Since her first round loss to Virginie Razzano at the French Open, Williams has won 17 straight matches in picking up her 14th major at Wimbledon, taking the title in Stanford and capturing her first singles Olympic gold medal at the All-England Club. A deep run at an event where she has never been beyond the semifinals could also move the second-seeded Williams up the Emirates Airline US Open Series standings, in which she currently sits in third place.
Speaking of moving up, No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska could make some major progress in closing the already small gap between her and the World No.1 ranking, as the two players ahead of her - Victoria Azarenka and defending champion Maria Sharapova - are not in the field this week.
Bringing waves of confidence to Cincinnati will be several players who have made deep runs at the ongoing Rogers Cup. Petra Kvitova is into her first final of the year in Montréal. Fellow finalist Li Na will be playing in her first title match since Rome in May. Caroline Wozniacki's semifinal outing was her best result since a runner-up showing at Copenhagen in April.
The only former champs in the field are 2009 winner Jelena Jankovic and 2008 winner Nadia Petrova, who would like to see a trend continue in which four of the tournament's eight titlists have been Russian.
The doubles draw not only includes Race to the WTA Championships leaders Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci and Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, but 2011 Cincinnati champs Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, 2008 champs and Olympic bronze medalists Maria Kirilenko and Petrova, 2007 champs Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza and Olympic silver medalists Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.