World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki probably has the most to prove at the 2011 Australian Open. No Slam titles to her credit, no wins over the William sisters, and a big opportunity with Serena on the sidelines, Venus struggling back to form, and the cavalcade of former No. 1s all experiencing early-round losses over the last couple months. The women’s game is in shambles, so can the Great Dane still come out on top in 2011?
Wozniacki’s draw at the 2011 Australian Open is brutal, at least on paper. On the court could be a different story. In her quarter are former No. 1 Justine Henin (struggling with an elbow injury), former No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova (whose ranking has plummeted), reigning French Open champ Francesca Schiavone (whose motivation is questionable), grinding No. 15 seed Marion Bartoli, and young comers Dominika Cibulkova (who beat Wozniacki this week) and Yanina Wickmayer.
The Dane’s path to the quarters would likely have to go through Gisela Dulko (a tough opener), Tamira Paszek, Cibulkova, Bartoli, and Henin. Not likely to happen considering she enters Melbourne on the heels to two exhibition losses and a first-round WTA tournament exit, all the while trying to figure out how to play with her new Yonex.
No. 4 Venus Williams is the top seed in the second quarter, which contains threats Maria Sharapova, Andrea Petkovic, Sydney winner Na Li, and Victoria Azarenka. Venus and Sharapova would meet in the fourth round, with the winner to likely face Azarenka next round.
No. 3 Kim Clijsters is the top seed in the third quarter, a section littered with former No. 1s, starting with Dinara Safina who drew the short stick against Clijsters. Also in the third quarter are Serbs Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Russian ball clubber Alisa Kleybanova, Aggie Radwanska, and Nadia Petrova.
Clijsters path to the quarters will likely go through Safina, Carla Suarez Navarro, (26) Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Petrova or Ivanovic, and Jankovic.
No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva is the top dog in the bottom quarter, looking to make an impact after a stellar last few months. In her quarter the Russian crier will have to contend with Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova, Flavia Pennetta, and Maria Kirilenko in arguable the weakest tea of the four quarters. Zvonareva’s path to the quarters will likely be Sybille Bammer, Bojana Jovanovski, Klara Zakopalova or Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, and Stosur.
The winner will be…the coin flip. Who the hell knows with the WTA tour. Half the top players battling injuries, racquet switches, still sobering up after the holidays. If Venus DOESN’T have a stomach injury like she seemed to in an exo the other week, I’ll go with Clijsters over Venus in the final. Come back to full health soon Serena and Justine.
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