When Serena Williams pulled out this year's US Open, the other leading female players must have been given a lift in their preparations. Although the famous competitiveness in the locker room might not have stretched to wishing a freak injury on the world's best player, there was a collective realisation that the chances of a Grand Slam victory had suddenly increased dramatically.
Williams has won four of the last six grass and hard court majors and would have been a strong favourite at Flushing Meadows to claim her 14th Slam. At this year's French Open, the only major where Serena is not the dominant force, the tennis odds
were upset by Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur, two surprise finalists.
The wide open nature of the tournament is increased by the injury absence of Justine Henin, seven-time major winner and this year's Australian Open runner-up. Former champions Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters are respectively struggling with bad form and injury niggles.
They, as second and third seeds, of course should not be ruled out, with Clijsters in particular adept at prospering without ideal preparation. 2006 champion Maria Sharapova is also well-backed, but the smart tennis bet
may be on a new winner.
The most likely candidate to break her Slam duck is top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who has so far done a fine job in justifying her place at the top of the draw. Runner-up in New York last year, she is the form player on the tour, having won impressively at Montreal and New Haven.
Wozniacki has added extra power and stamina to a game that was fading after her US Open exploits 12 months ago, which will stand her in good stead in the searing New York heat. Many other challengers are finding their way back from injury and the top seed's physical condition could prove crucial.