It is now time to tackle the fairer sex in my Aussie Open previews. This is as wide open a major as we have had on the women’s side in quite a while. Despite not being the clear favorite, Serena Williams is certainly in the conversation. However, she has been far from untouchable at majors lately. This means Maria Sharapova, Aga Radwanska, Simona Halep, and Petra Kvitova all have a very real chance here. Let’s dive in. I will follow a similar, but not identical format to yesterday.
First Quarter- Serena, Wozniacki, and the young guns.
This section is loaded. Top seed, world number 1, and 5 time Aussie Open champ Serena Williams leads it. Look, we all know she has the weapons to win it. However, she failed to reach the QFs at 3 of the majors last year and hasn’t gone deep here since winning in 2010. She’s joined here by two rising stars that everyone should take note of. 26 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and 24 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain. Svitolina has a well-rounded game that looms for Serena in round 3. Muguruza is a massive hitter who I think will win majors someday. Also, she dismantled Serena at the French Open last year. She could oppose Serena in round 4.
If Serena gets through the young guns, she could run in to her good friend Caroline Wozniacki in the QFs. However, Wozniacki has a tricky draw herself and could run into Victoria Azarenka in the 2nd round. Azarenka has won this title 2 of the last 3 years, but injuries and losses have left her unseeded and ranked outside of the top 50, but she is still dangerous. This quarter could go MANY different directions. It will be fun to watch.
Matches to watch: Wozniacki vs. talented young American Taylor Townsend. Azarenka vs hot and cold American Sloane Stephens and any 2nd round match between the winners of these 2 matches.
Semifinalist: S. Williams (d. Wozniacki in QFs)
Second Quarter- Kvitova’s big chance?
Two time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova is the top seed in this section. The big hitting Czech lefty may finally be ready to breakthrough outside of Wimbledon after winning in Sydney last week. She is capable of beating anyone, but also losing to anyone. Young American Madison Keys may pose the first real test for Kvitova in round 3. Home grown Aussie Sam Stosur is also here, but she has never played well at home.
Aga Radwanska leads the bottom section here. Now being coached by Martina Navrátilová, what the Pole lacks in power she makes up for in speed and smarts. A resurgent Venus Williams is a real threat here after starting off with a title in Auckland. The other seeds in this section are very soft.
Upsets: Camila Giorgi d. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta (round 1) Kaia Kanepi d. 13 seed Andrea Petkovic (round 2). Kanepi d. 20 seed Stosur (round 3). Kanepi is a big hitter that will make noise here
Semifinalist : Kvitova (d. Radwanska in QFs)
Third quarter- Halep vs. Ivanovic?
2008 French Open champ Ana Ivanovic is on top here as the 5 seed. She has the biggest forehand in the world, but has struggled to peak at big events lately. Big server Karolina Pliskova is a trendy sleeper pick here. 32 seed, youngster Belinda Bencic and sneaky good 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova are also here.
The bottom half of this section is 3 seed Simona Halep’s to lose. The French Open finalist has sneaky power and speed. She is joined by 14 seed Sara Errani (winless on the year) and always erratic 28th seeded German Sabine Lisicki among others. I see no one who can really trouble Halep here. However, I really like unseeded German youngster Annika Beck and expect her to surprise people here.
Matches to watch: Julia Gorges vs. Bencic
Semifinalist: Halep (d. Ivanovic in QFs)
Fourth quarter- Maria’s to lose?
No one is coming in here in better form than 2008 Aussie champ Maria Sharapova. She started the year with a bang, taking out 4 top 50 players on her way to the title in Brisbane. 16th seeded Lucie Safarova always plays Maria tough and could await in round 4. Maria needs to NOT mess around early on.
The other seeds of note here are Canadian glamour girl Genie Bouchard (7), German Angie Kerber (9) and 2 time major champ Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) who has a way of randomly showing up at majors in the later stages of her career. I have to see Bouchard play before I make a judgment as to whether she can back up her breakthrough 2014. Also, I think Kerber lacks the firepower and confidence to do real damage here. So…
Matches to watch: Kuznetsova vs. dangerous Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia
Young gun who will make noise: Anna Schmiedlova
Semifinalist: Sharapova (d. Kuznetsova in QFs)
Semifinals: Kvitova d. S. Williams Sharapova d. Halep
Final: Sharapova d. Kvitova