Serena, Sharapova poised for US Open title scrap

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Serena Williams returns to the scene of her first Grand Slam triumph seeking to seal her comeback from a frightening year by lifting a fourth US Open trophy. Certainly the signs are good. Even without the benefit of a top-10 world ranking Williams has established herself as the favourite with two dominant hardcourt victories at Stanford and Toronto. The titles came in her third and fourth tournaments back from an 11-month absence due to injury and illness — including dangerous blood clots in her lungs. A mid-week withdrawal with a sore toe at Cincinnati appears to have been just a blip — a precautionary move to insure she’d be healthy for Flushing Meadows. Williams was well enough to attend the wedding of celebrity buddy Kim Kardashian. With the little holiday, Williams said: “I have more opportunity to rest up and get 200 percent healthy — which could be a very dangerous thing.” The injury absence of two-time reigning champion Kim Clijsters along with the malaise gripping world number one Caroline Wozniacki put the spotlight firmly on Williams and another resurgent champion, Maria Sharapova. The Russian star, who made it to the final at Wimbledon, rides the momentum of a victory in Cincinnati into the Open. “It’s great to have a win under your belt going into a major,” said Sharapova, who said she was looking forward to the US Open even with the pressure that a Grand Slam fortnight brings.
“Pressure is part of our sport, and nerves and adrenaline. I think if nobody feels that, it’s pretty unhuman. “So it’s really about how you deal with it. It’s a Grand Slam. It’s a huge event for us, and the matches and the opponents and the pressure and the crowd, it’s all part of the package.” Two new names have shown this year they can handle that pressure — Li Na and Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon winner. Li, China’s first Grand Slam champion, has struggled since her French triumph. She was outgunned by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki in the second round at Wimbledon, lost her first match in Toronto.