While breaking down the Men’s draw, I realized there was a lot more chaos and confusion this time. Mostly because a lot of seeds were not billed up to the ability—mostly due to injuries. Reviewing the women’s draw is, as always, an even more head crunching job. And this is because, there is turmoil right at the top with Caroline Wozniacki as the no. 1 seeds. One may debate endlessly whether her ranking is justified or not, but if we put things into perspective, we know there are lots of players in the draw who can convincingly upset her.
Kim Clijsters should be the odd on favorite given her title wins in U.S. Open and the Year End Championships (and the absence of Serena Williams), but we just saw her blowing up a 5-0 lead to lose the finals in Sydney to Li Na. Vera Zvonareva has been consistent, but still unlikely to go all the way, Venus has never won here, and Sam Stosur has a history of crumbling under pressure, and this being her home Slam only adds to the boil.
Given the state of the top-5, and the forms of Henin and Sharapova, are we about to witness the start of a new era in women’s tennis? Probably some lowly ranked youngster having a sensational run this time around? We’ll see in two weeks.
Caroline Wozniacki’s Quarter
The world No. 1 will have no room for a warm up as she faces Gisele Dulko in her opener, who has been known to create upsets now and then, her latest being Sharapova at Wimbledon. Should she get by, she may face Cibulkova in the third round, who recently beat her at Sydney or anyone of Henin, Wickmayer, Kuznetsova, and Shicavone in the next two rounds. She is never comfortable against strong players who can play hard and early from the baseline and there is a good chance of her being outpowered early during the tournament. Whether she admits it or not, the lack of match practice is going to hurt her as the tournament progresses, given that her performance improves with the number of balls she hits.
The other half of this quarter is a toss-a-coin at this stage, with Henin just back from after a six months hiatus, Kuznetsova out of form, and I don’t know what to expect from Schiavone, except that it will be better as a viewer if she manages a good run.
The six months hiatus, though, can be a blessing in disguise for Henin, though. She managed to reach the finals last year on the back of just one tournament and huge expectations and curiosity (all thanks to the success of Kim). This year, the pressure to perform is less. And at this time, this is what Henin would need.
Look Out For: Wozniacki vs Cibulkova (3rd), Henin vs Kuznetsova (3rd), Schiavone vs Henin(4th).
Semifinalist: Justin Henin
Venus Williams’ Quarter
After failing to close out against Clijsters in New York, the elder Williams has yet another chance to bag a major at a time when there are question marks lurking around Venus. Its almost unbelievable that its almost a decade since she has won a major outside Wimbledon, and the absence of Serena (and the advantage of not entering the doubles draw) should light a spark in her. A marquee fourth round clash between Venus and Sharapova looks almost certain, and the winner of this battle should definitely be counted among the favorites to lift the trophy.
Other half of this quarter is topsy-turvy, but no one, save Li Na, with enough consistency to stake a claim. Can she ride on her confidence gained at Sydney and finally reach a major final?
Look Out For: Azarenka vs Li Na (4th), Venus vs Sharapova (4th)
Semifinalist: Maria Sharapova
Kim Clijsters’ Quarter
Can Kim finally win a major outside New York? She appears to be in fine nick, winning two of the biggest five titles last year, and a loss in the final at Sydney would, in fact, be better for her chances than if she had won it. She has already suffered an Australian meltdown now (remember 6-0 6-1 against Petrova?) and this will only increase her focus.
Kim aside, one has to feel sorry for Dinara Safina. On her comeback trail, she couldn’t have asked for a worse opponent in the opening round, with Clijsters waiting her right away! Having said that, it is not going to be easy for the Belgian, either. Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova and Jelena Jankovic are other contenders, although I don’t know whether the bigger question should be Jelena’s performance in the tournament, or whether she would cite an injury if she loses early. Ivanovic has a great chance to strengthen her comeback trail if she manages to get past Petrova in the third. Who knows if Clijsters, her likely fourth round opponent, might suffer brain cramps again?
Look Out For: Petrova vs Ivanovic (3rd), Kleybanova vs Jankovic (4th), Clijsters vs Ivanovic (4th)
Semifinalist: Kim Clijsters
Vera Zvonareva’s Quarter
This draw has Sam Stosur written all over it, should she manage to draw inspiration from, rather than get overwhelmed by, her home crowd support. She has not bode well under pressure in the past, but this would the time to correct it. Other than Petra Kvitova in the third round, I can’t think of any one who can trouble Stosur till the quarters, if she can keep her head still. Zvonareva has been much more reliable for the last six months, but can she keep her calm against Stosur amidst the vociferous support for the Australian?
Look Out For: Savarova vs Zvonareva, Kvitova vs Stosur
Semifinalist: Sam Stosur
Semifinals: Sharapova d. Henin, Clijsters d. Stosur
Champion: Kim Clijsters