First of all, apologies for bringing the draw analysis to you people so late. I slept after the draw and had to go to office and you all know the routine ;)
10 a.m Australian time and 4 a.m Pakistani time, was the time the draw was supposed to be made. However, the 65 year old boat carrying the defending champions, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka and their trophies, took ages to reach, and the draw started more than half an hour late. You can judge with this, how professional the Australian Open organisation is. There was a good tweet when we were all waiting for the good old boat to arrive, saying that the boat should be penalised with time penalty. It was my first time watching the Australian Open draw being made live, and it was not a good experience, given the delay in proceedings they made. I can continue to rant on and on, but I think, this will be enough for the time being, let us move on to the draw.
All the eyes were on where Serena Williams, the 5 time Australian Open champion, will land in the draw. The wrath of the draw gods fell on Azarenka as she drew Serena for a possible semi-final match-up. Sharapova must have breathed a sigh of relief at that moment.
There will be 3 way battle for the top spot at the Australian Open. Last year there were 4 contenders for the top spot, Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, and we all know how it ended. This year however, there are 3 players in a race for the top spot, 2 of the players are the same as the last year, the new name is familiar to all you, yes Serena Williams. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, all be vying for the top spot.
Let us have a look at how the draw unfolded.
Heads of Quarter
Victoria Azarenka and Sara Errani
- Last years’ Australian Open top seed, Caroline Wozniacki who faces a very tough first round against the German Sabine Liscki
- Brisbane International runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
- The younger Radwanska; and
- The American, Varvara Lepchenko
Victoria Azarenka opens against Monica Niculescu. Azarenka is 4-0 life-time against Niculescu and has lost only one set in the 4 encounters. Niculescu made the semi-finals at the Shenzhen tournament where she lost to Zakopalova, and quarter-finals at Hobart, losing to Kristen Flipkens. Azarenka withdrew from her semi-final match against Serena Williams at Brisbane International due to toe infection caused by bad pedicure. Azarenka said that she had been training for the last few days and feels well, but how well she is will be determined in her first round match against Niculescu. In the 2nd round Azarenka faces the winner of Daniilidou and Pliskova, while her possible 3rd round opponent can be the younger Radwanska or the rising American youngster Jamie Hampton, who impressed in her tight straight sets loss to Radwanska in Auckland.
Roberta Vinci is seeded to meet Azarenka in the 4th round. Vinci opens against Soler-Espiona against whom she is 4-0, can face Elena Vesnina in the 2nd round who is at the moment in the final of Hobart. Vinci will be hoping for Vesnina to lose in the 1st round since she is 1-3 life-time against the Russian. Vinci is seeded to meet American Varavra Lepchenko who enters the Australian Open on a 4 match losing streak.
Sara Errani is on the bottom of the quarter and opens her 2013 Australian Open campaign against Caral Saurez Navaro, against whom she is 3-1 life-time. Errani’s possible 2nd round opponent is Christina Mchale. Errani is 3-0 against Mchale with the pair’s last 2 match going the distance. Mchale enters the Australian Open on a 7 match losing streak. A possible block-buster 3rd round match can be the show-down of Errani against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova is coming off an injury lay off and had a good run to the quarter-finals of Sydney before going down to Kerber. A good thing for Kuznetsova is that she is 5-1 against Errani.
A blockbuster first round match puts to test two contrasting styles in Caroline Wozniacki against Sabine Liscki. The match promises to be a great one. Wozniacki could not have asked for a more tough 1st round match. Liscki is 2-1 against Caroline Wozniacki, although the 2 have not met since their 4th round match at Wimbledon in 2009, won by Liscki. The winner of the match is likely to face Anastasia Pavlyunchova in the 3rd round, with the winner facing probably Errani or Kuznetsova.
First round matches to watch:
Liscki vs Wozniacki; Hampton vs U. Radwanska
Black Horses : Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; Svetlana Kuznetsova
Players to keep an eye on : Jamie Hampton, Su-Wei Hsieh and Lauren Davis
Likely Early upsets : Caroline Wozniacki, Urszula Radwanska
Quarter-finals : Azarenka d. Liscki (I have to give the girl a chance, she lost a tough 3 setter to Sharapova here last year)
Heads of Quarter
Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova
- Golden set winner Yaroslava Shvedova
- Auckland runner-up Yanina Wickmayer
- The newly engaged Maria Kirilenko; and
- 2010 French Open champion and former top 10 player Franchesca Schiavone
- Hobart Semi-finalist and talented American Sloane Stephens
The 42 year old veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who enjoys playing tennis
The 5 time Australian Open champion Serena Williams starts against Edina Gallovits-Hall, and is seeded to play Yaroslava Shvedova. Serena is 2-0 against the Kazakh, however the last time they played Serena had to dig deep to sent Shvedova home. The pair played at the fourth round of Wimbledon and Serena won 7-5 in the third.
