Australian Open women's seed report
SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions. Click here for the men's report. The women's draw is available here.
Top 16 seeds
1. Serena Williams: It's so hard to come up with a scenario in which she doesn't leave with the title. (Then again, we said the same thing last year and she lost to Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals.) Provided she doesn't roll an ankle, she's a big favorite to win her sixth Australian Open and take another step toward GOAT status.
2. Victoria Azarenka: The good news: She is the defending champion. She is refreshed after finishing 2013 in the breakdown lane. She looked sharp in the tune-ups. The bad news: She still falls short against Williams.
3. Maria Sharapova: With a new coach, Sven Groeneveld, watching, Sharapova will try to win a match at a Slam for the first time since the French Open. (I think we all can agree that the cast in enriched when Sharapova plays.) Also, Serena's not in her half of the draw. But is she back in shape to contend for majors? A first-round test against Bethanie Mattek-Sands should provide some clues.
4. Li Na: The two-time finalist (including 2013) plays well on the Melbourne hard courts. And she arrives in form after defending her title at the Shenzhen Open. Almost 32, she has settled down and is a less erratic player. That doesn't mean she'll win, but it does make the puzzling Slam upset losses less likely. The draw gods did her no favors, giving her a potential third-round match against the capable Lucie Safarova and placing her in the same quarter as Petra Kvitova and same half as Williams.
5. Agnieszka Radwanska: A wonderfully creative player. Not unlike ATP No. 3 David Ferrer, she is to be commended for getting this far with such a modest arsenal of weapons. But her lack power is cause for concern, as is her tune-up loss to Mattek-Sands at the Sydney International this week. The four-time quarterfinalist has a nice draw, but can she beat Azarenka in a likely quarterfinal?
6. Petra Kvitova: With each malady, injury and inexplicable loss, the bandwagon thins a bit. But she is still a concussive ball striker, still left-handed and still only 23. If she catches some breaks from the draw and the weather, she'll be especially formidable.
7. Sara Errani: Look for her to win the doubles title with Roberta Vinci. But if she reaches the middle weekend, it will be a solid tournament. Errani could easily lose to the powerful, erratic Julia Goerges in the first round.
8. Jelena Jankovic: Credit Jankovic for reviving her game and returning to the top 10. The 28-year-old is still quite uneven -- both match-to-match and event-to-event -- but Jankovic is a dangerous retriever who knows how to get to the second week of a major.
9. Angelique Kerber: A fine defensive player who beats the players she ought to beat and usually loses to the ones above her. She's coming off a loss to Tsvetana Pironkova in the Sydney final.
10. Caroline Wozniacki: Even if she won't be weighed down by the new bauble on her finger, she will have to contend with a shoulder injury that flared up last week. Woz could (desperately) use a deep run at a Slam. But it's hard to imagine that happening if she's not 100 percent physically.
11. Simona Halep: She won six titles in a banner 2013, but her play in the majors was less stellar. Seeded for only the second time at a Slam, can she break through on a big stage?
12. Roberta Vinci: Her all-court, attacking game is easy on the eyes. Her career at the Australian Open (7-8) is unsightly. (Though watch for her in the doubles.)
13. Sloane Stephens: The 20-year-old American returns to the site of her big breakthrough, a semifinal appearance in 2013. Stephens, reliably, comes to play at the majors, but a new wrist injury is cause for concern. She could play Azarenka in the fourth round in a repeat of last year's controversial semifinal.
14. Ana Ivanovic: She comes in with some momentum after winning the ASB Classic for her first title since 2011.
15. Sabine Lisicki: An emotional, up-and-down player. She can beat anyone when she is on and dialing in her serve.
16. Carla Suarez Navarro: The off-brand Justine Henin was a quarterfinalist in 2009.
Seeds 17-32 to watch
17. Samantha Stosur: The Aussie's track record at her home Slam is dismal, but she is a former major winner on a hard court.
19. Svetlana Kuznetsova: If only by dint of the fact that she's a multiple Slam winner.
22. Ekaterina Makarova: Giant killer beat Serena in 2012 and Kerber last year, making the quarterfinals both times. She opens against Venus Williams.
25. Alize Cornet: Talented player who never cheats you on the drama.
26. Lucie Safarova: Remains dangerous.
27. Jamie Hampton: She came within a few games of taking down Azarenka in Melbourne last year. Hampton is steadily improving and learning how to win.
30: Eugenie Bouchard: The 19-year-old Canadian is seeded at a Slam for the first time.
Dark horse stable
Madison Keys: A recent win over Halep is still another sign that she's the real deal.
Bojana Jovanovski: Top-15 talent.
Venus Williams: Not simply for old time's sake. The 33-year-old made a nice run to the Auckland final, where she lost to Ivanovic in three sets.
Laura Robson: Wish she were in full health, but look for her to beat Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Coming off a knee injury that cut short her 2013 season, she upset Radwanska in Sydney.
Alison Riske: Continues to ascend.
Tsvetana Pironkova: Known for her success at Wimbledon, Pironkova defeated Errani, Kvitova and Kerber to win the Sydney title. She could meet Stosur in the second round.
First-round matches to watch
No. 7 Sara Errani vs. Julia Goerges: Once primed for stardom, Goerges has really fallen. But this is a big opportunity to re-enter the conversation. I like her chances of advancing.
No. 23 Elena Vesnina vs. Alison Riske: A winnable first-rounder for the unseeded American.
No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova vs. Venus Williams: Potential to be a good one.
No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Ashleigh Barty: Big occasion for the Aussie teenager.
Most likely Brad Gilbert sports metaphor
"She pulled a Romo and couldn't close out the match."
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci: The Italians defeated the Williams sisters on their way to the title last year.
Semifinals: Serena Williams vs. Li Na; Victoria Azarenka vs. Total Surprise (Carla Suarez Navarro?)
Final: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka
Winner: Serena Williams