Friday, January 15, 2010
Australian Open Preview -- Ladies First
Here come my predictions for the least predictable major of the year. Seriously, I suppose it's because it's so early in the season and some people start better than others, but you can get some seriously crazy results down under.
For example, how many of you predicted in 1999 that in the following decade (2000 - 2009), Jennifer Capriati would win the Australian Open twice, AND, that number would be double the total of Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport combined? Go ahead, raise those hands up high. No one? Exactly.
And we're in way more stable times now than ever before. Look over the list of past winners. Of course Evert, Navratilova and Graf are all over it. But, Hana Mandlikova won this tournament twice. Who knew? The last two women to win it the 70s were Chris O'Neil and Barbara Jordan (you don't even want to ask whom they beat in their respective finals).
Even on the men's side, only one player (Andre Agassi) that won any major at all in the 90s took home the Australian Open crown in the aughts.
All of that just to say, I'm not expecting to do well here. I do expect to do better than Venus Williams typically does here though, which means I only have to get two out of every three predictions correct (her typical third round loss would mean she won two out of three matches). If I manage to pick the winner, I may buy myself an ice cream.
I'm going to preview the top 16 seeds and then anyone else I think is interesting (Justine Henin). I'll preview the men tomorrow.
1.Serena Williams -- Well, she lost badly to Dementieva in Sydney, so she's poised to defend her title. She got thrashed by an almost identical score in the semifinals last year. However, she's still Serena so she's at least even money to win at every major.
2.Dinara Safina -- It would be really ironic if -- now that Clijsters and Henin are back and the women's field is stabilizing -- Safina managed to finally win that last match at a slam. It would also take a small miracle. It says here that she won't even get past her fourth round match with Sharapova.
3.Svetlana Kuznetsova -- Now that she won the French Open, isn't she pretty content for at least the next three or four years? That ugly loss to Dominica Cibulkova in the second round at Sydney probably didn't help her confidence here either. Plus, she's got Clijsters in the fourth round.
4.Caroline Wozniacki -- This has nothing to do with anything, but she had to play Aleksandra Wozniak five times last year and she's got her in the first round here. It's just wacky to me that we get the Wozniacki vs. Wozniak match up so often. I don't really know what to make of her. She lost in the first round three times last fall after getting to the US Open final. She got to the semis of the Tour Championships, but look at who she beat to do it and that result gets less impressive. She'll most likely get to the quarterfinals. After that, it's a crapshoot.
5.Elena Dementieva -- She's on a roll, as usual. I'm sure people wonder how she can beat Serena so comprehensively in a tour event and then never win the big matches at the majors, but I think that says more about Serena's lack of motivation when the stakes aren't high enough for her. Also, I think she has the toughest draw of any of the seeded women -- Dushevina in the first round, then Henin; possibly Kleybanova or Dokic in the third round. If she makes it to the quarterfinal to face maybe Kuznetsova or Clijsters, she won't have a lot left in the tank. But I don't think she even makes it that far.
6.Venus Williams -- I was being metaphoric when I talked of her typical third round loss. She's actually been to the quarterfinals or better six of her ten trips here (but only past the quarters two of those times). Actually, she's lost in every round of the Australian Open during her career. That can't be too common an occurrence. If she is ever going to make another run at this title, she has to be looking at her draw and thinking maybe now is the time. Leaving aside the showdown with Serena in the semis, there's really no one that can hurt her in her quarter of the draw -- except her. I'm going to predict with my heart instead of my head here and say she makes it to that all-Williams semi.
7.Victoria Azarenka -- Azarenka's star isn't nearly as bright as it was last year at this time when she had Serena on the ropes before she almost collapsed on the court. That was frightening to watch. If she lives up to her seeding, she'll get another crack at Serena. I don't expect much to come of that (for her at least).
8.Jelena Jankovic -- Wasn't she seeded first here last year? Ca ray zee. Her draw says she gets to quarterfinals. I wouldn't put money that.
9.Vera Zvonareva -- Whatever round she loses in, there will be tears.
10.Agnieszka Radwanska -- Radwanska should live up to her seeding. If Venus survives to meet her in the fourth round, that should be the end of the tournament for her.
11.Marion Bartoli -- There are two "qualifier" spots in her quarter of the draw (same quarter as Jankovic). If Yanina Wickmayer isn't placed in one of those two slots, then Bartoli gets to the quarterfinals.
12.Flavia Pennetta -- Based on her draw, she could easily make it to the quarterfinals. Or not.
13.Samantha Stosur -- She's only been past the fourth round in a major once. I can't think of anything that would make this year or this tournament any different for her.
14.Maria Sharapova -- One of the more interesting things about this year's draw is that it would not seem odd to have one of the semifinals contested by the 14th and 15th seeds. I have a feeling that's exactly what will happen.
15.Kim Clijsters -- I'm biased. There's no way I can really be objective about Clijsters because she's my favorite player (maybe tied with Venus). Still, I expect her to be there on the last day of the tournament.
16.Na Li -- She has only a 50/50 chance of getting by Hantuchova in the third round. Certainly no further than the fourth.
Nadia Petrova (19) -- I really thought she'd eventually have a breakthrough of some kind. Can she really be happy showing up at the majors knowing that if she gets to the fourth round, that will constitute a great result for her.
Anna Ianovic (20) -- She keeps saying this is a new year, but that loss to Henin looked very 2009. She's mostly just a curiosity right now. Can she get back to the top ten or does she end up being the next Anastasia Myskina.
Justine Henin -- I expect her to do annoyingly well in at least two of the majors this year. I'm not sure this will be one of them (or maybe I'm just hoping it won't be). She has a great shot at beating Dementieva though.
Yanina Wickmayer -- She still isn't offically in the main draw yet, but if she gets there it could completely change the quarter she gets dropped into.
Serena Williams d. Venus Williams
Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova
Kim Clijsters d. Serena Williams (this is way more a wish than a prediction)