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SportsTennisUS Open

U.S. Open women players to watch

Maria Sharapova of Russia returns serve to Kim

Maria Sharapova of Russia returns serve to Kim Clijsters of Belgium at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, London at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Aug. 2, 2012) Credit: AP

Age 30, USA
No. 4 Seed
This player is Trouble, with a capital T, that rhymes with P, and that stands for Perennial champion. She has won 14 major titles, easily the most among active women, and is closing in on Martina Navratilova and Chris Event (18 apiece); Margaret Court has the career record (24). Now, if Williams can avoid past Open controversies ...

Age 23, Belarus
No. 1 Seed
The sport could hear Azarenka coming, with her decibel-counter grunts and her 26 straight match victories (and four tournament titles) to start this year — including the Australian Open championship. The most trouble she has faced is from — no surprise — Serena Williams, to whom she has lost 9 of 10 career matches and three straight this year.

Age 25, Russia
No. 3 Seed
Eight years past the first of her four major titles (2004 Wimbledon), she is solidly back in the championship mix by advancing to three big finals this year (Australian Open loss to Azarenka, French Open victory over Italy’s Sara Errani, Olympic loss to Serena Williams). Besides Williams, she is the only active woman to win all four Slam events.

Age 22, Czech Republic
No. 5 Seed
One of 11 major tournament women’s champions entered in the Open, Kvitova (2011 Wimbledon) had produced her best results this year in the three previous Slams (Australian and French semis, Wimbledon quarterfinals) until she won the early-August hard court event in Montreal. One potential Open hindrance could be humid weather affecting her asthma.

Age 23, Poland
No. 2 Seed
She began the year with a victory in Sydney over her 21-year sister Urszula and proceeded to get a glimpse of the tennis mountaintop by pushing Serena Williams to three sets in the Wimbledon final for the highest ranking of her career. But she repeatedly has met her Waterloo against No. 1 Azarenka — six straight losses this year.

Age 24, Germany
No. 6 Seed
She advanced to at least the quarterfinals in six of her last seven tournaments, including a semifinal loss to Radwanska at Wimbledon. Her run to the Open semifinals last year was the first time Kerber made it past a Slam’s third round, but her rapid climb in the rankings — 47th in 2012, 36th last year — continues.

Age 28, Australia
No. 7 Seed
Whatever happened to ... ? Last year’s Open champ is without a tour title in 17 tournaments this year, her deepest advances having come in Doha (a loss in the finals to Azarenka) and the French Open (semifinal loss to Sara Errani). But she has won four of four Fed Cup matches, against the Swiss and Germans.

Age 22, Denmark
No. 8 Seed
Whatever happened to ... ? Last year’s No. 1 has no titles in 16 tournaments this year, making only one final — a loss to Kerber in Copenhagen. She lost in the quarters in the Australian and the third round at the French and bounced out of Wimbledon in the first round. On Friday, she retired with a right knee injury during her semifinal match in the New Haven Open.

Age 20, USA
No. 21 Seed
After Serena Williams, this New Jersey native is next among American women and one of only three seeded U.S. females. (Uzbek-born Varvara Lepchenko of Allentown, Pa., is No. 32). McHale’s best result in 18 tournaments this year was a quarterfinal loss to Radwanska in Doha, but she has jumped from No. 42 since the end of 2011.

Age 29, Belgium
No. 23 Seed
This is the last rodeo for Clijsters, who has won the last three Opens she entered — in 2005, before her original retirement — and in both 2009 and 2011. She missed last year’s tournament with an abdominal injury. In fact, her sabbatical and injuries have kept her out of 19 Grand Slams since she played her first of 34 majors in 1999.

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