Maria Sharapova won the French Open this year, and can be backed to add another Grand Slam title to her trophy haul in the Australian Open in the New Year. Serena Williams is the strong favourite to win the Melbourne tournament, but despite a return to form in the U.S. Open, the multiple Grand Slam winner can be opposed in Australia.
The tournament has been contested since 1905 when it was known as the Australasian Championship, and hosted in New Zealand on a few occasions, but became the Australian Championship in 1927. Since the Open era began in 1969, and it was re-named again as the Australian Open, it has developed as a unique tournament. It’s held in the height of the Australian summer and temperatures of 40C plus are commonplace. As the first Grand Slam of the season it has also been the tournament which launched the career of some of the greats, and surprises are not unheard of.
It has only been since 2001 that the prize money for women has been equal to that of the men, and this year 99 of the top 100 women will contest the tournament.
Serena William’s will go down as one of the Women’s Tennis greats after a glittering career. She’s the most prolific winner of this tournament in the Open era, with five titles to her name – won in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. She is aiming to overcome Stefi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, and has 18 to her name after the U.S. Open win this year. However, she failed to perform in each of the other three Grand Slam’s and didn’t even manage a quarter final appearance in any of them. She has also failed to make the final of this tournament in the last four years since her last win in 2010, and her odds look pretty short at the moment. Of course, if the world number one is in the mood she is capable of overpowering her opponents, but she has looked beatable during 2014, and can be taken on at the prices.
World number two Sharapova may not have won as many Australian Opens as Serena Williams, but she still has a very good pedigree at this tournament. She won the tournament in 2008 and reached the final in 2012, and has shown her versatility by winning the French Open on clay. The Russian star could easily be world number one if it were not for Williams, and if there is any chink in the American’s armor, Sharapova could be the one to expose it. She’s a fierce competitor on the World Tour and has won five Grand Slams in total throughout her career. At the odds she can give us a good run for our money, and is expected to be there or thereabouts by the end of January as the tournament reaches its conclusion.
Azarenka has had an injury-hit season, but comes into the tournament with every chance. She won the Open in 2012 and 2013 and tends to pull out her best form at the Grand Slams. She’s a good performer on hard courts, but is ranked a lowly 31 in the world, so a bet on her would be putting faith in her ability to peak again in Melbourne. It’s also a negative that she hasn’t won a Grand Slam in the last two years, although her liking for this particular tournament is not in doubt.
Kvitova won Wimbledon for a second time last year and is another top player in with a chance of glory at the Australian Open. The Czech player is currently ranked 4th in the world and has had another promising season. She looks sharper than ever on the court, but is attempting to win a first Grand Slam away from the grass courts of Wimbledon. She was a semi-finalist in Melbourne two years ago so she can obviously cope well enough with the surface, but whether she can go on and win is another question.
Last year’s winner of the tournament was Chinese star Li Na, who became the first Asian player ever to win a Grand Slam when she took the French Open in 2011. She added the Australian Open last year after finishing runner-up in two of the previous three years. She had risen to number two in the world before injury cruelly forced her to retire from the game in February 2014. Sadly she won’t be around to defend her title, and it’s difficult to look beyond the top two in the betting to succeed her as champion.
Serena William’s has dominated the sport for many years, since taking the mantle from her sister, Venus. When she’s on top form there are not many players who can live with her, but she has been somewhat inconsistent over the last year. As mentioned before, she didn’t reach the quarter finals of any of the major tournament in 2014 apart from the U.S. Open, and although she went on to win it, she doesn’t appeal much as a short priced favourite.
Maria Sharapova is 27 years-old, six year’s Serena’s junior, and even age can catch up with the very best in the end. With Li Na unable to compete this year, the tournament looks wide open, and we’d rather take a chance on Sharapova at a much better price. She’s been a mainstay in the elite of women’s tennis for a long time now, and will be keen to add more Grand Slam titles to her name while time is still on her side. Of the other contenders, Azarenka can be given a good chance if overlooking her lack of recent form, and she has probably targeted this tournament as she has such a good record here. She’s preferred to Kvitova, who has to prove that she can win on another surface to grass.
Australian Open Women’s Singles
19th January – 1st February
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