Women's Top Seeds
We're putting our Australian dollars here. Best fighter in the draw now that Justin Henin-Hardenne is sipping mai tais in Tahiti or shopping at Baby Gap. Sharapova usually plays well in Australia and can adjust her game to the court speed. For a glimpse of the future, check out her second rounder vs. Anastassia Rodionova.
Defending champ is in the least formidable quadrant. She doesn't however, enter with much momentum.
Athletic Russian seems destined to reside outside the spotlight. She sure can't complain about her draw, but we like Jelena Jankovic to prevail in her quarter.
Belgian may be in final year of her career but she enters on a monstrous roll. And, historically, she has played well at the A.O., an event played on a surface ideally tailored to her game. Can she begin her final year with a second Slam?
Medic! On paper, athletic Russian is a threat to win. But health -- as always -- is a concern. She retired from first match in Sydney on account of an abdominal strain.
A surprise quarterfinalist in '06 (and three-time winner), Hingis plays well in Melbourne, but looked iffy in tune-ups. (Maybe that gift registry is on her mind.)
Simply too many talented opponents who can take advantage of her weaknesses. Overdue for a "statement Slam" but we'll wait till Paris for that.
Swiss Miss-tery is a terminal underachiever in Slams, now on the downside of a mercurial (though entertaining ) career. Watch for Shuai Peng to take her out early.
No longer simply Marat's little sister, but still needs to establish herself at a Major. Not a bad bet to "upset" Hingis, but we don't like her chances against Clijsters in a likely quarterfinal.
Czech teenager backslid a bit after reaching French Open semis, but her aggressive, if unimaginative, always puts her on a short list to win Majors. Plus her dismemberment of Ivanovic last week bodes well. Could get an early workout from steady Jill Craybas.
Serb has been playing lights-out tennis -- as Brad Gilbert would say -- in the tune-ups. Blessed with a beneficent draw, she has a good shot at her second straight Slam semifinal.
Little-known Russian has been playing top-five tennis since the fall. Looked sharp in tune-ups to boot. A player to watch.
Ascending Serb is (over)due for a breakthrough. No reason it can't be here.
Skeevy Wonder is always fun to watch, but she lacks the big weapons to be a major threat. Might live up to her seeding but that's about it.
May last a few rounds but she's not beating Clijsters in round four.
Future top-10er ought to at least live up to her seeding.
Vera Zvonareva: Seems to be awakening from an extended slump.
Sam Stosur: With Molik still on the mend, hard-charging Stosur is best local hope.
Li Na: Highest-ranked Chinese woman is a player no one wants to face. Beat Dementieva last week.
Alona Bondarenko: Still inexperienced but a player to watch.
Eleni Daniilidou: Health/fitness is always an issue, but if nothing else, she'll have the Greek contingent on her side.
Dark Horse Nation
Alicia Molik: Scored nice win over Bondarenko in Hobart. Is the darling of the '05 event finally back?
Agnieszka Radwanska: Trivia: Last player to have beaten Venus Williams.
Victoria Azarenka: No less than Andre Agassi has gushed about her talent.
Sania Mirza: Tournament where she first made her name several years ago.
First-Round Matches To Watch
Ana Ivanovic v. Vania King: Best American teenager gets tough draw, starting out against 13th seed.
Emilie Loit v. Aravene Rezai: Two Frenchefemmes (and Mailbag faves) throw down early.
Martina Hingis v. Nathalie Dechy: The Chuckster starts out against a steady (if mentally gimpy) veteran.
Serena Williams v. Mara Santangelo: Big chance for Italienne to score an "upset."
Maria Kirilenko v. Karolina Sprem: A lot of unfulfilled talent on display here.
SEMIFINALS: Sharapova defeats Clijsters, Jankovic defeats Mauresmo
FINAL: Sharapova defeats Jankovic
DOUBLES WINNER: Stosur-Lisa Raymond