Dark Horses At The Open
With Serena Williams out it almost seems as if every player has a chance at taking this year’s crown but in reality most are picking Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, or Caroline Wozniacki to win the title. Over on the men’s side the big four are at the top of everyone’s to-win list once again. There are some dangerous players lurking in both the men’s and women’s draws though that could cause a few upsets and go deep in the draw. You never know, some could even take the title; the women’s draw is more open than ever and surely it’s time for a massive surprise on the men’s side.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: It’s hard to call a former champion a dark horse, but Kuznetsva is now ranked twelfth in the world and has done nothing at Slams so far this year. However, she is coming in with form after taking a title at San Diego, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska in the final, and making the semis of the Rogers Cup. If she peaks at the Open there is no doubt Kuznetsova could claim her third Slam. She has a tough opener against Kimiko Date Krumm on Tuesday which should give some indication of how the Russian is playing.
Daniela Hantuchova: The number 24 seed was in excellent form before falling in the first rounds of the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati. Still, with her effortless strokes Hantuchova has the experience and fitness to make it far in a major. There’s no doubt she has been overdue for a decent showing for some time. There was promise in her earlier match, she came through a tough opener against Dinara Safina in straight sets despite losing to her in Cincinnati. She has a tough second round against Vania King but she’ll want all the practise she can get as Elena Dementieva looms in the third round.
Melanie Oudin: It could be brave calling the down-to-earth teenager a dark horse after her poor results this year. Still, despite all the pressure on her shoulders Oudin was on fire in her opening match, pushing aside Olga Savchuk 6-3 6-0. She made the quarter-finals and captured America’s heart last year, matching that result is a huge ask but for the girl with ‘courage’ written on her shoes, anything is possible.
Li Na: The charismatic Chinese player has had a fantastic year. After blowing everyone away by making the semis of the Australian Open, Na went deep at Wimbledon reaching the quarter-finals before losing to Serena Williams. Her results of late have been average, with loses to Azarenka and Yanina Wickmayer, but she is still one of the top performers of the year. She made the quarter-finals last year and has a soft draw until the fourth round, where she could meet Kuznetsova.
David Nalbandian: After struggling with injuries all year, Nalbandian came back with a career-best 11-match winning streak. His streak included a win in Washington and a semi-final in Toronto, where he lost to Andy Murray. Nalbandian cooled slightly with a loss to Novak Djokovic in the third round in Cincinnati, but is still very much a man to watch. He has found himself in Rafael Nadal’s quarter, who used to call Nalbandian’s backhand his most feared shot. Nalbandian could run into Fernando Verdasco in the third round and would possibly be favoured to take out the struggling Spaniard despite being the lower-ranked player. Nalbandian will be looking to meet Nadal in the quarter-finals and will hope to pull off one of the biggest matches of his career. If he does, all eyes will be on him.