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Serena Williams heads to Australian Open with questions surrounding sore knee
3:07 | Tennis
Serena Williams heads to Australian Open with questions surrounding sore knee
Friday January 15th, 2016

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the 2016 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions, and find the men's seed report here

1. Serena Williams

It’s all about the body. If her knee is as bad as we’ve heard it to be, she could lose any time. Virtually no match play coming in. But we’ve seen her win majors at less than 100% and—on track record alone—she has to be considered a big favorite.

2. Simona Halep

Like Serena, health and fitness are key. The ankle/Achilles injuries that troubled her in 2015 still appear to be waging war. Draw will help and she may not get a top-100 opponent until round three.

3. Garbine Muguruza

More players, more injuries. Retired in Brisbane with a left foot injury. If it heals, the Spaniard has a real chance to claim her first major.

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4. Agnieszka Radwanska

Really admirable job reviving her game after a 2015 slump saw her exiled from the top 10. The power shortage is always a concern; but she’s playing with confidence and is in position to take advantage of the injured field. Potential second rounder against Bouchard intrigues.

5. Maria Sharapova

Like the aforementioned, health and fitness will determine a lot. A five seed (not unlike Nadal in the men’s draw) who has won the event but comes in with a lot of question marks. Doesn’t help that she’s in Serena’s half of the draw.

6. Petra Kvitova

The usual scouting report applies. Her lefty ballstriking could be the engine for greatness. But will her head—and discomfort playing in rough conditions—get in the way?

7. Angelique Kerber

Solid player who can be a most uncooperative opponent. Has had some nice results in Melbourne and looks to be in form. Not a lot of weapons but enough defense and fitness and spunk to play up to her exalted seeding.

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8. Venus Williams

Gets a top eight seeding on account of the Safarova (illness) and Pennetta (retirement) absences. Two ironies: at age 35, she may be in the bottom bulb of the hourglass, but she is among the healthier players. For all her success, she has never won in Melbourne and has reached only one final.

9. Karolina Pliskova

Remains the best player you’re unlikely to have ever seen play. Now she needs a Slam breakthrough.

10. Carla Suarez Navarro

A game that’s easy on the eyes but doesn’t tend to correlate with deep runs. That said, she won’t play a top-100 foe until the round of 32.

11. Timea Bacsinszky

One of our favorite stories in tennis, but her results have cooled off since last summer.

12. Belinda Bencic

The Swiss will attempt to stave off a sophomore slump. Tough first rounder against American vet Alison Riske.

13. Roberta Vinci

In her first Slam since the Serena-slaying, Italian will try to build.

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14. Victoria Azarenka

Ranking be damned, she is a top five player. Not for nothing is she is second with the oddsmakers. Former No. 1. Former winner in Melbourne—twice! And is playing strong, confident tennis to start the year.

15. Madison Keys

Hasn't built much on her Australian Open semifinal run, but it's mostly owed to ill health. Tough first rounder against Zarina Diyas.

16. Caroline Wozniacki

Steals a top 16 seeding—meaning she won't play a higher-ranked opponent until round four—and then it’s Serena. But her game is not where she wants it to be.

Seeds 17-32

21. Ekaterina Makarova

A solid, athletic player who puts together nice results at majors (and has a win over Serena in Melbourne)

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23. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Former Grand Slam champions always get listed.

24. Sloane Stephens

Her groove is back. Already has a title in 2016.

25. Sam Stosur

We all know about her struggles in general and at her home Slam in particular. But former Grand Slam champions (2011) always get listed.

Dark Horses

Daria Gavrilova: Plucky, likable local player.

Camila Giorgi: Maddeningly erratic, but tons of game, especially for such a physically slight player. If Serena isn’t healthy, look out.

CoCo Vandeweghe: A work in progress but can win matches on the serve alone.

Genie Bouchard: What a difference a year makes. If she wins a match or two, it will be a good event. That said, she’s looked good to start the year.

Heather Watson: A lot of game, especially on a fast surface.

Dominika Cibulkova: A Melbourne finalist—and top ten player—just two years ago. You can beat her, but she makes you work for it.

First round matches to watch

Serena vs. Giorgi: Both draw the highest-ranked player they could.

Bencic vs. Riske: Intriguing contrast in styles.

Kuznetsova vs. Daniela Hantuchova: A guaranteed three-setter.

Victoria Duval vs. Elina Svitolina: Welcome back, Vicky Duval.

Bouchard vs. Radwanska: Yes, it's a likely second rounder but too good to ignore.

Upset Special

All about the injuries. Among Serena, Halep, Sharapova and Kvitova—strictly as a matter of probability—you’d think one will be unable to post.

Doubles winners

Hingis-Mirza. Approaching Serena/Djokovic levels as the best in the biz.

Semifinals

Serena* vs. Radwanska
Azarenka vs. Venus

Final

Serena d. Azarenka
* Assumes reasonable—if not full—health

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