Belgian pair set sights on US Open

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The Independent Online

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion and world No 1, her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, and eight other grand slam title winners head the list of the 104 women granted direct entry to the US Open.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion and world No 1, her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, and eight other grand slam title winners head the list of the 104 women granted direct entry to the US Open.

Sixteen players will make the draw for the tournament, which runs from 30 August to 12 September, through qualifying, and eight will get wild-card spots from the US Tennis Association. In addition to Henin-Hardenne, past US Open champions in the field include Venus and Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport.

The United States leads the way with 15 players with direct entry, followed by Russia with 14, and France with nine. The draw will be made on 25 August.

A deadlock between Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi's sponsors and the clothing firm providing uniforms for the Israeli Olympic team may prevent the country's best tennis player from competing in Athens.

"Unfortunately, there's a real possibility that Anna will not be able to play in Athens," Israel Olympic Committee chairman Zvi Varshaviak said. "She knew that she must appear with our sponsor, we have an agreement with Speedo, Lotto will have to give way on this."

Smashnova's regular clothing sponsor, Lotto, says it will allow her to wear the clothes of Speedo, the Olympic team's supplier, for all events in Athens except her matches. But Speedo insist Smashnova should wear their clothes at all times. Smashnova, the world No 17, is due to compete in the singles event in Athens.

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