Sunday, January 16, 2011

Australian Open Preview -- Women's Draw

I'm never going to get these seed reports done before the first ball is struck, but I won't be looking at the results until I'm done so there will be no cheating involved.

I'm not sure getting to the final or winning this tournament should be the goal of any of these women right now. If you look at the last three women's finals here, with the exception of Serena in 2009 (and she wasn't as lucky in 2010) everyone that has played in this final fell apart either physically or emotionally (or both) by the end of that same year. In fact, of the five of them (Serena, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ianovic and Dinara Safina) only Serena is even still in the top ten. But she's been injured since right after Wimbledon so she will not be defending her title. No matter. Like it or not, someone is going to win this tournament so let's look at the chances each of them have.

1. Caroline Wozniacki -- I'm not irritated and outraged at Wozniacki being ranked and / or seeded number one like so many others are. Look at the last year's results. Does anyone really deserve to be ranked number one based on their performance over the entire year? I don't think so, so let it be Wozniacki that holds the currently meaningless distinction. She’s got a fairly routine draw into the quarter-finals. There was a time when Yanina Wickmayer would have posed a problem, but her star seems to have started fading before it even got all that bright. Once in the quarter-finals, her fate will be more a product of how Henin is playing than anything she has a lot of control over.

2. Vera Zvonareva -- It's really hard to know how everyone's game will be this early in the year. It's part of what makes this tournament fun. Will Zvonareva keep up the momentum she gained after playing so well last year? We'll see. If she gets to the semi-finals, there's a chance she'll meet Kim Clijsters. She beat her at Wimbledon and in the round robin portion of the Year-End Championships (YEC), but lost in the final of the US Open. This could be an opportunity to measure the improvement of her mental strength.

3. Kim Clijsters -- On paper, Clijsters is the favorite. She won the US Open and the YEC. She wouldn't have to face Wozniacki or Venus Williams until the final. But funny things can happen here. She could face either Nadia Petrova or Ana Ianovic in the round of 16. Petrova tuned her up 6-0, 6-1 here last year. Until Ianovic got hurt in Hopman Cup, she was playing some of her best tennis in two years. Still, without Serena in the draw Clijsters has to be the favorite.

4. Venus Williams -- With her sister not in the draw, this should be a great opportunity for Venus. But in reality, has anyone ever looked less interested in winning championships than she did after May of last year? Only because Sharapova has been so shaky in big matches do I even give her a shot at making the quarter-finals. Once there, she has to hope it's Victoria Azarenka on the other side of the net and not Na Li.

5. Sam Stosur -- In the olden days (the 60s and 70s), Evonne Goolagong and Margaret Court both padded their Grand Slam totals in their home country by winning about 40 Australian Opens a piece (look it up -- I'm only exaggerating a little). These days, the home court advantage doesn't seem to apply for either the women or men of Australia. Stosur is definitely capable of going on a tear here. The question is can she keep her head about her to win the last match.

6. Francesca Schiavone -- The 2010 French Open notwithstanding, Schiavone is at best a quarter-finalist in the slams. But there's no reason to think she'll do any less than her best either. (Oops, I guess there is one reason. I didn't notice that she'd have to beat Justine Henin in the fourth round.)

7. Jelena Jankovic -- No matter which round Jankovic loses in, there will be drama.

8. Victoria Azarenka -- She should have broken out and won a slam by now. You have to wonder if her moment has passed. On top of that, she's not particularly likeable so I don't see the crowd getting behind her in a close match.

9. Na Li -- She just beat Clijsters to win the tournament in Sydney. That should give her confidence. She also has a great draw. If there's a dark horse to be had in this tournament, it's Li. Or Na. Who knows.

10. Shahar Peer -- Really? Shahar Peer is the tenth seed. I haven't even seen her play in about 10 years so I have no idea what she'll do. Well, I know she won't be around for the second week.

11. Justine Henin -- Henin insists she's not 100% healthy. But there's no one in her half of the draw that she needs all of her skill to beat. If she's 90% healthy, she's in the final.

12. Agnieszka Radwanska -- She's right where she belongs -- in the fourth round.

13. Nadia Petrova -- Petrova always has a chance to slay a dragon, but she's never displayed enough heart to win seven matches in a row.

14. Maria Sharapova -- This time last year, I was predicting the possibility of Sharapova getting to the final. Now it's unlikely that she'll do anything other than live up to her seeding.

15. Marion Bartoli -- Yawn.

16. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova -- Who?

Henin defeats Li
Clijsters defeats Zvonareva

Kim Clijsters

1 comment:

  1. you know i luv Justine, but she hasn't had any match play I don't see her in the final. I do like Kimmie for the win though...