Serena's absence gives others real U.S. Open hope

Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:02pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Line judges can relax, Serena Williams will not be gunning for her fourth U.S. Open title when the last grand slam event of the season starts next week in New York.

Her withdrawal after slicing her foot on a piece of broken glass in July will allow match officials to breathe a little easier safe in the knowledge that there will no repeat of her foul-mouthed outburst of last year.

But rather than detract from the tournament, the American's absence has unwittingly laid the foundations for one of the most wide-open women's grand slam events in years.

The depth in women's tennis has rarely been stronger and while Williams has been the dominant player for most of the past decade, there are many players willing to step up.

At least a dozen players hold genuine hopes of winning the August 30-September 12 tournament, but the favorite with oddsmakers and sentimentalists is Belgian's Kim Clijsters, a two-time winner in New York and this year's second seed.

She won her first title in 2005, but it was her inspiring victory last year after taking a break to start a family that will be the enduring memory of her career.

After sweeping aside younger opponents to become just the second mother to win a grand slam title, Clijsters celebrated by bringing her infant daughter on to center court.

But time could be running out for Clijsters, who has won three WTA Tour events this season including Cincinnati earlier this month. She has spoken about her desire to have a second child, which she said will probably lead her into retirement, while a niggling hip injury has raised fitness concerns.   Continued...

<p>Serena Williams of the U.S. poses for photographers as she holds the winners trophy after defeating Russia's Vera Zvonareva (L) in the womens' singles final at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 3, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>