Week #3-4 preview: Australian Open

Australian Open (AUS), Grand Slam, A$21,400,000
The first Grand Slam of the season is already here and this year it looks more exciting than ever after the comeback of former WTA #1s Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. Together with defending champion Serena Williams, they are the main favourites for the title. Williams is current WTA #1, defending champion and is already four-times champion at the Australian Open, although Clijsters won the last Grand Slam of 2009 (US Open) and Henin dominated the Tour before retiring and showed in Brisbane she has come back in good shape. A step behind, we should count the Russian army with Safina, Kuznetsova, Dementieva,Zvonareva and Sharapova, American Venus Williams, Serbian Jelena Jankovic and youngsters Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka. On the other hand, it will be a chance to see if former WTA #1 Ana Ivanovic has recovered from her horrible 2009 season. Darkhorses include Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, Italian Flavia Pennetta, Isaraeli Shahar Peer, French Aravane Rezai or Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko.

Both Williams sisters have been drawn in the upper half, so an all-Williams final is not possible as they would potentially meet in the semifinals, given that they overcome Azarenka and Wozniacki. An all-Belgian final is not possible either, as both Clijsters and Henin have been drawn in the lower half. In fact they are drawn in the same quarter and with opponents like Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Pennetta, Wickmayer, Rezai or Dokic in which clearly is the hardest quarter of the draw. The 2nd round will already have potential Dementieva vs Henin and Pennetta vs Wickmayer matches. Finally, the remaining quarter is more open with Safina, Jankovic and Sharapova as main candidates for a place in the semifinals, although a surprising semifinalist shouldn't be discarded on this quarter.

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