It was an interesting question and one that I had not given much thought to. I looked at the rankings and we had an interesting discussion about who we both felt could make some noise this year on the women’s tour. In no particular order, this is a summary of our discussion:-
1. I felt that there were 3 women who could contend for the first major of the year and they were all ranked in the top 3 as of now. It is going to be a 3 way tie and whoever beats Serena in the semis wins the title. That being said, I am calling it now that Serena will draw Vika in her side of the draw and it will be a Serena v. Sharapova final, with Serena coming out on top.
2. Like many others I just don’t see Kerber maintaining her win/loss ratio that she had during 2012. Ditto for Errani. The only way Errani maintains her top 10 ranking is if she continues to play the WTA equivalent of the ATP 250s. With her in the top 10 she is automatically disqualified from playing many of these smaller tournaments. A look at Errani’s results at the Premier and Premier Mandatories shows that she has not done well in these, even those that were played on clay.
3. We both felt that Wozniacki will not be a contender. The fact that she lost to Pervak in her first match in Brisbane kind of solidifies that thought. I watched portions of that match and her forehand which had looked so lethal during the spring of the 2012 season, now seems to have regressed to its 2011 position, i.e. finding its way in the middle of the court with no pace and direction. In addition, the assertiveness that seemed to be forcing its way out of her game seems to have given up the ghost and the hated moonballing is now back.
4. In the players ranked 11-20, I thought Petrova if she can maintain her game from the latter part of the 2012 season should be able to make a deep run at the Australian Open. I am not sure where Petrova is starting her season but I guess we can keep an eye out for her as the season progresses. We also discussed 2 time Grand Slam champ Kutznetsova, who while she fell in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, can be forgiven for this loss as she is just returning from knee surgery. She is playing doubles so clearly she is healthy and fit.
5. Kirilenko, Bartoli, Ivanovic and Cibulkova are not contenders. For some reason while these 4 women seem to have games, I do believe for one reason or another they just don’t have what it takes to challenge the top 3 women at this time.
6. The 2 biggest question marks in women’s tennis for me right now are Na Li and Petra Kvitova. Both women have tasted Grand Slam glory and both women have regressed somewhat. While my friend was optimistic that Na would be a contender with Carlos Rodriquez in her corner, I was somewhat meh about this. For one, Justine Henin, Rodriquez’ most famous pupil had more talent in her little finger than Na has in her whole body. In addition, Henin was hungry for glory. I don’t see that same type of hunger in Na, at least not for a long while. Petra seems to be healthy but her asthma, as we have seen, can flare up at any moment. She had a good win against Suarez-Navarro, so we should see how she fares in the rest of the lead up tournaments before the AO.
For floaters, we looked at Sloane Stephens. I wish Sloane had the hunger of Christina McHale and the fight of Melanie Oudin. For a young player she has a big game. However, I just don’t sense that fight that seems to drive Oudin or the hunger that I see in McHale. Sloane seems very happy and she comes across as a very nice young lady, but I wished that she would fight for every point and get that steely look in her eyes and a bit more positive body language.
I have basically given up on Julia Georges and Kaia Kanepi, especially the latter.
I may be wrong. Maybe there is someone who will surprise me, but for now I just don’t see it. The Australian Open is known for giving us surprise champions. However, this year for me it is a certainty that one of the Big 3 (yes I went there) will lift the trophy.