Yanina Wickmayer, the Auckland runner-up, opens against Australian Jarmila Gajdosova, against whom she is 3-1 life-time. Maria Kirilenko opens her campaign against the American Vania King and the winner is likely to play the winner of Rebecca Marino and Shuai Peng.Kirilenko is 1-0 against King and 2-1 against Peng. She is seeded to meet Wickmayer in the 3rd round. The two have never played before, however, I will take Kirilenko to make it to the 4th round. Kirilenko has made it to the quarter-finals of Australian Open before and she definitely knows what it takes to to do well, Wickmayer on the other hand has made it out of the 2nd round only once during her 4 visists at Australian Open. So, I will go with Maria Kirilenko to make it to the 4th round.
Petra Kvitova sits at the bottom of the quarter, and faces a tough opener in the former of 2010 French Open champion Franchesca Schiavone. Schiavone and Kvitova both have been having hard time recently with Schiavone winning just 2 of her last 10 matches (including Hopman cup), and Kvitova winning one more match than Schiavone, 3 of her last 10 matches. The winner is likely to face the British youngster Laura Robson in the second round. Kvitova is seeded to play Stephens in the 3rd round. Stephens is coming off a quarter-final showing at Brisbane and a semi-final appearance at Hobart. I think Kvitova will right her ships just in time to make a run here at the Australian Open. Kvitova has made it to the quarter-finals or better of Australian Open the last two years.
Nadia Petrova plays the oldest player in the draw Date-Krumm and is seeded to play Lucie Safarova in the 3rd round. Petrova has twice been a quarter-finalist here at Australian Open, while Safarova has also been a quarter-finalist at Australian Open. Petrova and Safarova both have yet to win a set in 2013. Petrova ended her 2012 campaign on a high note and should make the 4th round at least. A lesser result will be a big disappointment.
It is tough to pick a quarter-finalist from the bottom of the quarter, the draw could open up for Petrova. However, I would love to see a 4th round show-down between power player Kvitova and Petrova.
If Petrova can make it to the quarter-finals, she will give Serena a head ache. Although the head to head is in the favour of Serena 7-3, their last 5 encounters have all gone to the 3rd set.
First round matches to watch:
Petra Kvitova vs Franchesca Schiavone; Yanina Wickmayer vs Jarmila Gajdosova; Sloane Stephens vs Simona Halep
Black Horses : Sloane Stephens, Nadia Petrova
Players to keep an eye on : Shuai Peng, Shahar Peer
Likely Early upsets : Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova (You can never count on these two)
Quarter-finals : Nadia Petrova d. Serena Williams (I know it is not likely to happen, but on any given day Petrova is capable of any upset.)
Heads of Quarter
Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na
- German power-house, Julia Goerges;
- Chinese star Jie Zheng, who made the semi-finals here in 2010
- The Aussie hope Samantha Stosur;
- Pair of former world no.1 Serbians Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic; and
- Mona Barthel, who will be playing to defend her Hobart title tomorrow.
Players with former glory at Australian Open
Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Daniela Hantuchova, Jie Zheng and Li Na.
At the top of the quarter sits Chinese trail blazer Li Na, 2011 French Open champion and 2011 Australian Open runner-up. She opens against Sesil Karatantcheva, and is seeded to meet Romanian Sorana Cristea. Li leads Cristea 3-1 in the pair’s head to head. Cristea has never been past the 3rd round of Australian Open, and with the current form of Li Na, seems like it will be tough for Cristea to move beyond the 3rd round.
Julia Goerges made the second week of a grand slam for the first time here last year, so she must be eager to do well here. She opens against a qualifier and will face the winner of Oprandi and Pironkova. Goerges has never played Pironkova, but she will be poised to do well here and should make it to the 3rd round, where she is seeded to meet Australian Flag and hopes bearer Smantha Stosur. Stosur opens against Kai-Chen Chang and can play Zheng Jie in the 2nd round. I have a feeling that this will be Stosur’s time and she will make it to the 3rd round here at least, however, she will have trouble against Julia Goerges, if the two meet. Goerges has won 3 of the pair’s 4 meetings. Stosur enters Australian Open on a 5 match losing streak. I will take Goerges to make it to the 4th round.
