Unlike the men’s professional tennis tour (ATP) the women’s tour (WTA) has been almost exciting as it ever has been with approximately eight to ten players who are all of nearly equal playing ability – and have the resumes to prove it.
The USTA announced last week, that for the first time, seven former US Open women’s singles champions, including Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Martina Hingis, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, have entered the women’s singles field for the 2006 US Open Tennis Championships.
The 2006 US Open will be played August 28 – September 10 at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.2 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total $2.2 million potential payout) based on their performances in the US Open Series. In addition, both US Open singles champions will receive a new Lexus GS 450h automobile.
More than 30 countries are represented on the entry list, which includes all top 100 ranked players. Leading the entry list is world No. 1, Amelie Mauresmo of France, the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, who will seek to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2003 to win three Grand Slam titles in one year.
Following Mauresmo on the entry list are No. 2 Clijsters of Belgium, the defending US Open and US Open Series champion, No. 3 Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, the 2003 US Open champion and reigning French Open champion, No. 4 Maria Sharapova of Russia, the 2004 Wimbledon champion and No. 5 Nadia Petrova of Russia.
Rounding out the top ten entries are No. 6 Elena Dementieva of Russia, the 2004 US Open runner-up, No. 7 Kuznetsova of Russia, the 2004 US Open champion; No. 8 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, No. 9 Mary Pierce of France, last year’s US Open runner-up and No. 10 Davenport of Laguna Beach, Calif., the 1998 US Open champion and the highest ranked American on the entry list.
Other American women who received direct entry into this year’s tournament include No. 23 Venus Williams, the 2000 and 2001 US Open champion, No. 49 Shenay Perry, No. 55 Laura Granville, No. 56 Amy Frazier, No. 65 Jamea Jackson, No. 67 Jill Craybas, No. 71 Meghann Shaughnessy, No. 74 Lisa Raymond, the 2001 and 2005 US Open women’s doubles champion, No. 78 Vania King, No. 88 Ashley Harkleroad and No. 90 Meilen Tu.
Aravane Rezai of France, ranked No. 102, was the 104th and last player accepted directly into the women’s field of 128. Sixteen more players will gain entry through the US Open Qualifying Tournament, August 22-25, while the remaining eight spots are wild cards awarded by the USTA.
Serena Williams, the 1999 and 2002 US Open champion, entered the 2006 US Open, but did not receive direct acceptance into the main draw based on her current No. 139 ranking. If necessary, the USTA will issue a wild card to Williams.
The July 17 edition of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings was used to determine the US Open main draw entry list. Seedings will be based on the August 21 rankings and the US Open draw will take place Wednesday, August 23.
The 2006 US Open will also mark the culmination of the US Open Series, the six-week summer tennis season linking all major ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments in North America to the US Open.
Incredibly, the US Open is the highest annually attended sporting event in the world. More than 87 million viewers watched the 2005 US Open on CBS Sports and USA Network, and international broadcasts reached 184 countries.
In the women’s singles final, US Open Series winner Kim Clijsters defeated Mary Pierce and – along with her US Open Series bonus – collected $2.2 million in prize money, the highest payout in the history of women’s sports.
Now before I get into making my predictions, let me say that there are so many talented women that have a genuine shot at winning this tournament, predicting a winner beforehand is akin to throwing darts blindfolded.
However, I am gong to select Mauresmo, Venus Williams, Kuznetsova and Clijsters as my final four depending on the seedings. In the final, I’m going to go with Mauresmo over Clijsters. Mauresmo has been playing absolutely outstanding tennis all year and should be looking to add the US Open title to her burgeoning trophy case.
Of course, I could be totally wrong here. I mean, who knows, Serena Williams could instantly put her injuries and mediocrity of the last couple of years behind her. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out Henin-Hardenne, Sharapova or Davenport either.
Whoever ends up winning this year’s US Open, one thing is for sure, the women’s draw is almost guaranteed to be more exciting than the men’s.