Women to watch at Australian Open 2013


Info capsules on the top women to watch at the 2013 Australian Open in Melbourne, from the AP.

VICTORIA AZARENKA Seeded: 1 | Age: 23 |
(Credit: AP)

Seeded: 1 | Age: 23 | Country: Belarus
Career Singles Titles: 14
Major Titles: 1 — Australian Open (’12)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-Won Championship, ‘11-Lost in 4th Round, ‘10-Quarterfinals, ‘09-4th, ‘08-3rd
Topspin: Won her first major title in January at the Australian Open, with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Maria Sharapova in her first trip to a major final. ... Her 26-match winning streak was the longest at the start of a season since 1997. ... She was beaten in the fourth round at the French Open and then lost to Serena Williams in the semifinals at Wimbledon and the final at the U.S. Open. ... Says she’s focused on defending her Australian title rather than being the woman who can end Serena Williams’ recent dominating run. ... “I try to look at what can I do to win those titles, not to see who I can stop from winning those titles.” ... Has lost 11 of 12 matches against Williams, and withdrew from their semifinal at the Brisbane International last week after having part of the nail on her right big toe removed.

MARIA SHARAPOVA Seeded: 2 | Age: 25 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 2 | Age: 25 | Country: Russia
Career Singles Titles: 27
Major Titles: 4 — Wimbledon (’04), U.S. Open (’06), Australian Open (’08), French Open (’12)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-Final, 11-4th, ‘10-1st, ‘09-Did Not Play, ‘08-W
Topspin: Made a return at No. 1 for four weeks in the WTA rankings after completing a career Grand Slam by winning first French Open title in June. ... Her fourth major title represented a return to the top after struggling to adjust following surgery on her right shoulder in late 2008. ... Has reached the semifinals or better in five of her last seven trips to Melbourne Park, although her run to the final in 2012 was her first time past the fourth round since winning the title here . . . Besides her three titles last season, she was a runner-up in six tournaments including the London Olympics and the season-ending championships. ... Withdrew from the Brisbane International with an injured right collarbone, but expects to be OK for Melbourne.

SERENA WILLIAMS Seeded: 3 | Age: 31 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 3 | Age: 31 | Country: United States
Career Singles Titles: 47
Major Titles: 15 — U.S. Open (’99, ‘02, ‘08, ‘12), Wimbledon (’02, ‘03, ‘09, ‘10, ‘12), Australian Open (’03, ‘05, ‘07, ‘09, ‘10), French Open (’02)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-4th, ‘11-DNP, ‘10-W, ‘09-W, ‘08-QF
Topspin: Rebounded from her shocking exit at the French Open — her only first-round loss ever at a Grand Slam — to win Wimbledon and the London Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles (with sister Venus), and won the U.S. Open and season-ending championships singles titles. ... Extended her run to 35 wins in 36 matches by winning the Brisbane International title last week. ... Her U.S. Open victory made her the first player since 2002 (when she won three in a row) to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles in the same calendar year. ... Finished the year with tour-best .935 winning percentage, helped by her 31-1 win-loss record after the French Open. ... Defeated the No. 1-ranked player four times in 2012, beating Azarenka at Madrid, the Olympics, the U.S. Open and at the WTA Championships. ... Asked if it’s possible to win all four majors this season, Serena says: “I think for me, absolutely.”


AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA Ranked: 4, 2013 Match Record: 28-9,
(Credit: Getty Images )

Ranked: 4, 2013 Match Record: 28-9, Major Titles: 0--Best: F, at Wimbledon ('12), Last 5 Wimbledons: ‘12-QF, ‘11-QF, ‘10-3rd, ‘09-1st, ‘08-QF
Topspin: Radwanska is a master of using spin and changing speeds and angles to fluster opponents. Radwanska finally had a Grand Slam breakthrough at the All England Club a year ago, making it all the way to her first major final and pushing Serena Williams to three sets before losing. Radwanska has had understandable losses this season to players such as Williams, Azarenka, Li Na, and Petra Kvitova--all of whom are Grand Slam champions--but also was beaten three times by women ranked outside the top 40, including by Jamie Hampton of the U.S. on grass at Eastbourne a week before Wimbledon.

