Sunday, January 15, 2006

Australian Open 2006: Predictions Part Two

Women's Draw
Defending Champion: Serena Williams

I've been making these predictions since '03 and I've never been more excited. The women's draw offers the best collection of the players, past, present and future. Minor injuries aside, all bets are off in a race to claim the 2006 Women's Singles Championship crown. But before we proceed with the picks proper, let's have a rollcall on who's already at Melbourne Park.

Stars of the mid-90s? Bonjour, Mary. Late 90s? Hello Lindsay. And hello again to you, Martina. 2000-02? One big WASSUP to the sisters. 2003? Bienvenue to Team Belgium. and 04? How do you say 'Hello' in Russian? JenCap, there's one big party Down Under and sadly, you're missing it.


Q1. It's always hard to make a prediction for Lindsay's preparation before any slam, since she, like Agassi, tends to be more particular now in conserving their energy. Well, se, as her road to the quarters is hampered by Svetlana, Maria Kirilenko and Tatiana Golovin. Should be an easy run, if she's playing on top form.

Justine dug deep, recovering from a 1-6 1-4 deficit to win in Sydney. Will she need that much fortitude to defeat Venus in R16? Most probably not, but I'm so glad to see them both back.

And did I mention that Jelena Dokic is in this side of the draw, as an Australian, again? Not that i'm expectiig her to make a major dent in the draw, but, this has been her 3rd nationality, right?

QF Match: Lindsay vs Justine

Q2. Who said Serena was fat? Anybody got a picture? If all the internet speculations are true, then it will be a juicy rematch with Maria for a spot in the quarters. Screaming Sharapova will be fighting through pain (naughtily placed in the right pectoral muscle), and Shrieking Serena through a leg injury. Missed the live telecast of last year's SF, so I do hope their 4R encounter will be as thrilling as it is ear-shattering.

While some hope that this be Elena's maiden slam, she's not properly placed in the right side of the draw. Granted, her road to the quarters won't be as hard as the others, but she will face either Serena or Maria in the QF, then either Justine or Lindsay in the semis. Lots work ahead for you.

QF Match: Maria vs Elena

Q3. I hate to say this, but on a per-quarter basis, Amelie Mauresmo seems to be the luckiest player in the Top 4. Her main hurdles in the draw would include the red-hot Nicole (off court and on court, hehehe) and probably Anastasia or Patty in the quarters. She may have the momentum of winning the WTA Championships last November, but the early exit at Sydney failed to put a commanding stamp on the court authority.

The lack of a formidable contestant for Amelie is compensated by a bevy of dangerous floaters seeded an otherwise. Eleni can easily upset Patty, Michaella can end Vijay's over-the-top cheering for Sania in 2R, and sister Dinara might do a Marat and crash out early. I'm going out on a limb here to predict that neither Amelie or Patty make it in the quarters.

QF Match: Anastasia vs Nicole

Q4. All eyes are on Martina Higis as she re-debuts in the Australian Open - home of her 6 consecutive finals appearance. She takes on 30th seed Vera Zvonareva in her opener. While this may look like a winnable match, she has to be ready to face a rejuvenated Mary Pierce in 3R.
It took Mary a good 2 years to climb from an injured has-been to one of last year's fairy tales, and should be able to teach Martina a thing or two about resuscitating careers. Mary is on top of her game, and should rake in ranking points since she crashed out of the 2005 Open in the first round and has barely no points to defend here.

Kim Clijsters through to the quarters. Questions?

QF: Mary vs Kim

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