triumphed over Jelena Jankovic in the Cincinnati finale was a minor miracle, considering she struck 11 double faults. No, they haven't gone away. Her battling qualities, fine return of serve and Jankovic's lack of a serve helped Sharapova through the match, giving her a dose of momentum.

But Sharapova is now mimicking Andy Murray -- you can't read too much into positive results heading into a major. Sharapova, on paper, was the favorite against Li Na in the French Open semis and Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon final following successful build-ups. The pressure led to doubles, and Li and Kvitova, bigger hitters than Jankovic with better serves, were able to capitalize.

Following shoulder surgery, does Sharapova, who hasn't reached a U.S. Open quarterfinal since winning the title in 2006, really believe in herself at the majors?

Wozniacki will make the quarterfinals

Life on the tennis circuit is never dull when Caroline Wozniacki is around, and for that, we should be grateful. Fake encounters with kangaroos, orchestrating her own press conferences and mingling with Rory McIlroy have all made for headlines in 2011 alone.

But what Wozniacki accomplished in dealing with the press the way she did in Australia remains unknown. It was likely an unneeded distraction.

Similarly, what's the point of Wozniacki not revealing the identity of her new coach? She withheld the information on media day in New Haven this week and hasn't budged.

Wozniacki told Danish press Monday that while the new coach wasn't with her, he or she would receive a copy of her two-hour plus practice session that was being filmed. (The coach is turning out to be more elusive than Jason Bourne.) You'd think Wozniacki would disclose the info sooner rather than later, allowing her to get down to business faster in New York.

Wozniacki is slumping, having lost three in a row prior to New Haven. However, and irrespective of the coaching saga, she'll have an opportunity to work herself into the U.S. Open draw (unless she lands Williams in the third round). Her most productive Slam surface has been hard courts, let's not forget.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.