Maria Sharapova Headlines First-Day "Popcorn Matches" at the Australian Open

Van SiasContributor IIIJanuary 16, 2011

Former Australian Open champ Maria Sharapova could be tested early.
Former Australian Open champ Maria Sharapova could be tested early.Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Australian Open—the first Grand Slam of the 2011 season—is close to kicking off with Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams among the group of players taking the court the first day.

While it's great to see those big names in action, their matches shouldn't offer too much suspense. Here are some seeded players that could really be tested in matches that make for "Must-See TV." Get the popcorn ready!

Maria Sharapova
(14) vs. Tamarine Tanasugarn:
Sharapova's most recent Major title came at the Australian Open in 2008. Since then, it's been a roller-coaster ride: from injuries to comebacks to injuries again.

She's back now, with a new racquet and coach, which has yielded so-so results so far, as seen by her quarterfinal loss to Greta Arn in Auckland. Waiting in the wings is veteran Tanasugarn, who has had success at Slams in the past.

Caroline Wozniacki (1) vs. Gisela Dulko:
Wozniacki, the top seed at her second consecutive Major, hasn't exactly instilled fear in her opponents with the way her year has started so far. Being matched up against Dulko, who has cracked the top 30 in her career and is scrappy as they come, isn't the ideal situation for a contender with a lot of pressure on her. This could potentially go the distance.

Yanina Wickmayer (21) vs. Jarmila Groth:
The unseeded Groth enters the tournament in near-perfect form: making the quarters in her first event of the year and winning in Hobart over the weekend. Wickmayer has had flashes of brilliance in her brief career and hasn't had a bad start to '11 herself, as seen by reaching the finals in Auckland.

Mardy Fish (16) vs. Victor Hanescu:
Fish had a career year in 2010, at an age when most players would be slowing down, thanks to a focus on fitness. Faster courts are where he shines, and with his big serve and backhand, he could do some damage here—provided he gets past Hanescu. The Romanian knows a thing or two about hitting big too, and this one could be a slugfest.

Viktor Troicki (29) vs. Dmitry Tursunov:
Troicki has been playing as well as anyone over the past four months. He won his first career title at the end of last season and clinched the final rubber for Serbia to take home the Davis Cup. Plus, he's coming off a runner-up appearance in Sydney last week. Tursunov, if healthy, is a player few would want to face in the first round of a Slam—particularly on a hard court. Hard-hitting and spectacular shot-making will be seen from both players.