When I listed the top contenders and the dark horses a few days ago in The Dees Diversion, I failed to list players to watch, meaning players who are not likely to win the Open, but who could go far into the draw. Here are some of them:
Safina was a finalist in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup, but had trouble with the high winds and was pretty easily beaten by Jelena Jankovic. Her clay game, however, is pretty good. She has already beaten Yuliana Fedak (whose game keeps getting better) in the first round, and she meets Tzipora Obziler in the second; that match should be no problem for her. Assuming there is no upset, Safina will most likely meet Francesca Schiavone, an outstanding clay court player whose game has gone seriously downhill.
Krajicek has talent galore, but to say she is inconsistent is to engage in significant understatement. She just cannot string together a set of victories, despite her talent. She won her first round against Severine Bremond, and there is every reason for her to get to at least the third round, but that all depends on which Krajicek steps onto the court.
She was a finalist at Roland Garros in 2004 (in one of the worst Grand Slam finals I've ever seen), but things haven't gone so well for her since then. Now she is coming back from a long injury layover, which never bodes well. On the other hand, she just won the French Open warmup tournament in Istambul, but with some help from her opponent in the finals--Aravane Rezai retired with tendonitis, after making a spectacular run. Dementieva had an injury some time ago that caused her to perform a kind of compensatory serve as part of the healing process. Once she was well, she couldn't get back her real serve, and she is now known as the double fault queen of the tour. It's a shame, because Dementieva is a superb athlete, and one of the best defensive players around. She's Grand Slam material--if she can ever get her serve to work again.
Sam Stosur, world number two in doubles, has a lot of talent in singles, too, but has not always known how to use it. She has a great serve, and a good second serve, but she has exhibited a choking mentality on the singles court. But you never know when Stosur is going to break through, and she is definitely worth watching.
Vakulenko had problems for a long time with both injury and illness, but now she is back. That's the good news. The bad is that she was recently injured again. But she's playing at the French, and her star is definitely on the rise. Vakulenko is a dangerous floater these days.
Anabel Medina Garrigues
One of my favorites, Medina Garrigues does not always play to her potential. For example, in Charleston, she handily out-maneuvered Venus Williams, but could not close out the expert shots she set up. However, Medina Garrigues just won the warmup tournament in Strasbourg (her second time to win it), upsetting number one seed Amelie Mauresomo, so she should be coming in with a lot of confidence, and she has the potential to go relatively far in her part of the draw.
Peer is nothing if not relentless. She has a tough first round against young Kaia Kanepi, but she should be able to get past that, and then she has a good draw until she comes up against...
Srebotnik could give Peer trouble. She can give anyone trouble at any time. She is ranked number 20 in the world right now, and I can't imagine that anyone enjoys seeing her on the other side of the net.
It has taken Safarova a while to grow into her game, but she showed everyone that game when she was the surprise quarterfinalist at the Australian Open. In two tries, she hasn't gotten past the first round at Roland Garros, but this year, she is a better and more confident player. She has her first round against Yulia Beygelzimer, who I used to think was a possible up-and-comer, but it looks like I was wrong. Safarova is someone to watch.
Chakvetadze is always someone to watch. Nicknamed "Little Hingis" because she uses her mind to compensate for her relatively small frame, Chakvetadze is now in the top ten. She got to the third round in Paris in 2005, and she should get to the second this year, but if she survives to the round of 16, she will probably have to face clay expert Patty Schnyder. Schnyder is coming off of both illness and injury, but if she is feeling healthy, I like her to send Chakvetadze home.
What a long way Bondarenko has come, even winning her first tournament last year. She is definitely someone to watch, if you get the chance. In her first round, she plays Iveta Benesova, who isn't nearly the threat she used to be, and Bondarenko has a good opportunity to advance to the point of meeting Maria Sharapova, where I give her a decent chance.