By Jon Wertheim
January 14, 2011's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses, and his predicted winners. Have your say here.

1. Caroline Wozniacki: Wish there were more sources for optimism but there's a growing concern that her ranking is more a function of quantity than quality. Already under pressure, she started the season with a 6-1, 6-0 loss in Hong Kong and another defeat in a tune-up. A tough first-rounder against veteran Gisela Dulko and dangerous Cibulkobva lurks. On the other hand, she has a chance to make a huge statement with her first major. And not simply because she'll be wearing this.

2. Vera Zvonareva: The good news: she reached the finals of the past two Slams and has reached a career-high No. 2 in the rankings. The bad news: she's lost both Slam finals decisively, done in by her lack of a weapon. Applaud her opportunism. But you are free to wonder whether she is truly the world's second-best player.

3. Kim Clijsters: Her first Aussie Open title -- and second straight hardcourt title -- would bring some much-needed order to the WTA. She's coming off a brutal loss in Australia in 2010. But she plays well on the surface, she's had success in Melbourne and she has the crowd backing. Tough first-rounder against Dinara Safina -- how often to do two former No. 1's square off in the first round of a major -- but maybe this is a disguised blessing.

4. Venus Williams: Hard to believe it's been almost a decade since Venus won a Slam outside of Wimbledon. The death knell on her career is growing louder; yet at her previous Slam, she came within a few points of the final. Especially at a time when the WTA is so collectively fragile, there's a real opportunity here. Can she prevail in a likely fourth rounder against Sharapova?

5. Sam Stosur: It's not Andy Murray at Wimbledon. But significant pressure falls on the shoulders -- broad as they may be -- of a homegrown contender. A real opportunity, both with Serena absent and a soft quadrant.

6. Francesca Schiavone: It's impossible not to root for Schiavone, a delightful cast member and -- let's not forget -- a reigning Grand Slam champ. But hard to see her living up her seeding, which would mean getting past Justine Henin.

7. Jelena Jankovic: Get the feeling Jankovic is like the band that had a few modest hits a few years back, tanked their next release and is fading into obscurity. Simply too many things that can (and do) go wrong, not least a physical breakdown. She's a clever player and colorful presence, but there's too much drama here.

8. Victoria Azarenka: Among the top three candidates to win. Big, strong game coupled with drive and -- not insignificantly -- a decent head on her shoulders. (One that, alas, collided with the court at her last Slam). Remember, this is the player who had Serena on the ropes in Melbourne two years ago.

9. Li Na: A dangerous player who tends to conjure her best stuff at the majors. And a win over Venus Williams in Hong Kong must boost confidence. While her age is becoming a concern, a breakthrough -- or another run to the semis -- would bring a huge audience.

10. Shahar Peer: Persistent Israeli is back in business. She's in Stosur's quadrant of the draw, but should be okay until then.

11. Justine Henin: Her first Slam since Wimbledon should answer a lot of questions. Former A.O. champ played terrifically in Australia last year; unfortunately it was the highlight of her comeback season. Will she be rested or rusty? If the former, she has a real shot, especially in the absence of Serena.

12. Agnieszka Radwanska: The A-Rad cut-and-paste: A cunning, tactical player whom purists ought to appreciate. But does she have the weapons to win majors? Sadly, no. Tasty first-rounder against Kimiko Date Krumm.

13. Nadia Petrova: A wildly erratic Russian (redundant?) who smoked Clijsters last year but also swallowed some bad losses. Can she get out of her own way and play to her potential?

14. Maria Sharapova: Former champ is badly due for a strong Slam showing. Could meet Venus in a fourth rounder that would be reveal plenty. On paper, she should be a contender -- especially given the landscape -- but it's a been a looong time since she's made a deep Slam run.

15. Marion Bartoli: We're predisposed to quirky, different players but Bartoli tends to tense up in majors.

16. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Russian comer still looking for her Slam breakthrough.

19. Ana Ivanovic: Can she continue posting encouraging results? Alas, she's very close to Clijsters in the draw. (On the other hand, spring that upset and she's officially back.)

23. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Too good of a player and athlete to be ranked this low. Could play Henin in round three.

24. Alida Kelybanova: Big, powerful Russian.

27. Alexandra Dulgheru: The best player you've never heard of.

29. Dominika Cibulkova: Top 10 talent when her head is on straight.

30. Andrea Petkovic: Good results will bring on more post-match dancing and YouTube clips.

31. Lucie Safarova: The female Berdych, a dangerous player whose results oscillate wildly.

Dinara Safina: A former No. 1 always gets this courtesy nod, though we don't see her beating Clijsters.

Jarmila Groth: When she's not undressing her husband (verbally, that is), she's been winning lots of matches.

Kimiko Date Krumm: The ultimate "unretirer." Alas, once again, she drew a seed in her first match.

Elena Dementieva: We can dream, can't we?

Serena Williams: We can dream, can't we?

Wozniacki v. Dulko: If the Dane isn't on her game ...

Groth v. Yanina Wickmayer: Tough draw for both.

Kuznetsova v. Allison Riske: Young American has a chance to take down a two-time Slam winner.

Date Krumm v. Radwanska

Let's go big: Dulko def. Wozniacki

Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta: They of the tandem Twitter feed

Azarenka def. HeninClisjters def. total shocker (let's say Safarova)


You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)