***UPDATED*** Yanina Wickmayer made it through qualifying and landed in the “Belgian section” of the main draw. She could play Pennetta in the second round and Henin in the fourth. Clijsters would be her quarterfinal. If a Belgian wins this title, she’ll have played her own Belgian Open, too. (Belgian player Kirsten Flikens is also in this section, playing Henin first round.)***UPDATED****
Rewind all the way back to 2009, and all we really cared about was if the Williams sisters were on opposite sides of the draw. Suddenly, we’re psyched about Elena Dementieva vs. Justine Henin in the second round and obsessing on where a still-to-qualify Yanina Wickmayer will land (see update, above.) My, how things have changed!
BOTTOM LINE: In the top half, we’re looking at a Williams vs. Williams semifinal. We could have two especially tantalizing quarters in the talent-heavy bottom half – Henin vs. Clijsters and Safina vs. Sharapova. But there are plenty of horses – dark and otherwise – in the running.
Now, can I get this straight? I’m sure you’ll correct me if I don’t. . .
TOP QUARTER: It’s all about Serena!*
Look out for: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka in the quarters
Dark horse pick: Does Ana Ivanovic count as a dark horse?
The plot: This quarter belongs to defending champ Queen Bee Serena. Interestingly, she’s won the event in ’03, ’05, ’07 and ’09 – so she’s battling her own history as well as a packed field. Urszula Radwanska is a decent first round for her and a hell of a lot better than say, Justine Henin or Yanina Wickmayer. She could face my perennial fave, Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round. Sabine Lisicki or Sam Stosur could be her fourth round and Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic or (a gimpy) Vera Zvonareva could await in the quarters. So, it’s Serena’s to lose.
*Serena lost in straight sets to Elena Dementieva in Saturday’s Sydney final, apparently struggling with a leg injury. If she’s truly hampered, we could see this quarter of the draw blow up!
SECOND QUARTER: Can Venus find a way?
Look out for: Venus vs. Lucie Safarova in the first round (ouch!) and Wozniacki vs. Venus or good buddy Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarters.
Dark horse pick: Shahar Peer
The plot: Caroline Wozniacki is the top seed in this section. She plays Wozniack in the first round – let’s listen to that one on the radio just for fun. Woz could face Shahar Peer in the third round and Li Na, Daniela Hantuchova or Agnes Szavay in the fourth. After the feisty Safarova, there isn’t an obvious threat to Venus, but you never know with her. She’s only made it to the Australian Open final once in her career, so something doesn’t really agree with her Down Under.
THIRD QUARTER: Russians vs. Belgians
Lookout for: It’s obvious – but I’ll add Pennetta vs. Wickmayer in the second round.
Dark horse pick: Aravane Rezai, US Open standouts Wickmayer and Pennetta.
The plot: Justine Henin vs. Elena Dementieva in the second round and Kim Clijsters vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round. Everyone go kill a goat or something, because the Tennis Gods must give us a Justine vs. Kim quarterfinal!
BOTTOM QUARTER: Sharapova!
Lookout for: Safina vs. Sharapova in the fourth round
Darkhorses: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Dominka Cibulkova
The plot: Unless Yanina lands in her section, Jelena Jankovic is a very, very lucky gal. I could say the same for her possible fourth round opponent, Marion “I always beat J.J.” Bartoli. Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina are down at the very bottom of the draw and are set to meet in the fourth round. Current form says Maria will be the one busting Belgian eardrums in the semis.
Okay, ante up! How do you think this is going to shake out?