I know I don’t do it much, but what the heck, let’s give the women some love and talk women’s draw. Women are meant to be loved, so it’s only appropriate.
Realistically, there are only three, maybe four contenders in the field: Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo, US Open winner Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and then perhaps the surging Jelena Jankovic.
The second tier would be Nicole Vaidisova, Martina Hingis, Dinara Safina and Sveta Kuznetsova.
Outside of those eight it’s hard to see anyone else making the last four. I know Serena is back, but then again so is her back. That is her back side, which doesn’t look to be getting any smaller. (Lest we forget, the 2005 Australian Open was her last Slam title!)
The Russians Nadia Petrova and Elena Dementieva are intriguing, except that Petro is hurt and Elena doesn’t seem to do well in Australia.
Ana Ivanovic has been MIA of late. And can you really trust Patty Schnyder? I certainly can’t.
So who’s the pick? Well with Henin battling marital problems with her ballkid/husband, the title is fairly wide open between the four contenders I first listed above.
Mauresmo looked rusty losing in the Sydney warmup to Jankovic, but I suspect she’ll be in good form and in good spirits in this her first career Slam title defense. She’ll likely take out Vaidisova in the quarters, so pencil her into the Final Four.
Few players are as hot of late as Jankovic. The Serb reached the semifinals at the US Open and has since tore up the circuit in two events in 2007 winning in Auckland and reaching the final this weekend in Sydney. When she’s not applying the makeup, Jankovic plays a pretty heady game and she can crush the ball, but her fitness remains a question mark, especially at an event where temperatures often climb over 100. But I’ll go with her to reach the semifinals.
For Clijsters, who still maintains her retirement at year-end, this could be her final Australian Open. “Aussie Kim” has lived up to her nickname with four straight Melbourne semifinal or better results, getting bounced by the eventual champ each time. With a July wedding on the horizon to hoopster Brian Lynch, she’s a good pick to reach the semifinals again with a good shot at a fairy tale ending.
But I have to go with the face of women’s tennis and the WTA, Miss Sharapova. The screeching money machine reached the Australian Open semis the last two years and after her September win at the US Open where she beat Mauresmo and Henin to capture the crown, I think that she’ll again rise to the occasion and step up big in Melbourne.
When all the top women are healthy, I think Henin is still the best in the biz with Mauresmo second. But I just think that in Melbourne this year Maria will have the extra incentive to take the title home, even though if it plays out as I suspect I would be rooting for Amelie or even Kim in the semis. So in that case I hope I’m wrong!
To recap for those playing at home:
Semifinals: Mauresmo d. Jankovic; Sharapova d. Clijsters
Final: Sharapova d. Mauresmo
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