Women's Singles Crown Up for Grabs at U.S. Open

The U.S. Open tennis tournament begins Monday in New York. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the women's singles competition last year, is not expected to repeat. Switzerland's Roger Federer is the overwhelming favorite to defend his men's singles title.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The last major tennis championship of the year, the US Open, begins this morning in New York. Roger Federer is a heavy favorite to defend his title. On the women's side, Svetlana Kuznetsova is considered a long shot to repeat her surprising victory of a year ago. Commentator John Feinstein joins me now.

Good morning, John.

JOHN FEINSTEIN reporting:

Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So Svetlana Kuznetsova is the number five seed, but there don't seem to be too many people who think she'll win again. Now why's that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it was a surprise when she won last year, Renee. A lot of the top women players were hurt, and again, injuries are going to be key on the women's side this year. Kuznetsova's one of those people. She had a back injury in Toronto a couple weeks ago and she's questionable coming in. Lindsay Davenport's got a back problem. Serena Williams has a knee problem. Venus Williams has had the flu. It seems like almost everybody in women's tennis, with the exception of the two Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who had their injury problems last year, is coming into this event as a question mark.

MONTAGNE: And there's Venus Williams, who won Wimbledon earlier this year, but she's only number 10 seed here.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: Are you surprised?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know how that works. I've never been able to figure out the women's computer, that Venus Williams, who won Wimbledon is the 10th seed, her sister is the eighth seed and Kim Clijsters, who's never won a major title in her life, is the fourth seed. So if you ever figure out the women's computer, Renee, please call me collect, because I'd like to know how it works.

But the fact is, the Williams sisters have not played that much this summer and they're seeded to play one another in the round of 16. So there certainly will not be a Williams vs. Williams final, which of course CBS would crave because it gave them such huge ratings a few years ago, and the question is can either one of them make it through to that last weekend.

MONTAGNE: And everything now on the men's side seems to start with one name, Roger Federer.

FEINSTEIN: Patrick McEnroe, the US Davis Cup captain, was asked the other day about Federer's draw, and he said, `Any draw is a good draw for Federer.' He's won four of the last seven majors. He won Wimbledon, beating Andy Roddick in the final for the second year in a row, and he's got a good draw, because Roddick, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, who's the new young rising star, are all on the opposite side of the draw from him and he would not meet any of them before the final.

MONTAGNE: And Andy Roddick, speaking of him, he won this title two years ago and he hasn't won a major one since, so where's his career right now?

FEINSTEIN: Well, his game and his career are pretty good. The problem is he's got this giant roadblock in Federer, who he lost the last two Wimbledon finals to. Roddick has played well, but he's one-and-10 lifetime against Federer. So what he really has to hope is that he can get through Agassi and Nadal, get to the final and hope that either Marat Safin or Lleyton Hewitt or someone else can somehow knock Federer off so he doesn't have to play him. That's how he won the title two years ago. He played Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final.

MONTAGNE: John, finally about two careers that seem endless. Andre Agassi and Martina Narvratilova.

FEINSTEIN: Martina Navratilova's going to be 49 in October. Now that's not old by human standards, but it's beyond ancient by tennis standards, and she's still a very effective doubles player. She was in the mixed doubles semifinals at Wimbledon. She and her partner won a tournament a couple weeks ago and will be a threat again.

Agassi is 35. Now Jimmy Connors made his big miracle run to the semis in '91 when he was 39, and I'm not sure Agassi is much of a threat and will be for a couple more years because of his conditioning as Connors was in his mid-30s.

MONTAGNE: John, thank you very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. His most recent book is "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery." The US Open begins this morning in New York.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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