2013 Australian Open Preview – Women
by Karen Pestaina ~ Special for WSEN
The tennis season is in full swing as the first “Grand Slam” tournament of the tennis year is upon us with the Australian Open next week in Melbourne. For the second consecutive major championship the top seeds remain the same for the women – No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, No. 2 Maria Sharapova of Russia, No. 3 Serena Williams of the US and No. 4. Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
World No. 1, and top seed Victoria Azarenka comes into the tournament as the defending Australian Open champion. Leading into the Australian Open, the 23-year-old reached the semifinals of the Brisbane International, but was forced to withdraw from her semifinal against Serena Williams due to an injury to her big toe.
Azarenka, who is on the top half of the draw- the same side as Serena Williams, would face each other in the semifinals should they both advance that far. Azarenka will open her Australian Open defense with a first round match against Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Five-time Australian Open winner Serena Williams comes into the tournament as the favorite despite her ranking, having won 52 of her last 54 matches on tour. She captured the Brisbane title to start off 2013. Her five Melbourne crowns are the best of anyone else in the “Open Era.” She’ll face off against Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania in the first round.
Maria Sharpaova, who won the Australian Open title in 2008 is at the bottom of the draw. Sharapova has been nursing a right collarbone injury which forced her to pull out of Brisbane.
The Russian plays countrywoman Olga Puchkova in the first round on Monday against. She has the potential to face Venus Williams in the third round should both women get that far.
Radwanska is on a nine-match, two-title win streak in 2013 as she prepares to play in Melbourne. The Pole won events in Auckland and Sydney. She is the only woman of the top four which does not have a major title. She lost in the 2012 Wimbledon final to Serena Williams.
She’ll begin her tournament in Melbourne by playing Bojana Bobusic of Australia.
Other former Grand Slam tournament winners in the draw include No. 7 Li Na of China who captured the 2011 French Open, 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, No. 9 Sam Stosur of Australia who defeated Serena Williams for the 2011 US Open title, and No. 25 Venus Williams winner of 7 major titles.
The women’s draw at 2013 Australian Open includes 17 teenagers, the most at a Grand Slam event since 2010 US Open. The highest ranked teenager is 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens who is the 29th seed in the draw. The young American made the semifinals of Hobart this past week. Stephens fell to Serena Williams in Brisbane earlier in the year, but kept her composure kept up with the power shot for shot against Williams.
Other Americans in the singles draw include 20-year old No. 36 Christina McHale from New Jersey, No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko , No. 64 Jamie Hampton, No. 75 Vania King, No. 82 Melanie Oudin, No. 91, Lauren Davis, No. 100 Coco Vandeweghe and at 17 year-ol, No. 135 Madison Keys of the US.
The Australian Open begins on Monday, January 14, 2013.
About the author…Karen Pestaina is the director of Tennis Panorama News – a leading website for tennis news and information, tournament coverage and features.
SI.com’s Jon Wertheim breaks down the women’s seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses and predictions.