Australian Open women's seed reportJon Wertheim, SI.com
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses to keep an eye on and his predicted winners.
It's hard to recall a major so ravaged by injuries. If you ever needed proof that tennis injuries have officially reached crisis proportion, note the All-Star team of players who won't be in Melbourne. And be assured, there are more to come. Before the game cannibalizes itself, will someone -- anyone! -- address this in a meaningful way?
Depleted cast and all, the show will go on. Inasmuch as anyone can withstand seven matches in two weeks, here is our 2006 Australian Open seed report:
Top 16 seeds
1. Lindsay Davenport
: It's hard to recall the last time Davenport wasn't in position to win a non-clay Slam. But something has always held her back, be it injury, attitude or a red-hot opponent. If there's karmic justice, Davenport deserves her fourth Slam. Can she finally break through? If she beats Justine Henin-Hardenne
, we say yes.
2. Kim Clijsters
: She's no longer Aussie Kim, Mrs. Hewitt-to-be, but Clijsters will have the crowd's affection as she tries to win back-to-back majors. After the '05 U.S. Open, surely she believes she has what it takes to thrash the field. On the other hand, especially for a player whose success is predicated on motion, we worry about the hip injury.
3. Amelie Mauresmo
: Yes, we know the expression 36 times bitten, 37 times shy. But suddenly Mauresmo inspires optimism. It wasn't just that she won the '05 WTA Championships -- it was her (uncharacteristic) measured, poised performance. Plus, at the Slam, with the fewest klieg lights, she is least likely to choke. Right? Maybe?
4. Maria Sharapova
: Returns to see the scene of the crime, the site of her crushing loss to Serena Williams
. Sharapova has the will and the ambition to win; the question is always whether her body -- her chest muscle in particular -- and unimaginative game will cooperate.
5. Mary Pierce
: Can Pierce -- one of the better stories of '05 -- keep it up in '06? The Melbourne winner 11 (gulp) years ago, she went light on this season's tune-ups, so it's hard to gauge the state of her game and physical health. She has the benefit of an unimposing draw. Possible third-rounder against Martina Hingis
will be must-see TV.
6. Nadia Petrova
: Now that she finally won a title, look out.
7. Patty Schnyder
: Same old, same old. Temperamental Swiss lefty is fun to watch and always dangerous (plus she's had success in Australia). On the other hand, one wonders if she has the mental acuity to win the big prizes. She lost early in the Sydney tune-up.
8. Justine Henin-Hardenne: Hard to believe it was just last June that JH-H was the most feared player in women's tennis. Her complete and adaptable game always make her a force. Injuries and ailments got the better of her last summer and fall, but she looked sharp in tune-ups. It says here that the winner of her likely quarterfinal with Davenport is the de facto final.
9. Elena Dementieva
: It always seems that Dementieva's dead duck of a serve doesn't beset her as much as it should. Once the rally begins, she can slug (and retrieve) with the best of them. Third rounder against Jelena Jankovic
10. Venus Williams
: VW gave us that breathtaking Wimbledon and then -- poof -- vanished. Her lack of match play and the latest injury to her shopworn body are hardly encouraging. But then again, you could have said the same thing before last summer's Wimbledon.
11. Natalie Dechy: She had Davenport on the ropes last season and couldn't finish the job. Has made a living (and a nice one at that) at being a perfectly respectable opponent who lives up to her seeding and then capitulates to the bigger names. Look for more of the same Down Under.*
* In keeping with Tennis Writing by-law XI(a)(ii), that will constitute our sole use of "Down Under" for this column.
12. Anastasia Myskina
: As her mother regained her health, Myskina's game improved. And she has to be motivated by Hingis' essentially crowing, "When I saw a marginal player like Myskina win a major, it inspired me to return." But Anastasia has never done particularly well in Melbourne and, inauspiciously, only played doubles in lat week's tune-up.
13. Serena Williams: Since her heroic '05 run in Melbourne, she has been a cipher, a non-factor who breaks down both emotionally and physically. The comprehensive tune-up loss to Dementieva is inauspicious, but no player can turn it on and off quite like the Williams sisters.
14. Svetlana Kuznetsova
: Hard to believe a quality athlete with a versatile game could allow herself to sink this low. The '04 U.S. Open champ is desperate for a strong Slam. Her play early this year has been encouraging.
15. Francesca Schiavone
: Flashy Italienne is coming off a breakthrough year, but she still hasn't won a title.
16. Nicole Vaidisova
: Following the Sharapova blueprint, it's time Vaidisova abdicated her throne as queen of the Tier III's and entered the big-time. Will this be her '04 Wimbledon? I wouldn't bet against it.
17. Daniela Hantuchova
: This train has never gotten completely back on the tracks. And perhaps it never will. But there's still a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked.
19. Dinara Safina
: Marat's little sister has been quietly making a name for herself of late.
21. Ana Ivanovic
: A top-10er by year's end, she has already beaten Mauresmo in '06.
22. Anna-Lena Groenefeld
: Wish she were coming in with more momentum, but her serve alone ought to be good for a few rounds.
27. Marion Bartoli
: Cerebral Frenchwoman comes in playing well. Tough opener, though, against Amy Frazier
32. Sania Mirza
: Indian sensation has improved ranking by more than 200 spots since last year.
Martina Hingis: Enough said.
: Her game might have holes, but she's too heavy a ball-striker to be ranked too modestly.
Amy Frazier: Ageless American veteran still a difficult opponent for most players.
Vik Kutusova: The best player you've never heard of.
: Talented teen has already won a title in '06.
: Because reader Todd E. implored us to pick her.
Michaela Krajicek: Lots of untapped talent.
First-round matchups to watch
vs. Maria Kirlienko: Two of the better young Russians.
vs. Elena Likhovtseva
: Two vets, both former quarterfinalists.
Patty Schnyder vs. Eleni Daniilidou
: Beware of Greeks in Melbourne.
Hingis vs. Vera Zvonareva
: Tough first-rounder for each.
Raymond and Samantha Stosur
: They won their last Major, plus we still have questions about the collective health of Virginia Ruano Pascual
Henin-Hardenne vs. Sharapova
Vaidisova vs. Clijsters
Henin-Hardenne vs. Clijsters