For the second consecutive major, Serena Williams will be a no-show. With the two time defending champion and former world number one still injured, current world number one Caroline Wozniacki should technically be “the” favorite. While Wozniacki is a certain contender for the crown Down Under, it’s difficult to position her in the number one spot. With her victories at the U.S. Open and the WTA championships to finish 2010, Kim Clijsters has to be viewed as the outright favorite. The way the Australian Open draw stacks up, Clijsters has to relish her chances. Let’s take a look how it breaks down.
Imagine needing to conquer Gisela Dulko in the first round, Dominika Cibulkova in the third round and either Justine Henin or Francesca Schiavone just to get to the quarterfinals. This is the precise task which probably awaits Wozniacki. Moreover, in the semifinals, the Dane could clash with either Venus, whom she has never beaten, Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova. In light of the treacherous road ahead, Wozniacki has her work cut out for her in trying to survive the first week and retain the number one ranking.
Since her 2010 Wimbledon injury, this will be Henin’s first major. After months of noncompetitive play, Henin performed well at the Hopman Cup. In Melbourne, a possible third round encounter with Svetlana Kuznetsova will be her first true challenge. Last year, Henin battled her way to the final after an almost two year sabbatical. Consequently, if the Belgian successfully navigates the first week, she could duplicate her feat of a year ago.
If healthy, Venus should reach the round of 16 with ease. At that stage, the 2003 Australian Open finalist could be tested, if the draw holds true to form, by the 2008 Australian Open champion, Sharapova. The Russian’s last major was in Melbourne. Subsequent to shoulder surgery a couple of years ago, Sharapova appears finally at full steam. That type of encounter could be a shot in the arm for Sharapova and push her back into the top ten.