Although, not nearly as dominant or well known, the WTA has their own big four. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska are the dominant players on the women’s side. Fourth-ranked Radwanska is 2,175 points ahead of fifth-ranked Angelique Kerber in the standings.
Serena Williams will enter the women’s draw the prohibitive favorite. She was dominant in the second half of 2012. From Wimbledon on, Williams went 31-1. Her lone loss was at the Cincinnati masters to Kerber.
She enters having won the last two Grand Slams plus the Olympics after losing in the first round at the French Open last year.
Serena doesn’t appear to have a difficult path to the semifinals. The highest seeded player in her quarter of the draw is Petra Kvitova.
After winning Wimbledon in 2011, Kvitova has been consistent, but not able to reach another Grand Slam final. She lost in the semis in Melbourne and Paris last year, reached the quarters at Wimbledon and lost in the fourth round at the U.S. Open. After reaching a career high of No. 2 in 2011, she dropped to eighth in 2012.
Serena should breeze through to the semifinals for a rematch of a tough 2012 U.S. Open final against Azarenka. Serena outlasted 7-5 in the third. With an 11-1 head-to-head record and 7-0 in Grand Slams, Serena should prevail and advance to the final.
The top-seeded player in Azarenka’s quarter of the draw, seventh-seed Sara Errani of Italy, lost in the first round. That opens the draw a bit, but that is a tough quarter of the draw. Azarenka shouldn’t have any trouble getting to the quarterfinals. Assuming she does get there, she should still have a tough opponent waiting even with Errani’s loss.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki should be the beneficiaries of Errani’s early exit.
Agnieszka Radwanska might be the most vulnerable of the top four seeds on both sides of the draw.She has a likely meeting with former French Open Champion and top-ranked player Ana Ivanovic or former top-ranked Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round.
If she pulls that out she would likely face 2011 French Open Champion Li Na or 2011 U.S. Open Champion and Australian Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals.
Radwanska had her greatest triumph when she advanced to the finals at Wimbledon last summer. She has advanced to the quarterfinals the last two years and three of the last five Down Under. She is the most likely to fall before her seed among the top-ranked players.
Maria Sharapova didn’t show any signs of the collarbone injury that forced her to pull out of the Brisbane international tuneup in her 6-0, 6-0 first-round win over Olga Puchkova. Sharapova’s biggest quest on her way to the semifinals would be a third-round meeting with Venus Williams. They have met seven times, with Sharapova winning four. She won their most recent meeting last year on clay in Rome.
Should Sharapova survive that big, early showdown, she would have a pretty clear path to the quarterfinals. The seeds could have met in the fourth round but were both ousted in round two.
Fifteenth seed Dominika Cibulkova lost to Valeria Savinykh of Russia and 23rd seed Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic was eliminated by Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium. Getting through to the quarters she would likely face off with former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli or 2011 Wimbledon and 2012 U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber.
Kerber will be on upset alert in the third round. She faces 17-year-old American Madison Keys who is rising fast. Either one would present a difficult challenge.
Sharapova should get through to the semifinals, but her likely match against Venus and her quarterfinal match will definitely present a challenge.
Sharapova should get through to the semifinals. Venus is not the same player she used to be. Her energy level has been inconsistent since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Radwanska has shown flashes of truly reaching the tennis elite. With the tough path she has to reach the semifinals, look for her to be ousted before her seed.
The men’s side of the draw is primarily about three players as Rafael Nadal is out until at least next month. That lands the focus primarily on Djokovic, Federer and Murray. The biggest names remaining other than those three are former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilifried Tsonga and Former U.S. Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro.
Murray finally reached the pinnacle last summer with wins at Wimbledon in the Olympics and in the U.S. Open. He is in the bottom half of the men’s draw with Federer. Murray has a very tough part of the draw. Already through to the third round, he should breeze into the fourth. He will face Ricardas Bernakis of Lithuania next.
His fourth-round match should occur against either 14th seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon or his countryman Gael Monfils.
Monfils could be a player to watch. He was out for most of the second half of last year with a knee injury. He upset the 18th seed, Alexandr Dolgopolov, in the first round. Murray holds a 3-2 career edge against Monfils.
Murray and Del Potro have met six times, with Murray winning four times. Del Potro will likely have to play Marin Cilic in the fourth round. Delpo holds a 7-2 career advantage against the Croatian. Five of those seven matches have occurred in a Grand Slam or the Davis Cup. They have split two career meetings down under.
Federer’s quarter of the draw includes Australian favorite Bernard Tomic, Canadian riser Milos Raonic and ninth-seeded French veteran Richard Gasquet. Barring a shocking upset, Federer should have no trouble reaching the semifinals.
Fitting as the reward as the No. 1 seed and the No.1-ranked player, Novak Djokovic has a pretty clear path to the semifinals and possibly the finals. Nadal’s injury meant that one of the remaining three of the big four would not have as difficult a path to the finals.
Djokovic will match up with Radek Stepanek in the third round. The winner will face either Sam Querrey or Stanislas Warwinka. The highest-seeded player in Djokovic’s quarter is Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Berdych is certainly capable of pulling off an upset, but Djokovic should get through.
David Ferrer of Spain has been a consistent player throughout his career. He is seeded fourth in the Australian Open. He caught a break in the draw with eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic.
His next opponent is Marcos Baghdatis, whose best days are behind him. He has not advanced past the third round at a Major since 2009. Fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and Polish up-and-comer Jerzy Janowicz.