| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

The USTA has announced that 97 of the top 100 women, including two-time defending U.S. Open champion and reigning Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters, and fellow 2011 Grand Slam singles champions Li Na and Petra Kvitova, are entered in the women’s singles field for the 2011 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Clijsters, Li and Kvitova will be joined in the field by former U.S. Open champions Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova. In all, 37 different countries will be represented in the women’s field.

Serena, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, utilized a special ranking to gain entry into the field after missing nearly an entire year of competition due to injury. Alona Bondarenko also gained entry via a special ranking.

The 2011 U.S. Open will be played Aug. 29-Sept. 11 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open singles champions will earn $1.8 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total $2.8 million potential payout) based on their performances in the Olympus U.S. Open Series. The U. .Open Women’s Singles Championship is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova will miss this year’s event following her announcement that she is receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and former world numbner one Dinara Safina and Timea Bacsinszky will also sit out due to injuries.

Clijsters, the reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion, will have the opportunity to win her second Grand Slam of the year, and fifth overall, at this year’s U.S. Open. She will also attempt to become the first female to win three consecutive U.S. Open singles titles since Chris Evert did it from 1976-1978. Additionally, she will look to extend her winning streak of 21 consecutive matches at the U.S. Open, as she has won the title each of the last three times she has played (2005, 2009-10). Reigning French Open and Wimbledon champions Li and Kvitova will each attempt to win her first U.S. Open and second career major title.

Altogether, there are nine players who have won Grand Slam singles titles in their careers competing in the U.S. Open this year, including former world number one Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who won the 2008 French Open, and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

Leading the entry list is world number one-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who reached her first Grand Slam final at the 2009 U.S. Open. Following Wozniacki on the entry list are number two Clijsters of Belgium; number three Vera Zvonareva of Russia, the 2010 U.S. Open and Wimbledon runner-up; number four Victoria Azarenka of Belarus; number five Maria Sharapova of Russia, the 2006 U.S. Open champion; number six Li Na of China, the reigning French Open champion; number seven Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the reigning Wimbledon champion; number eight Francesca Schiavone of Italy, the 2010 French Open champion; number nine Marion Bartoli of France, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up; and number 10 Samantha Stosur of Australia, the 2010 French Open runner-up.

Other American women who received direct entry into this year’s tournament include number 30 Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix, the highest-ranked American in the field; number 35 Venus Williams of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., the 2000 and 2001 U.S. Open champion; number 67 Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; number 90 Vania King of Boynton Beach, Fla., the reigning U. .Open doubles champion; number 99 Coco Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the 2008 U.S. Open girls’ singles champion; number 100 Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga.; number 101 Varvara Lepchenko of Allentown, Pa.; and number 102 Irina Falconi of Atlanta.

Misaki Doi of Japan, ranked number 105, was the 104th and last player accepted directly into the women’s field of 128. Sixteen more players will gain entry through the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament, held Aug. 23-26, while the remaining eight spots are wild cards awarded by the USTA.

Among the players competing in the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament will be the winner of the second annual U.S. Open National Playoffs– Women’s Championship, held during the Olympus U.S. Open Series event in New Haven, Conn., prior to the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament. The USTA created the U.S. Open National Playoffs last year to allow players 14-and-older, regardless of playing ability or nationality, to vie for a spot in the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament via one of 16 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments.

The July 18 edition of the WTA rankings was used to determine the U.S. Open main draw entry list. Seeds will be determined and announced closer to the start of the event.

The 2011 US Open will mark the culmination of the Olympus U.S. Open Series, the North American summer season of 10 ATP World Tour and WTA events that began July 18. The U.S. Open is the highest attended annual sporting event in the world. More than 80 million viewers watched the 2010 U.S. Open on CBS Sports, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and international broadcasts reached 185 countries. In 2010, Rafael Nadal completed the career Grand Slam by defeating Novak Djokovic to win his first U.S. Open title. In the women’s singles final, Kim Clijsters captured the title for the second consecutive year, defeating Vera Zvonareva to win her third career U.S. Open title.