Russian Maria Sharapova believes Serena Williams deserves to enter this year’s US Open as favourite.
The world number three, who has been out of action since the London Olympics, is considered one of the major contenders along with Williams and top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.
But Sharapova said a confident Williams, fresh from her victories at Wimbledon and the Games, was a worthy favourite.
“She gained a tremendous amount of confidence at Wimbledon. She had a tough few three set matches, I believe. She got through those,” Sharapova said.
“When she got to the Olympics with every match she just improved. I think she took that confidence and she played just really great physical tennis – served extremely well.
“Who knows? Obviously of course she’s the favourite because she won those two big events back to back.
“But everybody is still in the draw here. It starts from the first round on, and that’s why everybody is here.”
Sharapova was on the wrong end of a 6-0 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Williams in the final of the gold medal match in London.
The 25-year-old four-time grand slam winner said it was vital she took a break after the Olympics.
“I feel really good. I went into Montreal and was supposed to play but got a stomach bug and decided to give it a rest. It was a sign my body just needed to slow down,” Sharapova said.
“I’d done a lot of travelling, a lot of playing, had a hectic summer so decided to shut it down until here.
“We still have a lot to play until the end of the year but it’s been good. I’ve been training for a few weeks now and got here a little early.”
Sharapova also took time to praise Belgian Kim Clijsters, who will retire for the second time at the end of the US Open.
“She (Clijsters) was always so focused and determined, one of the best athletes the game saw in women’s tennis,” Sharapova said.
“The way she moved around the court but also just a really great person, very humble.”