Sitting at the bottom of the quarter, Agnieszka Radwanska is the only WTA player with 2 titles in 2013. Radwanska is on a 9 match winning streak, her last loss coming at the hands of Serena Williams last year in the semi-final of year end championships. Radwanska is seeded to meet Mona Barthel in the 3rd round. The two have played only once before, in the second round of Montreal last year, where Radwanska rallied from a set down to win 7-6(5) in the final set. Given Radwanska’s form and her demolition of Cibulkova in the finals of Sydney, Radwanksa should easily sail to the fourth round.
Ana Ivanovic opens against Melinda Czink and is seeded to meet Jelena Jankovic in a block buster 3rd round show-down. Ivanovic is 7-3 life-time against Jankovic. Ivanovic had some good matches at Hopman cup, although she lost her singles rubber in the final, which started the demise of Serbia. You have to like Ivanovic’s chances of making it to the 4th round here.
Black Horses : Mona Barthel, Jie Zheng
Players to keep an eye on : Heather Watson, Daniela Hantuchova
Likely Early upsets : Samantha Stosur (Although I had said that I have a feeling she will do well here), Jelena Jankovic
Quarter-finals : Li Na d. Agnieszka Radwanska (I have a feeling that this time around, if the two meet, Li will turn the tables of Radwanska and make it to the semi-finals)
Heads of Quarter
Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber
- American teenager Madison Keys who almost knocked Li Na off in the quarter-finals of Sydney;
- Last year’s Serena Williams conqueror, Ekaterina Makarova
- Hopman cup winner Anabel Medina Garrigues;
- Giant killer Sydney runner-up Dominika Cibulkova; and
- 7 time Grand slam champion, Venus Williams.
Venus Williams, Klara Zakopalova, Marion Bartoli
Angelique Kerber begins her Australian Open campaign against Elina Svitolina. Kerber made the semi-finals of the Syndey where she fought from down a break in the second set to win the set and force a 3rd set, but Cibulkova proved too strong for her. Kerber is seeded to meet Tamira Paszek in the 3rd round. Kerber has a decent draw and should progress into the second week.
Ekaterina Makarova starts her 2013 Australian Open campaign against a qualifier and is seeded to meet Marion Bartoli for a spot in the 4th round. Makarova started her 2013 campaign at Sydney where she defeated Lepchenko, but fell at the hands of Cibulkova in the 2nd round 6-7 in the 3rd set. Marion Bartoli will have a tough test in Medina Garrigues, who is coming off a huge Hopman cup win. Bartoli is 8-3 life-time against Garrigues, and is a former Australian Open quarter-finalist. Bartoli also leads Makarova in head to head 2-0. You have to like Bartoli’s chances of making it to the 4th round, however, you can never rely on Bartoli.
2008 Australian Open champion and last year’s runner-up Maria Sharapova, kick starts her 2013 Australian Open campaign against Olga Puchkova and is seeded to meet Venus Williams in a bloc-buster 3rd round encounter. Venus Williams leads Maria Sharapova by a slight margin in the pairs head to head by 5-4, however it was Sharapova who won their last encounter in Rome last year.
Sydney runner-up Dominika Cibulkova starts her campaign against Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty and is seeded to meet Shenzhen runner-up Klara Zakopalova in the 3rd round. Cibulkova had a great run in Sydney, but you have to wonder how much will the double bagel affect her. If she lets that loss get to her, she might be sent home early on. If Cibulkova goes home early this section might open up to anyone to make it to the 4th round.
Black Horses : Venus Williams, Ekaterina Makarova (I would have loved to pick Dominika Cibulkova but just as I said earlier, I don’t know where she stands after that double bagel at the hands of Radwanska)
Players to keep an eye on : Madison Keys, Kristen Flipkens
Likely Early upsets : Tamira Paszek, Klara Zakopalova
Quarter-finals : Maria Sharapova d. Angelique Kerber
Nadia Petrova d. Victoria Azarenka
Li Na d. Maria Sharapova
FINAL : Nadia Petrova d. Li Na
P.S : You can replace Nadia Petrova with Serena Williams ;)
Here is to a happy Australian Open 2013, and Sorry again for keeping you waiting.
P.P.S : I hope there are no typos in it ;)