The pinnacle tournaments of the 2010 Olympus US Open Series begins next week in Cincinnati followed by a visit to Montréal. These two tournaments are known under the new Roadmap as Premier 5 tournaments meaning they offer the most prize money and ranking points besides the four major championships. They also offer the most points for the Olympus US Open Series standings which determines the players who will receive a bonus in their prize money when they compete in the US Open which begins August 30th. The other three events that comprise the 2010 Olympus US Open Series are San Diego, Stanford, and New Haven.
Since its inception in 2004, only one woman has captured both the US Open Series and the US Open. This feat was achieved by Kim Clijsters in 2005 which recorded the highest payout in women’s sports history, a cheque for 2.2 million USD. From then on however, it has become littered with injuries, withdrawls, and subpar performances from many of the top women.
In 2006 defending US Open Series Champion and US Open Champion Kim Clijsters suffered a wrist injury while competing in the Rogers Cup held in Canada. Clijsters had already picked up a title on the 2006 US Open Series tour in Stanford before being unable to compete for the remainder of the series and US Open due to the wrist injury. Ana Ivanovic went on to win the 2006 edition of the Rogers Cup and the US Open Series that year but failed to back it up falling in the 3rd round to 91st ranked Serena Williams who needed a wild card to enter the event. 2006 marked the first time that all 5 events on the US Open Series were captured by 5 different women.
The 2007 US Open Series boasted Maria Sharapova atop the leader board at the start of the US Open. Sharapova captured the 2007 US Open Series primarily on the strength of winning the Acura Classic in San Diego that year, which was the last year this event was held as a Tier I tournament. Sharapova was seeded 2nd for the 2007 US Open, but was upset in the 3rd round by 30th seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. For the 2nd straight year all 5 events were won by 5 different women.
2008 saw Dinara Safina go undefeated during her stretch of the US Open Series. Safina captured two titles in Los Angeles and Montréal to achieve a career best ranking of 7th in the world. Safina was the 6th seed for the US Open by virtue of Maria Sharapova’s withdrawal. Dinara reached the semifinal stage of the US Open, but fell to 4th seeded Serena Williams 6-3 6-2 in an error-filled performance.
2009 Rogers Cup titlist was Russia’s Elena Dementieva who also clinched the US Open Series that year. Dementieva was a consistent performer throughout the summer reaching the semifinals in Stanford and Cincinnati before entering the winners circle in the US Open Series for the first time since 2006. Unfortunately the Russian would fall in the 2nd round of the US Open to unseeded American upstart Melanie Oudin.
So far the 2010 edition has been headlined by more withdrawals of the top names such as Justine Henin, Venus Williams, and Serena Williams than it has been by riveting and inspiring play.
Jelena Jankovic, who is currently ranked number two in the world, is nursing an ankle injury which she blamed for losing her opening match this week in San Diego to Alisa Kleybanova. Kim Clijsters, many experts favorite to win big during the 2010 US Open Series, has not seen competitive action since her shock loss at Wimbledon. Maria Sharapova had a small resurgence in reaching the final in Stanford but struggled in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches before losing tamely to Victoria Azarenka. Newly crowned Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone has won just one match in her three events following her biggest triumph. Former world number ones Safina and Ivanovic have managed just one win each so far in the 2010 US Open Series. It’s safe to say we’re headed for another dull and lackluster summer in North America.