LI NA Seeded: 6 | Age: 30 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 6 | Age: 30 | Country: China
Career Singles Titles: 7
Major Titles: 1 — French Open (’11)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-4th, ‘11-F, ‘10-SF, ‘09-DNP, ‘08-3rd.
Topspin: Comes into the first major of the season with a title at the Shenzhen Open, the seventh of her career. ... Has developed a strong following at Melbourne Park, the major closest to her home, where the surface and the heat suit her game. ... Has achieved many firsts for China, including being the first Chinese player to win a WTA Tour singles title (2004) and the first to win a Grand Slam title. ... Had her breakthrough year in 2011 when she won in Sydney, lost the Australian Open final then won her first major at Roland Garros.

PETRA KVITOVA Seeded: 8 | Age: 22 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 8 | Age: 22 | Country: Czech Republic
Career Singles Titles: 9
Major Titles: 1 — Wimbledon (’11)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-SF, ‘11-QF, ‘10-2nd, ‘09-1st, ‘08-DNP
Topspin: A tall left-hander with the skills to succeed on hard courts, has improved with every trip to Melbourne Park. ... Two of her Grand Slam losses last year were to the eventual champions: Sharapova in the semifinals at Roland Garros and Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. ... Hasn’t fully consolidated since her breakthrough win at Wimbledon in 2011 and, after being two wins from the No. 1 ranking this time last year — slipped to No. 8 in the year-end rankings. ... Hasn’t started the year well, losing in the second round at Brisbane and the first round in Sydney.

SAM STOSUR Seeded: 9 | Age: 28 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 9 | Age: 28 | Country: Australia
Career Singles Titles: 3
Major Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (’11)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-1st, ‘11-3rd, ‘10-4th, ‘09-3rd, ‘08-DNP
Topspin: Has never gone past the fourth round at her home major, crashing out in the first round last year as the reigning major champion. ... Expectations at home have been high since she became the first Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1980 Wimbledon) to win a Grand Slam singles title. ... Tends to struggle with nerves in the majors — evidence was her loss to Sara Errani in the French Open semifinals — although she managed to hold it together when she beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final in 2011, a tournament where she played the longest tiebreaker in a women’s Grand Slam. ... Was the only woman in the year-end top 10 not to win a title in 2012. ... Says she must clear her head of the “silly thoughts” that remain after struggles at home in 10 Australian Open campaigns. Lost in first round at Brisbane and Sydney.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI Seeded: 10 | Age: 22 |
(Credit: AP)

Seeded: 10 | Age: 22 | Country: Denmark
Career Singles Titles: 20
Major Titles: 0 — Best: F, at U.S. Open in ‘09
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-QF, ‘11-SF, ‘10-4th, ‘09-3rd, ‘08-4th.
Topspin: Last year coming into the Australian Open, she was seeded and ranked No. 1, and still without a major. Same on the major front, but she’s now dropped nine spots after having a poor year in Grand Slam tournaments, getting progressively worse from quarterfinals at Melbourne Park, 3rd round at the French and 1st rounds each at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Her 2013 campaign has been anything but encouraging, losing in the first round at the Brisbane International and in the second at Sydney (to two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova). All’s good on the relationship front with golf’s No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who accompanied Wozniacki to her Australian Open warm-up events.


SLOANE STEPHENS Seeded: 29 | Age: 19 |
(Credit: Getty)

Seeded: 29 | Age: 19 | Country: United States
Career Singles Titles: 0
Major Titles: 0. Best: 4th, at French Open (’12).
Last 5 Australian Opens: ‘12-2nd (first appearance).
Topspin: One to watch in future. ... Tipped by Serena Williams, her Fed Cup teammate and sometimes mentor, as a future No. 1. ... Was the youngest player in the year-end top 50, finishing at 38. ... Has only played 10 Grand Slam tournaments, and is 10-6 in those, reaching a career-high fourth round at Roland Garros — the first U.S. teenager to go that far at the French Open since Serena Williams in 2001. ... Missed the last six weeks of 2012 season with an abdominal injury but says she’s fully recovered.

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