And now for my thoughts on the women’s draw. First, I’ll just say it’s Serena Williams’s tournament to lose. I know she just turned her ankle and she hasn’t played much, but she’s overcome injuries and lack of match play to win before and I see no good reason to doubt her here.
Serena’s 30 now and at her best she simply is the best in the women’s game. At least on hardcourt and definitely at the Australian Open which she’s won the last two times she’s played and five times overall.
As for the draw.
Caroline Wozniacki is again the top seed, but this could be the last time we see the Dane seeded first at a Major for quite some time. With Petra Kvitova breathing heavy down her neck and Serena rounding into form, her reign at No. 1 is about to end, and my guess is it ends here. Wozniacki, who injured her wrist in Sydney this week, opens with testy Australian Anastasia Rodionova, then later Jelena Jankovic in the 16s. If she can get by the Serb I think Kim Clijsters takes her out in the quarters. Clijsters, though, will have the difficult assignment of having to beat Li Na in a too-soon fourth round rematch of their final a year ago. In round two I’ll give a slight edge to Kim and in the end she gets through to the semifinals.
There’s no strong lean in the second quarter but I’ll go chalk and take Victoria Azarenka. The problem I have with the Belarussian who just won Sydney is she doesn’t handle the heat well. And if it gets hot in Melbourne she’ll drop. Literrally. That said, I think her draw is great and I’ll take her to beat Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals. The Pole won’t have an easy road with Mattek-Sands to start followed by later projected collisions against Yanina Wickmayer and Francesca Schiavone.
In the third quarter we find a host of Russians and Serena. Maria Sharapova is a Australian Open former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova has won Grand Slams and Vera Zvonareva has played well in Australia, but the three of them are no match for a healthy, focused and fit Serena. Sorry. I think Vera could give Serena the most trouble in the fourth round. Kanepi could also pose a threat. Otherwise, I think Serena blows out Sharapova in the quarterfinals to get the semis.
And who’ll Serena meet in the Final Four? In a very wide open last quarter I’ll pick Kvitova. Petra doesn’t play her best in the heat but in the absence of anyone else I’ll go with the Czech to bounce Sam Stosur again in Australia to make the semifinals. And in doing so she’ll jump past Wozniacki for the No. 1 ranking.
That leaves my last four as Clijsters v. Azarenka and Serena v. Kvitova. And in the final with all she and her family has been through the last year I like Serena to beat Clijsters and get back into the Grand Slam winners’ circle. Hello to “14″ and counting.
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