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Australian Open 2012 preview: women's field wide open

Dear readers, professional tennis instructor Florian Meier from OnlineTennisInstruction.com is back with another guest post, this time presenting his take on the Australian Open women's draw. Florian's previous contributions to Women's Tennis Blog included in-depth analysis of Sabine Lisicki's game and US Open predictions. Enjoy Florian's preview!

Hey everyone. The Australian Open is about to start and this year the field seems to be wide open without clear favorites. Also many of the top players are struggling with injuries and Andrea Petkovic already had to withdraw from the event because of a back injury. In this article I want to give you my view on who has the best chances to win the tournament.

I decided to pick out four players who I believe have the biggest chance to win this year’s Australian Open title.

1. PETRA KVITOVA

Petra Kvitova is currently in a close battle with Caroline Wozniacki for the world number 1 ranking. She had her breakthrough winning Wimbledon last year and I think she has very good chances to become the most successful player in 2012.

Her game is big, she played well in the warm up matches to the tournament, and she seems to have the confidence and belief now.

CHECK OUT HOW WELL KVITOVA IS PLAYING IN THIS VIDEO

2. KIM CLIJSTERS

Clijsters is the defending champion and in my opinion always a threat at any Grand Slam. She had a tough second half of the season in 2011, where she did not play much at all because of several injuries.

Having had such a long preparation could be an advantage for her because she is probably in great shape right now. At the warm-up tournament in Brisbane she seemed to be in strong form but had to pull out because of a hip injury. The latest reports are saying that she is practicing at 100% though and therefore I think she is one of the favourites to win the title.

3. SERENA WILLIAMS

As usual it is difficult to assess what kind of form Serena Williams is in for the Australian Open. She has not played much before the tournament but she obviously likes the tournament, having won it five times in the past.

In a recent interview I heard Brad Gilbert, famous coach and expert, talk about how hard Serena was preparing and how well she looked out on the practice courts. An ankle injury forced her to pull out of Brisbane but she has also been seen practicing hard on site in Melbourne. She has not played many tournament matches in a while so it will be crucial for her to get through the first couple of rounds.

If she gets through the first couple of rounds and stays healthy she will definitely be one of the top favourites for the title.

4. MARIA SHARAPOVA

Sharapova also had to pull out of Brisbane due to an ankle injury. Nevertheless she has been seen practicing regularly on-site at the Aussie Open since then and said that she is confident she can play the tournament.

Sharapova played quite well last year. She is working hard and seems very focused on her goal to win another Grand Slam. As usual a lot depends on serve though. If she had time during the off-season to work on it and get her motion a bit more fluid, then she has a good chance at competing for the title at this tournament.

OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS

Apart from these four, there are many more players with realistic chances to win the title at this year’s Aussie Open. Let’s have a look at some of the other in-form players.

VICTORIA AZARENKA

Azarenka is currently number 3 in the world. So far she has not had much success at the Grand Slams though. She plays well but I am not sure if her game is big enough to beat some of the top players like Kvitova and Williams when they are at their best late in a Grand Slam.

That being said, she has just won the Sydney warm-up event, beating Li Na in the finals, and played excellent tennis. With so many of the top players slightly injured as well, she could have a real chance to go deep into the tournament with her solid game.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI

Wozniacki is still the number 1 player in the world but as we all know she has not won a Grand Slam yet.

At the end of last year Caroline hired Ricardo Sanchez as her new coach. I think she made a good move in hiring a new coach to try and make a few minor but important changes to her game. It’s really tough to assess what kind of an impact Sanchez will have, but it is definitely a good sign that Caroline hired someone new and is looking to make some changes to her game.

Caroline was also slightly injured in the warm-up event before the Aussie Open. That combined with the uncertainty as to what they are trying to do with her game, I don’t see her in the group of the top favorites to win the tournament.

SAM STOSUR

Sam Stosur is a player that I expect to do really well in 2012. Her game is huge and she also had a breakthrough last year, winning the US Open. She definitely has the game to do well at the tournament but she seems to be quite nervous performing in front of the Australian crowd. She has never gotten past the 4th round at this tournament.

If she can get her nerves under control she should do well though.

LI NA

Li Na was a finalist last year at the Australian Open. She won the French Open last year and then had a tough couple of months later in the year, where she played poorly. Possibly she was not able to handle the publicity that she got back home in China from winning a Grand Slam.

She showed some excellent tennis in the Sydney warm-up tournament though and I think she will show up playing well at the Australian Open.

LI NA WITH A GOOD WIN OVER PETRA KVITOVA IN SYDNEY

THE DRAW

The draw was released on Friday and there are a couple of interesting things to note.

1. Caroline Wozniacki in the top draw is facing some really tough opponents. She could face Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round and either Li Na or Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

2. The second quarter is a bit weaker in my opinion. Here Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska should have the best chances to get through.

3. The third quarter is quite exciting as well with Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Vera Zvonareva in it. Serena is my favorite in this one but Maria has a good chance of getting through as well of course.

4. In the fourth quarter Petra Kvitova is the clear favourite to me. Sam Stosur is in there as well and it will have to be seen how she handles the pressure of playing in front of her home crowd. Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli are two more players that could make it out of this quarter.

Alright guys. So much for my Australian Open Preview. It should be an exciting tournament and please let me know your own thoughts in the comment section below!

Florian Meier runs the website OnlineTennisInstruction.com where he specializes in helping tennis players improve their game with video tennis tips. (photos: © Neal Trousdale)

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5 thoughts on “Australian Open 2012 preview: women's field wide open

  1. John Bolan

    Victoria Azarenka should be the obvious favorite for not only the AO but for the #1 ranking in 2012. This time she will win the AO as she should have 3 years ago when she had Serena beaten before fainting on the court.

    Your picks have already lost this year and/or have injuries.

  2. James

    A nice preview although the favourites that you pick for the title are all too obvious in my opinion. Personally, i'm not convinced that Serena and Clijsters will win because of their injury and fitness worries. Sharapova is not even a contender for me because she is the kind of player that needs a lot of matches to be a threat; having not played since Istanbul because of the ankle injury, I will be surprised if she makes the second week.

    I think that Kaia Kanepi is a dark horse for the title. She had some good wins at the end of 2011 over Wozniacki and Kuznetsova and looked on fire in Brisbane playing with much more consistency than we have seen from her in the past. I also believe that Angelique Kerber will be dangerous and reach the quarter-finals.

    I may look foolish when Clijsters and Serena reach the final! However I think (and hope!) that the younger stars on the WTA can do the business… I would agree above with John's comment that Azarenka is not to be underestimated. She is my tip to win and I think she will beat Petra Kvitova in the final.

  3. Florian

    Hey John and James. Sorry for the late reply but I've been quite busy teaching a lot of hours.

    @John: I don't think Azarenka can be named the obvious favourite. She has not shown her best Tennis in the Grand Slams and I would be surprised if her best Tennis would result in a win against an in-form Kvitova or Serena for example

    @James: It is really tough to make a judgement on the injury worries. The latest I heard was that Serena and Kim are ready to compete. Serena did not look super fit/sharp in her first round though. I believe that Sharapova is still one of the main contenders because she plays really well form the baseline and competes a lot better than many other girls. Nevertheless she can only win if the serve is going well

  4. JohnnyB

    And who was correct?? Azarenka was my pick for #1 in 2012 and Sharapova for #2.

    John Bolan on January 16th, 2012
    Victoria Azarenka should be the obvious favorite for not only the AO but for the #1 ranking in 2012. This time she will win the AO as she should have 3 years ago when she had Serena beaten before fainting on the court.

    Your picks have already lost this year and/or have injuries.

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