Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Australian Open 2012: The Women

Before I get rolling, here are some useful links for the Australian Open:
Who’s Playing :  Men’s Singles Draw , Women’s Singles Draw,  Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles (not yet available); Juniors (not yet available);  
When they’re playing: Schedule of Play
Where you can watch them play: ESPN2 Schedule, Tennis Channel Schedule
Ok, can we just say that anytime Serena Williams (12) and Kim Clijsters (11) are in the draw and relatively healthy both are threats to win the title of whatever tournament we’re talking about?
That is especially the case with Serena and the Australian Open, given that she’s won five of the last nine contested, and four of the last seven. Clijsters is the defending champ and has looked good in the three of the four sets she won in her first two matches.
Serena is seeded just 12th, but seeding is not the deciding factor with her; physical condition is. Serena, allegedly, has an injured ankle, and didn’t look at her best in her first round victory, but she’s likely to make it through to the Round of 16, where Vera Zvonareva (7) or Kaia Kanepi (25) is her likely to be the first to give her a real run for her money. Maria Sharapova (4) and Sabine Lisicki are good bets to face off against Serena in the quarters.
Clijsters had to retire in her first tournament of the year with an injury, but has looked good thus far in the Open, losing just one game in her second round match. If she gets past her likely matchup with Na Li (5) in the Round of 16 and the injury doesn’t rear its head again, she will probably get Wozniacki in the quarters, and she has yet to lose to the No.1 Seed.
 No.1 Seed
Caroline Wozniacki’s top ranking on the WTA Tour continues to be, and it will probably remain so as long as she fails to win a Grand Slam, but remains the most consistent winner on Tour. Wozniacki hasn’t had a stellar start to the year, losing in the second round to Aggie Radwanska (8) in Sydney last week.
Kim Cljisters and Na Li are also in her quarter of the draw, and with all the firepower in this thing, there’s a good chance Wozniacki won’t be in this thing by the time we get to the quarters. Bottom line is I doubt that this will be Wozniacki’s breakout Grand Slam event.
No.2 Seed
Since claiming the Wimbledon and the WTA Championship last year Petra Kvitova (2) appears to be the darling of the talking heads, and is being touted as a likely winner of the Open Down Under. However, Kvitova didn’t do much after Wimbledon until she got to the Tour Championship, and lost in the second round of the only tournament she’s played thus far this year. However, with the two above mentioned wins, she has shown that she’s capable of claiming another Slam.
Kvitova made short work of her first opponent, losing just two games, but has a dangerous player to face in the next round. Even if she gets by the next round there are several viable threats for Kvitova to overcome. Her round-of-16 opponent is likely to be Pavlyuchenkova (15), whom she lost to last outing, and players like Jie Zheng, Marion Bartoli (9), Nadia Petrova (29), and Sorana Cirstea, who knocked off Sam Stosur (6), will be trying to keep her from the semis. If she’s regains her form from year-end, Kvitova has as good a chance as any to be crowned Champion.
No.3 Seed
Victoria Azarenka has been steadily climbing the WTA rankings, reaching multiple finals, including Wimbledon and the Tour Championship, and winning the Sony Ericsson in Miami, and two other smaller events in 2011.  In 2012, she has picked up where she left off last season, winning in Sydney last week, including a three-set victory in the final over Na Li, the defending French Open Champion.
 Azarenka made short work of her first round opponent, and should have little trouble reaching the quarters, where she is likely to face either Fracesca Schiavone (10) or Aggie Radwanska (8), both of whom can give her trouble. With Wozniacki (1), Na Li (5), or Kim Clijsters (11) a likely opponent in the semis, Azarenka has an excellent chance of making the final and getting her first Grand Slam title.
No. 4 Seed
Maria Sharapova clawed her way back into the mix in 2011, winning two events, and reaching the semis of the French and the Final of Wimbledon. She withdrew from one of the first events of the year with an ankle injury, and showed signs of her serving woes in her first match despite steamrolling her opponent. Sharapova appears likely to make the Round of 16, but faces a potential match up there with Sabine Lisicki (14) or Svetlana Kuznetsova (18), both of whom would be tough wins. Chances are Sharapova’s run will not go past that round, and at best the quarters.
No. 5 Seed
Na Li had her breakthrough Grand Slam win at the French Open last year, but did nothing of note after that win, losing in the second round in several consecutive events post victory. She did reach the final of the first event of the year in Sydney and has had no trouble making her way into the third round. She’s looking at a Round-of-16 matchup with Kim Clijsters, and she has lost to Clijsters the last three times they’ve played. I suspect the winner of that match will face Caroline Wozniacki in the semis barring an upset.
Unless I’ve missed a real up-and-comer, the Women’s Champion should come from among those listed above, with the winner coming from a group that includes, Clijsters, Williams, Azarenka and Kvitova. In any event, the tennis thus far has been terrific and likely to be more so as things progress. Stay tuned! Game, set, match…T A

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