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Eyes on the prize

LOOKING TO BE BIG IN NEW YORK: Serena Williams

The Voice of Sport previews the upcoming US Open

THOSE WHO dismissed Serena Williams as a spent force following her exit at Wimbledon in June have been obliged to revise their opinions ahead of this month’s US Open.

The younger Williams sister has overcome her health and injury problems to rise from 80th to 31st in the rankings and claim two dominant hard court tournament victories that have installed her as the early favourite at Flushing Meadows.

More resonant than her 6-2 6-4 defeat of Sam Stosur at the recent Rogers Cup in Toronto recently was her beaten opponent’s admission that she hoped for rain.

“I can walk off knowing I did my best, and I thought I played quite well,” said Stosur. “The rain was approaching and unfortunately it didn’t approach fast enough for me.”

When a professional ranked in the world top ten is reduced to relying on meteorological help to overcome Serena one can rest assured that the 29-year-old is returning to her best.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner accepts her resurgence with a determination to continue proving herself. "I consider myself a favourite to just do what I can do best; if that means winning the US Open, obviously I want to," Williams said.

Not only is the US sporting public crying out for American tennis victories, particularly at their home Grand Slam, but Serena has defined her era as no other female player. Yet she remains cautious. “Going through so much, I’m just taking it one day at a time and kind of like one match at a time."

Should she peak at Flushing Meadows she will present a stern test for her various opponents. Any from a clutch of players including world number one Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova could find the form and consistency to mount a title challenge.

It remains to be seen if Serena is joined in New York by her elder sister. Venus has not played since her own fourth round exit at Wimbledon.

She is currently ranked 36 and is unlikely to be seeded at the tournament but her mere participation would alleviate some frustration.

In the men’s draw few are looking beyond Novak Djokovic. So dominant has the Serb been in 2011 that he has lost just once this calendar year.

Nonetheless it would be churlish to dismiss the claims of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – men with 26 Slams between them.

Andy Murray arrives at his favourite Slam determined to claim his first title, while Juan Martin del Potro is close to recapturing the form that propelled him to glory at Arthur Ashe in 2009.

If one of these finds a chink in Djokovic’s armour they are each equipped to exploit it.

Few are looking beyond Serena and Djokovic, which sets the stage perfectly for disgruntled stars eager to steal a slice of glory.

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