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How likely is an Australian Open warm-up tournament winner to win the Melbourne Grand Slam?

In life and in tennis we like to recognize some patterns and predict future based on current facts. Our stats analyst Omair made sure to present us the historical patterns of the Australian part of the season and the chances of an Australian Open tune-up tournament winner to lift the trophy at the Australian Open. You'll see that the Sydney winner is the most likely, which was the case this year with Victoria Azarenka.

A few days before the Australian Open I found some interesting things regarding the winners of the Australian Open warm-up events and their performance at the Australian Open that year. There are four warm-up events which pave the way for the players to get into some form for the first Grand Slam of the year:

  • Brisbane
  • Auckland
  • Hobart
  • Sydney

Let's have a look at how well this year's winners performed at the Australian Open and how they compared to the winners of previous years and their performances at the Australian Open that year. Please note that for this article I used the results of Sydney and Auckland from 1988 onwards, since it was from 1988 that all the players played from the first round of the 128 player draw for the Grand Slam.

BRISBANE

  • Best Australian Open result in the respective year: quarterfinals
  • 2012: Kaia Kanepi won Brisbane and lost in the second round of the Australian Open

The Brisbane tournament started way back in 1997, and was known as Gold Coast back then. The name of the tournament was changed in 2009 to the Brisbane International. This year the Brisbane event went Premier. The first ever winner of the tournament back in 1997 was Elena Likhovtseva who defeated Ai Sugiyama in the final. Elena Likhovtseva could not carry on the momentum to the Australian Open and lost in the first round, while Sugiyama lost in the second round of the Australian Open that year.

The best result a Brisbane winner so far had at the Australian Open was a quarterfinal showing. Three players achieved that feat. Venus Williams was the first Brisbane player to reach the Australian Open quarterfinal back in 2002 when she won the Brisbane event. Venus lost to 8th-seeded Monica Seles in three sets. Patty Schnyder in 2005 and Petra Kvitova in 2011 followed in the footsteps of Venus Willaims and went on to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after winning the event in the respective years. Schnyder lost in three sets to 19th-seeded Nathalie Dechy, while Kvitova lost in straight sets to second-seeded Vera Zvonareva.

Kaia Kanepi won the Brisbane event this year. Based on the history of the Brisbane winners and their performance at the Australian Open, Kanepi's chances of making it out the second round were 67%.

Twice in the tournament's 15-year history has the Brisbane winner lost in the second round, Kanepi with her second round showing this year made it thrice in the 16-year history of the tournament. Many dubbed Kanepi as the dark horse for the Australian Open after her strong showing at the Brisbane event, however, Kanepi could not carry that momentum and fell victim of Ekaterina Makarova, who would go on to crush Serena Williams, five-time Australian Open champion, in the fourth round.

Brisbane winner has yet to move beyond the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open, and with the event going Premier this year, this statistic will for sure change in the years to come. Although, I had hoped that this statistic will change this year since the field at Brisbane was very strong with the likes of Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Samantha Stosur.

AUCKLAND

  • Best Australian Open result in the respective year: semifinals
  • 2012: Zheng Jie won Auckland and lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open

The ASB Classic event has been going on for quite some time. However, as mentioned earlier, I for this article, have taken the results from 1988 onwards since it was from 1988 that at a Grand Slam event all the players had to play from the very first round in a draw of 128 players.

From 1988 onwards, in the past 24 years only one Auckland winner has made it past the fourth round and she went on to reach the semifinals. She was Elena Dementieva back in 2009. Dementieva won the ASB Classic event and then went on to win the Medibank International in Sydney in 2009. Going into the Australian Open that year Dementieva was one of the three women who had a chance to grab the top spot based on their showing at the Australian Open, however, she was defeated in straight sets in the semifinals by the eventual champion Serena Williams.

