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Midway Through Australian Open 2011:Clijsters and Wozniacki In, Henin Out

The halfway mark has been reached at the Australian Open.  While Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki are still in line to collect their first major Down Under, the dream is at an end for Justine Henin and Samantha Stosur.  Here’s a look at the tournament’s past seven days.

In the top half of the draw, world number one Wozniacki coasted into the round of 16.   Despite difficult challenges from Gisela Dulko and Dominika Cibulkova, the Dane has yet to drop a set.  Wozniacki will battle Latvian talent 20 year old Anastasija Sevastova  who stunned Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.

On the other hand, Henin, a finalist last year, was dismissed in the third round by Svetlana Kuznetsova.  The 2009 French Open champion who appears to be fitter than ever will face reigning French Open victor Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round.  The latter needed three sets in each of her first two rounds.

There will be no Williams hoisting the prize this year.  Venus was forced to retire one game into her third round match with Andrea Petkovic due to a pelvic muscle injury.  Consequently, Petkovic will clash with Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. Sharapova scraped by Julia Goerges in the previous round.  With Sharapova’s serve a continual sore spot, Petkovic has a golden opportunity to reach her first quarterfinal at a major.

Both Li Na and Victoria Azarenka have been unforgiving thus far with straight sets victories to get to the round of 16.  These two will now collide for a place in the quarterfinals.

In the bottom half of the draw, two big names are absent.  In the second round, Jelena Jankovic, the seventh seed, was ousted by Shuai Peng.  With a fourth round showing, this is Peng’s best performance at a major to date. The Chinese woman battles Agnieszka Radwanska next.  Radwanska overcame a tough first round tussle with Kimiko Date-Krumm.  For Radwanska and Peng, this will be a rematch of their 2010 U.S. Open second round where the latter was the winner.

The second player to make a shocking exit in that section was Samantha Stosur.  The Aussie who appeared unstoppable in her first two rounds was taken out by Petra Kvitova.  Kvitova will subsequently compete against Flavia Pennetta for a slot in the quarterfinals.

Despite being tested, world number two Vera Zvonareva remains in the hunt for her first major.  In the round of 16, Zvonareva will play veteran Iveta Benesova who downed teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenckova in the prior round.

After serving a bagel to former world number one Dinara Safina, Clijsters sailed through her second round encounter.  In the third round, Clijsters overcame resistance from Alize Cornet, pulling out a two sets win despite 13 winners and 41 errors.  In the round of 16, Clijsters should be back in cruise control as she squares off against Ekaterina Makarova who terminated Ana Ivanovic’s Australian Open hopes in the first round.

In spite of the mentioned third round lull, Clijsters is the favorite.  Wozniacki is a certain contender and has a good chance of seizing the big prize.  Two other candidates to strongly consider as possible trophy holders are Kuznetsova and Azarenka.  The dispute for the quarterfinal spots start tonight.

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