Can Serena overcome champion Azarenka? Who else is in the running?
So tennis fans it is already Australian Open time! You all have your favourites but let us have a look at who the bookies think will be taking the 2014 women’s title in Melbourne.
World number 1 Serena Williams (5/6 Bet365) is obviously the big favourite. She is way ahead in the rankings and dominated most of 2013….Serena is already hitting the aces in the early season and using her immense power to win her 1st title of 2014 in Brisbane. However she is still vulnerable on the odd occasion…. Sloane Stephens defeated her American compatriot last year and we all remember Sabine Lisicki’s win over Serena at Wimbledon… how could we ever forget?
Victoria Azarenka (7/2 Bet365) is the 2 time defending champion and will again be very difficult to beat. The Belarus athlete on her day also has the capabilities to consistently trouble Serena probably more than any other player, especially in a tournament that she has dominated in recent times. Will she feel the pressure? Possibly! Vika has already struggled to finish off matches in Brisbane in week one of the WTA Tour, but managed to play competitively in her loss to Serena in the final.
What will Maria Sharapova (8/1 Bet365) be able to do? The former world number one is coming back from a long injury lay off, but you can never discount the Russian. Seeded top 4 again she should make the 4th round easily and then her fitness maybe the key to her success. A semi-final place in Brisbane gave her some matches under her belt and she broke Serena a number of times in that match. Her own serve was under threat continuously though. Other Russians such as Kuznetsova (125/1 Bet365), Zvonareva and Pavlyuchenkova (150/1 Bet365) all can cause upsets still on their day.
Last year’s finalist Li Na (10/1 Bet365) has been in fine form at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. Reaching the WTA Tour Championships and taking a set of Williams will give her confidence and she seems to like the conditions in Melbourne. She is a nice price and is capable of beating anyone when in the zone. She already has the WTA Shenzhen title under her belt in 2014.
Agniezska Radwanska (25/1 Bet365) is ever consistent and is very difficult to break down. Power is her problem! Can she cope with WTA big hitters like Serena? Everyone hoped her Wimbledon final appearance in 2012 would be the breakthrough she needed, but she hasn’t pushed on an remains one of the ‘nearly has’ players. Still on her day her variety and placement can win her matches and she will be there or thereabouts should any of the big hitters lose their accuracy.
Jelena Jankovic (80/1 Bet365) is having a solid last 12 months on the WTA Tour. Back in the WTA top 8 the Serbian cannot be disregarded in this line up. She recently took a set 6-1 over Azarenka when in the zone and also causes Serena Williams more problems than most. Jelena will have to be at her very best to win this year’s Championships but what a story it would be if she could pull it off! Another Serbian player Ana Ivanovic (100/1 Bet365) is a big outsider these days even though still seeded top 16
Could Simona Halep (28/1 Bet365) cause a surprise? Winner of 6 WTA titles in 2013 the Romanian is probably still under the radar to many. A junior star she has now progressed and can dart around the court with the best. Simona needs a big breakthrough in Grand Slam events to back up her WTA wins and she is capable of playing on all surfaces. Maybe here in Melbourne it will be her chance! A 1st heavy 1st round loss to Keys this week though offers no confidence.
Italian’s Sara Errani (125/1 Bet365) and Roberta Vinci (150/1 Bet365) are consistent but both lack any real venom to win and will probably stand a better chance of defending their doubles title down under.
Petra Kvitova (20/1 Bet365) beaten by Laura Robson (125/1 Bet365) in 2013 can still play well on her day, but it all depends on which Petra turns up – the powerful hitter or the lethargic miss-hitter……..
Eugenie Bouchard (125/1 Bet365) is one to watch. The Canadian is still only a youngster but is gaining experience rapidly on the WTA tour and had some good tussles in 2013 with the very top players. She never gives up and the fans will love her in Melbourne. Let us see how she goes, but may just want another year before she starts challenging for big titles. Genie lost early to Mattek-Sands though in Sydney…….
No one knows what to expect still these days from Caroline Wozniacki (66/1 Bet365). The recently engaged Dane is capable but is missing both confidence, concentration and power at the moment.
Sloane Stephens (33/1 Bet365) did brilliantly in 2013 in Melbourne taking out Serena before losing in the semi-finals. Defending huge points Sloane may come under pressure and crash out early, though new coach Paul Annacone may inject new life into the American. Sloane pulled out of Sydney too this week
Sam Stosur (40/1 Bet365) continually disappoints in her home country and although capable will probably not rise to the occasion this year either.
As usual I think Serena Williams offers very little value at 5/6. I have gone for 2 favourites and a couple of outsiders as my punts for the Australian Open. Azarenka, Li Na, Radwanska and Jankovic