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TENNIS / U.S. OPEN

Roger Federer, Williams sisters top the charts at U.S. Open

Five men's and women's players to watch at the year's final Grand Slam tournament, which starts Monday.

August 30, 2009

The U.S. Open begins Monday at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York. Diane Pucin offers a quick overview of the tournament:

Top five players to watch,

men's draw

It's hard to argue against the top-seeded and No. 1 player in the world, Roger Federer, who is aiming to become the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win six consecutive U.S. Open championships. Behind Federer things aren't so clear. The second-seeded player is Andy Murray, not Rafael Nadal. Nadal's major-championship season has been halting since he beat Federer in an emotional Australian Open final. The Spaniard lost early in the French Open and missed Wimbledon because of tendinitis in his knee. Still, it's dangerous to underestimate Nadal. Andy Roddick, the last player to win the Open before Federer's streak started, should be fueled by the New York crowds and the knowledge that he came close to beating Federer in the Wimbledon final. Looking for a dark horse? Sam Querrey, winner of the L.A. men's tournament this summer, has quietly gained hard-court confidence.

Top five players to watch, women's draw

Serena Williams, Venus Williams. Is it worth naming three others? Yes, because as the second- and third-seeded players, the Williams sisters were drawn to meet in the semifinals instead of the final. If there's a woman with the confidence and the power backcourt game to challenge the Williamses, it's fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva. If there is another woman who has quietly had a top summer hard-court season, it's rising star Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. If there's a candidate of the heart, it's recently un-retired Kim Clijsters, who has returned to the game after a sabbatical to get married and have a baby. Oh, the top-seeded player? Dinara Safina lost to Serena Williams, 6-0, 6-3, in the Australian Open final and 6-1, 6-0 to Venus in a Wimbledon semifinal.

Hardest quarter

Roddick has summer hard-court stalwart Tommy Haas and impressive Australian Open semifinalist Fernando Verdasco in his quarter.

Past and present vs. the future

Second-seeded Serena Williams, who, along with her sister Venus, has been a dominant player internationally and in the U.S. for a decade, has a first-round match against fellow American Alexa Glatch of Newport Beach. Glatch turns 20 on Sept. 10, and the U.S. Tennis Assn. has hopes she can begin moving up in the rankings.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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