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Open women's quarterfinals preview
No. 3 Venus Williams vs. No. 6 Francesca Schiavone
After capturing her improbable title at Roland Garros, Schiavone is making an impact in the final Grand Slam tournament of the year. The 30-year-old veteran from Italy has shined against much younger competition in New York, dispatching Alona Bondarenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her past two wins.
Few players on the WTA Tour can match the drive and determination of Schiavone, but there are other attributes that make the No. 6 seed such a tough opponent. She is one of the few players left in this era who routinely charges the net and uses her speed between the lines to end rallies quickly.
While Schiavone's spin and unique angles have confounded many players, Williams has encountered little trouble when she has faced the Italian. Venus has won all seven of their matches, although Schiavone has extended the American to three sets in their two meetings this year.
So far, Williams' play has been as sparkling as the glamorous outfits she has worn at the Billie Jean King Nationa Tennis Center. The No. 16-seeded Shahar Peer became the fourth player to fall to Williams in straight sets in their round of 16 match. With her sister Serena sidelined with a foot injury, this tournament represents Venus' best opportunity to win her third U.S. Open championship in years. Schiavone will offer plenty of resistance, but it's unlikely Williams will squander this major opportunity.
RESULT: Williams defeated Schiavone 7-6 (5), 6-4
No. 2 Kim Clijsters vs. No. 5 Samantha Stosur
Defending champion Clijsters has won 18 consecutive matches at the U.S. Open, but extending that streak will be challenging in the quarterfinals. Stosur demonstrated her tenacity by saving four match points in her marathon fourth-round victory over the No. 12 seed Elena Dementieva. After spending over three hours on the court in that victory, Stosur will be able to rest during the day before taking on Clijsters under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Aussie has been slowed by an arm injury this summer, but appears to be playing pain-free tennis at the Open.
Stosur will need to be at her very best, having struggled against the former world No. 1 in the past. Clijsters has won all three of their previous meetings, taking their last match in Key Biscayne, Fla., earlier this year in straight sets. The Belgian's outstanding court coverage has been a key in overcoming Stosur's power in their prior encounters. Stosur has rebounded admirably from the emotional pain of losing to Schiavone in the French Open final as a heavy favorite.
She'll need to maintain that focus against Clijsters, who has always been a fan favorite in the Big Apple. Clijsters owns a home in New Jersey and has been adopted by the partisan crowds in Flushing Meadows. The No. 2 seed has been outstanding in turning her defense into offense and will try to use the pace generated by Stosur against her opponent. Stosur has proved she belongs on the Grand Slam stage, but may have to conjure up a masterpiece to steal the spotlight from Clijsters at the Open.
No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Dominika Cibulkova
Wozniacki is living up to the expectations that come with being awarded the top seed. Last year's U.S. Open runner-up has been even sharper this year in New York. Wozniacki's efficient win over Maria Sharapova in the fourth round revealed some of the weapons the Dane has refined over the past 12 months. Wozniacki's serve has improved, and her steely two-handed backhand was too much for Sharapova to handle. Wozniacki only committed 10 unforced errors in her convincing victory.
It's unlikely Cibulkova will fare any better in the quarters. The Slovakian capitalized on the latest inconsistent showing by Svetlana Kuznetsova — who double-faulted 10 times — in the round of 16.
Despite being just 5-foot-3, Cibulkova is able to generate enough power with her forehand to hang with the big hitters on tour. But Wozniacki has dictated the terms in their head-to-head meetings, winning four of the five matches they've played. Look for that trend to continue in the quarterfinals.
Just like last year, it appears the draw has opened up for Wozniacki in the second week of the U.S. Open. While she has not beaten a top five player this year, Wozniacki is poised to play for the title for the second consecutive year. Good fortune can be just as significant as good play at the Slams.
No. 31 Kaia Kanepi vs. No. 7 Vera Zvonareva
Kanepi has continued her impressive summer, upsetting No. 15 seed Yanina Wickmayer in the round of 16 after dropping the opening set 6-0. The Estonian has reached her third career Grand Slam quarterfinal and is part of the final eight in her second consecutive major after her outstanding run at Wimbledon.
Kanepi's success has been a testament to perseverance. She reached her career high ranking of No. 18 in the world last May, but dealt with a myriad of injuries for the rest of 2009. Kanepi's big game has served her well on the extremely fast hard courts at Flushing Meadows.
Zvonareva's return skills will be tested by Kanepi's powerful serve and heavy groundstrokes. But the Russian's improved fitness and mobility should allow her to track down the shots that Kanepi hits deep into the corners. The 2010 season has been a breakthrough year for Zvonareva, reaching both the singles and doubles finals at Wimbledon.
Zvonareva often generates headlines for her emotional meltdowns, but the No. 7 seed is capable of playing cerebral tennis. Her clinical win over Andrea Petkovic is the latest reminder that Zvonareva has a complete game. That variety and recent Grand Slam experience may be the difference in this match. Zvonareva should survive and advance to the semifinals.
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