Dissecting Serena Williams' Remaining Path to the Australian Open 2013 Final

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIJanuary 18, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17:  Serena Williams of the United States of America celebrates winning her second round match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain during day four of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The first week of the 2013 Australian Open, so far, has been very kind to Serena Williams.

Even after rolling her ankle in the first round, Williams has only lost two games in the four sets she has played.

As she gets set to play her third-round match Saturday afternoon at Rod Laver Arena against Ayumi Morita, her road to reaching the finals at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year is pretty easy.

Morita has also won both of her matches in straight sets, but she should pose absolutely no problem for Williams unless the ankle becomes an issue again.

If Williams does indeed win Saturday, she would have a fourth-round match against either Maria Kirilenko or Yanina Wickmayer. While both Kirilenko and Wickmayer are seeded, they do not possess the overall game to give Williams a real reason to worry.

The quarterfinal part of the draw may be the easiest part of the road to the final for Williams.

In a tournament that has largely gone in favor of the seeded players, there is only one seed left in that part of the draw; Sloane Stevens, the No. 29 seed.

Petra Kvitova, the No. 8 seed, was upset in the second round by Great Britain’s Laura Robson, which opened up that portion of the draw considerably.

If Serena makes it that far—and it would be a major story if she did not—then she faces a tricky semifinal and final.

The No. 1 seed, Victoria Azarenka, would be Williams' most likely opponent if things go according to plan. The 2012 Australian Open champion has not been pressed very hard in her first two matches, but potentially faces two seeded players—Caroline Wozniacki and Roberta Vinci—to reach that semifinal.

If Williams can remain healthy and continue to play as well as she has the last six months, that is a match that she should win, although it may not happen in straight sets.

If she does reach the final, the highest seeded player in the other half of the draw is Maria Sharapova.

After disposing of Serena’s big sister Venus in straight sets Friday in Melbourne, Sharapova has the best power game to match Serena serve to serve. While seven of the eight remaining players in the bottom half of the draw are seeded, none of them pose a threat to Sharapova advancing unless Sharapova self-destructs and beats herself.

A Williams–Sharapova final would be an epic battle. They are not the best of friends and are the two best players in women’s tennis.

Even with the potential 3 a.m. start on the East Coast next Saturday morning, tennis fans would make the effort to get up early to watch that slugfest.