The 2012 Australian Open draws will be released on January 13, 2012 and at that time tennis fans will assess the chances of their favorite players.
At present Serena Williams is the outright favorite to win the title in the betting markets as the American has won the title at Melbourne Park five times, a total that makes the Aussie her best Grand Slam event in terms of total singles titles.
However, for the 2012 Aussie, Williams is not a crushing favorite with the sports punters at this point, perhaps due to the fact that she has not consolidated her comeback from her post-Wimbledon 2010 injury with a title in a major. Williams fell in the fourth round of Wimbledon 2011 to Marion Bartoli and the American also fell short of winning the US Open title this past fall as she lost to maiden Grand Slam titlist Samantha Stosur.
You have to think that there is more Grand Slam singles glory in the future for Williams but whether that will be sooner or later remains to be seen.
Here are the betting odds for the top seven favorites for the 2012 Australian Open at this point:
- Serena Williams: +275 (11/4) Sportingbet
- Petra Kvitova: +400 (4/1) Paddy Power
- Victoria Azarenka: +900 (9/1) Victor Chandler
- Samantha Stosur: +1200 (12/1) Victor Chandler
- Caroline Wozniacki: +1400 (14/1) Boylesports
- Kim Clijsters: +1400 (14/1) William Hill
- Maria Sharapova: +1600 (16/1) Victor Chandler
Besides Williams, the past champions from the Australian Open in the above list are Kim Clijsters, the defending champion, and Maria Sharapova, the champion from 2008.
Having not seen Clijsters play since Toronto it is hard to have confidence in the Belgian to win a Grand Slam as her ranking has dropped. The question mark isn't regarding her talent but just what to expect from her as she returns from injury after a very long layoff.
Sharapova has been fairly quiet since winning in Cincinnati and she has been disappointing in Melbourne for each of the last two seasons.
Sharapova lost to Maria Kirilenko at the 2010 Australian Open in the first round and the former world No. 1 could not defeat Andrea Petkovic in the fourth round this past season. The time off since withdrawing from the WTA championships certainly will have helped her recover from her ankle injury (although she has pulled out of WTA Brisbane), but with the disappointments from the last two seasons, it's hard to picture the Russian making the semifinals without a kind draw.
Besides Williams, Clijsters and Sharapova, none of the other players in the above list have ever made the final at Melbourne Park.
Kvitova's best performance was last season as she made the quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Her status as second favorite is no doubt a reflection of her title at Wimbledon and her play at the end of the 2011 season. Kvitova won the WTA Tour championship on the hard court surface in November and she has the tennis world's full attention right now. Kvitova is capable of playing anyone toe-to-toe and a Williams-Kvitova final could be a battle for the ages, a changing-of-the-guard type match.
Azarenka's deepest run at the Aussie came in 2010 when she lost to Williams in the quarters, a match the Belarusian had a huge lead in. As of yet, Azarenka has failed to make it to any Grand Slam final, the only player in the above list with that tag. While that does make her position as third favorite questionable, Azarenka did win two hard court titles in 2011. Additionally, she gave Kvitova a serious challenge in the championship match at the Tour Finals and that appears to have won her some backers.
However, the bottom line with Azarenka, in my view, is that her Slam results are worse than those of all her main competitors. The Belarusian only has a semifinal result from Wimbledon 2011 peaking through as a bright light in majors while everyone else in the above list has a much more impressive resume.
Stosur has done very little at Melbourne Park to warrant her status as fourth favorite, as her best results are fourth-round appearances in 2006 and 2010 respectively. She is the top-ranked Australian on tour but you have to wonder if that will hurt her more than help her at her country's biggest tennis tournament. As both the reigning US Open champion and the top-ranked Australian player, Stosur should be under more of a spotlight at Melbourne Park than she's ever been under before.
While she has proven that she can win seven matches in a slam, one fact that can't be ignored with Stosur is that she rarely finishes a tournament with such form as the form she displayed at the end of the 2011 US Open.
Stosur only won that one title last season, whether in WTA events or Grand Slam events. Despite being a mainstay in the top 20 since her run at the 2009 French Open, Stosur still only has three career titles to her credit. That is a piddly total for such a highly-ranked player and it proves that her best tennis generally abandons her when the pressure gets pumped up, with only the occasional counterexample.
Wozniacki is an interesting player and one that might be a little underrated in the above list. Many have been quick to argue that her No. 1 ranking remains unconsolidated without at least one Grand Slam title. However, even if that position is taken to be correct, a position that discounts the fact that the top ranking is about consistency as opposed to isolated tournament efforts, Wozniacki's position as fifth favorite seems to underrate the Dane.
Wozniacki did make the semifinals last season, where she had Na Li against the ropes before she missed a match point in the second set before losing in three.
Points and counterpoints weighted, it's my opinion that the true top-seven favorites are as follows:
- Petra Kvitova
- Serena Williams
- Caroline Wozniacki
- Victoria Azarenka
- Agniezska Radwanska
- Maria Sharapova
- Samantha Stosur
Radwanska, like Wozniacki, has been underrated as well, although the Polish player appears to be off a lot of fans' radars entirely. Keep in mind that Radwanska did make the quarters of the Aussie last season for the second time in her career, she picked up three hard court titles in the second half of 2011 (Carlsbad, Tokyo, and Beijing) and still just 22 years old, so you have to expect continued improvements from the Polish player.
In my opinion, a quarterfinal appearance is hers to lose provided she does not get a terrible draw and she has an outside chance at a semifinal spot.
In conclusion, the 2012 Australian Open will do five things in my opinion:
- It promises to send last year's finalists, Kim Clijsters and Na Li, tumbling down the rankings, perhaps for good.
- It promises to show us what Serena Williams can do against increasingly younger and improving competition
- It promises to make Petra Kvitova the top-ranked player in the world even if she does not win the title outright
- It will show that Stosur is just a one-Slam wonder when it comes to the hard courts.
- And it will give current world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki a chance to silence her critics—something she has a reasonable chance of doing based on her play at the tournament last season.