Zheng Jie won the ASB Classic event this year by defeating Flavia Pennetta in the final (Pennetta retired in the final). Entering into the Australian Open, Zheng had only 21% chances of making it out of the third round based on the history of the performance of the past winners of ASB Classic at the Australian Open that year. Zheng carried that momentum into the Australian Open and defeated 23rd seed Vinci in the second round for a third round meeting with 9th seeded Marion Bartoli. It seemed Zheng's run would end since Bartoli was in great form, but Zheng proved too good for Bartoli and made quick work of Bartoli by defeating the 9th seed in straight sets for a place in the fourth round of the Australian Open. However, Zheng lost in the fourth round making it 24th time in the past 25 years that the Auckland winner failed to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals. However, all the credit goes to Zheng for her brave performance at the Australian Open where she routed two seeded players, one of whom was a Top 10 player.

HOBART

  • Best Australian Open result in the respective year: quarterfinals
  • 2012: Mona Barthel won Hobart and lost in the third round of the Australian Open

Hobart event was first organized back in 1994. Mana Endo was the first ever winner of Hobart. She defeated Rachel McQuillan in the final. Endo went on to reach the second round of the Australian Open, while McQuillan made it to the third round of the Australian Open that year.

During the 18-year history of the tournament, only six players have made it out of the third round. While four of those lost in the fourth round, only two players, in the tournament’s 18-year history, have made it to the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open in the respective year. Not a single Hobart winner has made it past the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open. Dominique van Roost was the first Hobart winner to make it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open back in 1997. She retired in her quarterfinal match against 14th-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez while trailing 5-7 0-4. Anna Chakvetadze was the second and only other Hobart winner to make it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She did that in 2007, she was defeated in two tight sets by top seed and eventual finalist Maria Sharapova.

By winning Hobart this year, Mona Barthel became the first qualifier to win a WTA title since Austria's Tamira Paszek won Quebec City in September 2010. Mona Barthel entered the Australian Open with more than 50% chances of making it out of the first round based on the performance of the winners of the past 18 years at the Australian Open. She did make it out of the first round and defeated 32nd seed Petra Cetkovska in the second round to book a third round meeting with Victoria Azarenka. Barthel did put up a good fight in the second set against Azarenka but the eventual Australian Open champion was too good for Barthel. So, the Hobart winner went down in the third round this year.

SYDNEY

Sydney finalists have had a very rich history at the Australian Open, with three Sydney winners going on to win the Australian Open and four Sydney runner-ups going on to claim the Australian Open trophy during the past 24 years. In addition, only once did the Sydney winner lose in the first round. It was back in 1995 when Gabriela Sabatini lost in the first round of the Australian Open after winning the Sydney title.

Victoria Azarenka won the Sydney title this year and while entering the Australian Open she had 79% chances of making it to the quarterfinals or better of the Australian Open, based on the performance of the past Sydney winners at the Australian Open. Three players during the past 24 years who had won the Sydney event went on to win the Australian Open. The three players were Monica Seles (1996), Martina Hingis (1997) and Justine Henin (2004). Victoria Azarenka with her victory at the Australian Open this year made it four players to win the Sydney and the Australian Open trophies the same year in the past 25 years.

Monica Seles, when she won Sydney and Australian Open to kick start her 1996 campaign, ended the year as world No.2. Martina Hingis, who won Sydney and Australian Open in 1997 ended the year as world No.1. Justine Henin who started her 2004 campaign with back-to-back titles at Sydney and the Australian Open ended the year at No.8. Where will Azarenka end this year which has seen her reach No.1 ranking, win Sydney and her maiden Grand Slam? Will she follow in the footsteps of Seles, Hingis or Henin or will she carve her own path? (photos: © Neal Trousdale)

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6 thoughts on “How likely is an Australian Open warm-up tournament winner to win the Melbourne Grand Slam?

  1. Omair

    I have a feeling that Kvitova will end the year at no.1 and Azarenka and Sharapova will fight for the second spot, provided that they remain injury-free. Wozniaki will fight for one of the top 5 spots. I am hoping for Li Na to bounce back. She does not have much to defend till the clay season.

  2. Hylton

    Thanks for an interesting article. It is great to finally have a new Number 1 in the world, and put an end to the media's questions about Caroline's lack of a Grand Slam title.

  3. Omiar

    Marine – Yes, no doubt :) It is just another perspective of looking at things :) Thanks for the appreciation :)
    I was waiting for your comment :), since you and John normally always comment on my analyses :)

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