The first Grand Slam of the season is finally upon us 🙂 This year’s women’s draw looks very open and here is my extensive preview with all the predictions for the two weeks of action ahead in Australia…
Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed for the 6th consecutive Grand Slam and speculation about whether she can win her first one remains as heated as ever. Wozniacki’s preparations were hit by a wrist injury, which she picked up in her quarter-final with Agniezska Radwanska in Sydney. However she has declared that she is fit to play as the MRI scan showed only inflammation. She will open her title bid against the Australian, Anastasia Rodionova and has a less than taxing draw to the 4th round with her first projected seed to be Monica Niculescu in the third round. The young Australian, Ashleigh Barty who is playing her first ever Grand Slam main draw opens up against Anna Tatishvili and her reward if she can win, is a second round clash with the world number one.
Wozniacki’s projected 4th round opponent is the Serb, Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic will play the young Brit, Laura Robson in round one, which will be a difficult opener. Another tight first round match is likely to occur between the number 24 seed, Lucie Safarova and the young American, Christina McHale. I find that Safarova is impossible to predict because there is a very fine line between her playing well and playing shockingly! However I predict both Jankovic and Safarova will come through their first matches in three sets and meet in the third round. I think that Wozniacki and Jankovic will make the 4th round, but I predict that neither of them will go further than the quarter-finals.
The most exciting match-up that the draw threw up was a potential 4th round clash between last year’s finalists, Li Na and Kim Clijsters. I believe that both players will get there with few obstacles in their tracks. Clijsters will meet Maria Joao Koehler in round one and could face a potential third round clash with the number 20 seed and Brisbane finalist, Daniela Hantuchova. Hantuchova defeated Clijsters in Brisbane however that was through a retirement; I fully expect that an injury free Clijsters will be no match for the Slovakian. Li plays Ksenia Pervak in the first round, which could be her most difficult match before reaching Clijsters in the 4th round. In truth, the general standard in this section of the draw is particularly weak so I will be very surprised if either Clijsters or Li are upset along the way…
4th round matches: Wozniacki v Jankovic, Clijsters v Li
Winner of Quarter 1: Kim Clijsters
Highlight 1st round matches: Safarova v McHale, Jankovic v Robson, Pervak v Li
Watch out for the dark horse… Lucie Safarova
Worthy of a punt: If you are feeling optimistic, then why not go for Laura Robson to beat Jelena Jankovic! Laura definitely has the game to trouble to JJ and she is 4/1 to upset the Serb.
Victoria Azarenka headlines the second section of the draw and she will meet Heather Watson in the first round. Azarenka has just won the warm-up tournament in Sydney and she has a good draw as she looks to win her first Grand Slam title. Azarenka’s third round opponent is projected to be Petra Cetkovska; however I have my eyes on the young German, Mona Barthel to reach the third round. Barthel has started the season on fire winning the title in Hobart and she will face Anne Keothavong in the first round. My only concern with Barthel would be tiredness as she had to play 8 matches in Hobart…
Azarenka’s fourth round opponent is projected to be Peng Shuai, but in truth she has a terribly difficult draw. Peng will open up against Aravane Rezai, who she managed to squeak past in Auckland earlier this month. However I think the Czech, Iveta Benesova will be Peng’s conqueror in round two. If Peng was to reach the third round, she would be expected to meet Flavia Pennetta who has become her arch nemesis with a 6-0 losing head-to-head record. Flavia Pennetta, who plays Nina Bratchikova in the first round, has started the season in strong form, reaching the final of Auckland. Her only worry is a back injury that forced her to retire in the final… I still believe Pennetta will make the 4th round.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the number 8 seed is also in this section of the draw and will play Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the opening round. Her draw looks particularly favourable with Yanina Wickmayer likely to be her first seeded opponent in the third round. Radwanska is projected to meet Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round. Schiavone should sail through her first two encounters before a meeting with Julia Goerges is on the cards in the third round. Goerges has had some disappointing results in 2012 so far and has been suffering with a virus. If she is still not fit, Kimiko Date-Krumm is the most likely candidate to take her place in the draw. I think Schiavone and Radwanska will match their seedings and meet in the fourth round. Radwanska has had a significant edge in their previous clashes and I would side with the form book once again…
4th round matches: Azarenka v Pennetta, Schiavone v Radwanska
Winner of Quarter 2: Victoria Azarenka
Highlight 1st round matches: Rezai v Peng, Wickmayer v Voskoboeva, Mattek Sands v Radwanska
Watch out for the dark horse… Mona Barthel
Worthy of a punt: My safe bet would be Bojana Jovanovski at 4/7 to beat Dellacqua, who she has thumped in their 2 previous encounters. My wild shot would be for Aravane Rezai at 3/1 to beat Peng.
The third section is well and truly packed with big names and in-form players. Vera Zvonareva opens her Australian Open campaign against the Romanian, Alexandra Dulgheru. She has a terribly tricky draw to contend with… her first major obstacle would be in the third round where she is the unlucky top eight player to be drawn with the in-form Brisbane Champion, Kaia Kanepi. Kanepi will play Johanna Larsson in the first round, who has yet to win a match in 2012. I am confident Zvonareva and Kanepi will meet in the third round and that Kanepi will be victorious!
