The US Open started today; the big news leading up to the tournament was the withdrawal of Serena Williams due to a foot injury. Her absence leaves the women's singles field wide open--as in, there is no favorite. Caroline Wozniacki moves up to the #1 seed, and she has played well in recent weeks, but I am unconvinced that she is ready to conquer the rigors of the Open.
Looking at the draw, the top half is the one is where the important upsets should be expected. Look for Maria Sharapova (#11) to meet Wozniacki in the third round, and quite possibly to beat her. The section of the draw right below should end up with Svetlana Kuznetzova--maybe the most consistent woman player, if not the most talented--playing China's Li Na, who's also very consistent. The quarter of the draw below that is the one that really looks wide open--#4 Jelena Jankovic and #7 Vera Zvonareva are the nominal favorites, but I don't expect either one to make it to the tournament semifinal.
The bottom half of the draw would be similarly wild, except that it contains the real quality of the field in Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams. I expect them to meet in the semifinal and the winner to take the championship in a one-sided final. This could be Venus' best chance in a long while to win another major.
The men's field is different--deeper and yet more predictable, I think. The defending champion, Juan Martin del Potro, is unfortunately not yet able to compete. I see the tourney boiling down to the following quarterfinal matchups: Nadal (1) vs. Nalbandian (31, on the comeback trail); Murray (4) vs. Berdych (7); an American matchup of Roddick (9) vs. Mardy Fish (17), if Roddick can get by or around Nikolai Davydenko and Fish--playing his best tennis of his career recently--by #3 Novak Djokovic; and Federer (2) vs. the winner of a huge match between Marin Cilic (11) and Robin Soderling (5). After that, it gets very tough to pick, but I'll go with Federer defeating Roddick in one semifinal, Murray over Nadal in the other, and Federer defeating Murray in the final.
Soon after my last sports post, the Reds hosted the Cardinals and were thoroughly outclassed in three straight games. Then, something surprising happened: the Reds resumed their winning ways against lesser teams, but the Cardinals couldn't beat anyone for a while. Now, the Reds have opened up a five-game lead. It's far from over--the big rematch series, in St. Louis, will be this weekend--but the Reds have already exceeded my expectations, and there's a better-than-decent chance they will figure into the playoffs regardless of how that goes.
After only two games, Chelsea already stood alone at the top of the English Premier League, and their third win leaves them with 14 goals scored, none allowed. The tough matchups haven't started yet--they're a couple weeks away still--but Chelsea looks good, without a doubt.
It's a Drag
The NBA is a team sport, but one with stars of the first magnitude. There are signs this summer that some are getting a bit too big for their baggy britches. The Miami Heat has made itself overnight the team everyone loves to hate--even more than the Lakers--with their forced combo of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh. The new fad--like the football Bengals' combo of Ochocinco and T.O.--is players deciding who they want to play with and forming up accordingly.
The other rather miserable development is the US' team for the World Championships in Turkey. Not that the team is miserable--basically they are all second-line all-stars who would like to prove something--but, unlike most other countries' teams, our best players opted out this time. The team has not yet lost, in exhibitions or in the group stage of the championships, but the median expectation for this smallish team (it has only one center, and that's Tyson Chandler) would be third place or so. A lot depends on young Kevin Durant, the clear scoring leader on the team and star of the new team everyone wants to love, the Oklahoma City Thunder (what happened to New Orleans?)
Finally, the team I've adopted since moving out West, Chauncey Billups' and Carmelo Martinez' Denver Nuggets, seems on the verge of breaking up--Billups (who is on the US team) seems to be in decline, J.R. Smith is freaking himself and everyone else out again, Nene managed to get hurt with the Brazilian team, Coach Karl's return from cancer treatment is uncertain, and 'melo has made it clear he's going to do his version of the LeBron Thing next summer, when he'll be a free agent. Maybe I'll have to go back to the Knicks, who are showing some signs of sanity after a decade of madness.
Favre Be It From Me
It's hard to believe how much attention the NFL gets during its preseason. Oh well, it should phase into the real thing soon, though I will hardly notice until the World Series is over. The Brett Favre soap opera raises 24-hour sports journalism to a new high in banality and makes the Vikings the new must "Who cares?" team.