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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Aug 26, 2009

8/26/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Aug 26, 2009

As I pack my bags for NYC, I'm stoked. Seriously, seriously stoked. I don't think I've been this excited for a Slam in, well, way too long. Because I like filth. And this US Open is going to be covered in it. There are so many juicy storylines, so many players coming in with something to prove. And they're finally (finally!) willing to get dirty proving it.

Starting first, and most shockingly, with the women. A tour that was playing so sugarlessly has suddenly heated up. Don't get me wrong, it's been ug-ly. With all the double faults, a No 1 player who can't win a Slam and the winner of three of the last four who can't make it past the first round of a Tier IV tournament (I know they don't call them that anymore but I just like how demeaning it sounds).

US Open assassin, Kim Clijsters

But the US Open Series has done the impossible. It's retaught the women how to compete. Spearheading this lesson, Maria Sharapova. Here's a former No 1 with three Slams under her belt, who's got more money than God and doesn't need this aggravation thank you very much. But she wants to win, and she'll overcome whatever adversity that comes her way (like, say, 17 DFs in one match) to make that happen. And it's galvanizing the rest of the tour.

So's the return of Kim Clijsters, who in her short comeback has already scalped Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli and Svetlana Kuznetsova. She wasn't around after Justine Henin left to get infected by the wussy virus so many others succumbed to. She's a beacon of the old guard. A magical place where they went for their shots. And she's taking one at the U.S. Open. It'll be her first time playing in Flushing Meadows since she won it in '05, so don't think there won't be some pride on the line. Dangerous floater? Try assassin.

There are the Ladies in Waiting - Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic - who are all playing like fed up bridesmaids. They're fighting for that damn US Open bouquet so stay out of their way or you might get cut. Dementieva particularly just seems so over finishing runner up. She's out for blood, and she'll spill some to get it.

Last but certainly not least, there are the Williams sisters, one who has to defend just to stay within striking distance of No 1 and the other who's looking at an empty space in her trophy case where her shiny Wimbledon cheese platter used to be. Oh, and their QF clash last year on Arthur Ashe was the women's match of the year. So, you know, bring it.

Nadal is back ready to claim his missing title.

Of course it ain't all about the women. The men's side is somehow even hotter than usual and it was already scorching. Why? How about Rafael Nadal? Unable to defend Wimbledon (or the French, let's be honest), Rafa's back in the mix where he belongs. Chasing the one jewel missing from his crown. Would there be a sweeter way to restore order and wipe out the memory of the last three months?

Or how about Andy Roddick? He's had plenty of time to stew over that Wimbledon final. Will a tough loss on grass translate to a big win in New York like it did for Fed last year?

Then there's good ole Rog. Roger Federer's broken Pete's record and is back to playing without a care in the world (I'm pretty sure I saw him filing his nails during championship point in Cincinnati). Which is a nightmare for everyone else in the field. Still, there are two guys in particular who get his goat, and he's certainly up for a nasty game of keep-away.

The first is Andy Murray, the new World No 2 with only a single Slam final appearance to his credit. He wants a title. Bad. The extra cash he could bank for his stellar US Open Series run wouldn't hurt. The second is the Jan Brady of the bunch, Novak Djokovic. He's got three Marcias he only ever hears about. And if there's one thing the Serb likes more than anything, it's people talking about him. And if stripping at fashion shows isn't gonna do it, winning this damn thing sure as hell will.

It's so nuclear in the top five that main courses Juan Martin del Potro and Sam Querrey (who flexed serious muscle during the US Open Series) are relegated to mere side dishes in Flushing Meadows. But they could still bust a major gut.

In fact, it's so top heavy in both the men's and women's draws that, while my focusing squarely on just the marquee names could appear lazy, I'm just not seeing any room for surprise semifinalists. Apologies to Tommy Haas and Dominika Cibulkova (oops, Dominika just pulled out. Even she's running scared).

And how far are Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro willing to go to score wins in their final Grand Slam appearances?

So this my friends will indeed be the Dirty Slam. So that you may remain pristine, I'll be keeping you up on all the action (and by action I mean all the skanky bits you're not meant to see) via both my daily blog and (God help me) Twitter (Twitter.com/JamesLaRosa). I'm thinking I'll just use Twitter to post gratuitous pics of half-dressed players practicing in the hot sun. Sex sells baby!

See, I can play dirty too.

See you Monday.