Whoever does succeeds out of Kanepi and Zvonareva is likely to have to contend with Serena Williams in the fourth round. Serena opens up against the tenacious Austrian, Tamira Paszek. Serena was forced to pull out in Brisbane with an ankle injury, but she has been practicing in Australia and appears to be ready to compete. I’m going for Serena against Kanepi in the 4th round and my first big shock of the Australian Open… Kanepi to stun Serena! Serena obviously has the match experience at this stage of a Grand Slam, but i’m concerned about her ankle injury and whether it will hold up. Kanepi is hitting the ball better than ever and I just hope that she has the belief to match her huge game.
Maria Sharapova is also in this section and will have to contend with Gisela Dulko in the first round. Dulko beat Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon back in 2009 and anything is possible in 2012 considering that Sharapova has not yet played a competitive match this year. This is because of her recovery from an ankle injury, which she picked up in Tokyo last year. Sharapova is the type of player who needs match practice so I cannot see her being a threat this week. I think she will be out by round three where the consistent German, Angelique Kerber will prevail.
This section of the draw is already packed with quality and we haven’t even mentioned Sabine Lisicki and Svetlana Kuznetsova who are projected to be meet in the fourth round! Lisicki has pulled out of her last two tournaments with injury and I wouldn’t be betting on her chances this time round. I have never fancied Kuznetsova, but I think she will reach the 4th round of a Grand Slam once more. She does have a tricky opener against the improving, Chanelle Scheepers, but I think she will come through in three sets.
4th round matches: Kanepi v Serena, Kuznetsova v Kerber
Winner of Quarter 3: Kaia Kanepi
Highlight 1st round matches: Paszek v Serena, Scheepers v Kuznetsova, Dulko v Sharapova
Watch out for the dark horse… Angelique Kerber
Worthy of a punt: Chanelle Scheepers took a set off Li Na last week in Sydney and is 5/2 to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round.
Sam Stosur will have the weight of expectation heavily on her shoulders this week. Her first round match is against Sorana Cirstea, which looks difficult on paper, but Stosur has eased past the Romanian in their only two encounters. Stosur will be wary of a potential rematch with Nadia Petrova in the third round. Stosur and Petrova fought out an epic third round match at the US Open last year, but Petrova has yet to compete in singles action this year so is somewhat of an unknown quanitity.
Stosur demonstrated her remarkable mental toughness at Flushing Meadows to defeat Serena Williams in the final, but I still don’t think she can fully cope with the pressure of her home crowd. I think she will fall in the fourth round to Marion Bartoli. Bartoli opens her campiagn against Virginie Razzano and is projected to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round. However, I think it will be Zheng Jie, who had a terrific victory in Auckland, that will reach the third round. Zheng will be wary of a potential banana skin in up-and-comer, Madison Keys in round 1, but her experience should be enough to see her through.
Petra Kvitova, the number two seed finishes off the draw and will open up against Vera Dushevina. I like Kvitova’s draw for the next two weeks and I anticipate her to come through this quarter without too many problems. Her third round opponent will most likely come from the winner of Maria Kirilenko and Jarmila Gajdosova, who will play each other in an enticing first round match. Many have tipped Kirilenko, an accomplished net player to do well this year; however she started the season slowly in Sydney and Gajdosova has a thunderous, yet inconsistent game… i’m going for Gajdosova to beat Kirilenko in 3 sets.
In the fourth round, Kvitova is likely to meet Ana Ivanovic or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who are the two seeded players in this section. Both of them have had indifferent starts to 2012 winning just one match each so upsets are definitely possible. I think both of them will reach the third round, but it will be Ana Ivanovic who will meet Kvitova in the 4th round…
4th round matches: Stosur v Bartoli, Ivanovic v Kvitova
Winner of Quarter 4: Petra Kvitova
Highlight 1st round matches: Dokic v Chakvetadze, Razzano v Bartoli, Kirilenko v Gajdosova
Watch out for the dark horse… Zheng Jie
Worthy of a punt: This rather contradicts what I have been saying, but if you are feeling like taking a huge risk then why not go for Madison Keys to shock Zheng Jie… 11/2 are good odds!
Final Prediction – Victoria Azarenka d. Petra Kvitova
For many years, I have predicted Victoria Azarenka to win a Grand Slam, but to no avail. This time, i’m going for her once again! I know Azarenka has yet to have any really big wins at a Grand Slam, but I feel she is ready for the challenge… she is playing some good tennis, with a lot of confidence and mentally seems to have her head in the right place now...
I have chosen Petra Kvitova for the finalist. She had an excellent week in Sydney and has a significant number of matches under her belt. With Kvitova, i’m slightly concerned if she got involved in a tight match in the soaring heat because she has stated that she struggles in the heat and humidity… However I think she is looking both fitter and faster around the court. She will still hope though that the schedulers are kind to her and she gets a few night matches where conditions will favour her more.
Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters will no doubt be fearsome contenders, but I question whether they can go all the way with their fitness and injury worries. I predicted Serena to win in Australia at the start of the year, but I am concerned that the ankle injury will not hold up. I think Clijsters will reach the latter stages of the competition, but I don’t think she can win. I just do not believe she can win seven matches in two weeks with her current fitness issues. I think the dark horse for the title is Kaia Kanepi. If Kanepi can continue her form in Brisbane, this could be a record breaking week for the Estonian…
So there are my predictions! My full bracket can be found HERE
. The Australian Open is the most difficult slam to predict… there is not much to base your predictions so i’m not expecting much success this week! I think it is the chance to go for a few shocks, which I think I have done here…
Please feel free to leave comments with your predictions 🙂