Busted Racuqet analyzes the women's draw at the upcoming Australian Open.
This isn't what top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki needed. Already struggling early this year, she could have used an easy match against a low-ranked opponent to get settled in Melbourne. Instead she gets a veteran in Gisela Dulko. If the 20-year-old survives, maybe defeating Dulko will give her a jolt of confidence. Unfortunately for her, it doesn't get much easier from there, with Dominika Cibulkova, Jarmila Groth, Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli rounding out the field.
The bottom half has so many question marks the matches should be played at The Riddler's tennis court. Can Justine Henin get back on track? Can Francesca Schiavone defend her seed? Will we see the Svetlana Kuznetsova who made it to at least the quarters in six of nine Grand Slams from 2007-2009 or the one who failed to make it past the fourth round in any of last year's majors? And can Bethanie Mattek-Sands make some noise in her first Australian Open? (Is it really her first?)
For the first time in a few majors, Maria Sharapova isn't thought of as a dark horse candidate to win the title. Now that the expectations are low, will she come through? She'd have to get past Venus Williams, whose draw sets up nicely for a deep run. I like Venus to win that possible fourth-round match, though. The quarterfinal, however, could be trickier. Coming off her upset over Kim Clijsters on Saturday (Australian time), Li Na is poised to make another semifinal run in Melbourne.
Semifinalist: Li Na
Poor Dinara Safina. She drew Kim Clijsters in the first round. Poor Ana Ivanovic, too. She'd been playing well enough to have made a deep run in Melbourne given the right draw. As it is, if she makes it to the fourth round, she'll see Ms. Clijsters. Then again, Clijsters laid an egg last year in Melbourne, so anything is possible. (Except a Safina first-round win.)
Sam Stosur's draw is soft. Vegemite soft. It wouldn't be until facing No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarters that the Aussie could face a problematic opponent, and that's assuming Vera even gets that's far. Expect Stosur to please the hometown crowd and come out of the bottom part of the draw.
Best first-round match:
Caroline Wozniacki (1) vs. Gisela Dulko
Best first-round upset possibility:
Alison Riske over Svetlana Kuznetsova (23)
Best possible third-round match:
Nadia Petrova (13) vs. Ana Ivanovic (19)
Best possible quarterfinal:
Venus Williams (4) vs. Li Na (9)
Li Na over Cibulkova
Clijsters over Stosur
Clijsters over Li Na