By Jon Wertheim
January 11, 2013
/'s Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the Australian Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses and predictions. Click here for the men's seed report.

Top 16 Seeds

1. Victoria Azarenka: The defending champ, who earned the No. 1 ranking in Melbourne a year ago, is the top seed. After a potential first-round test against Monica Niculescu, her draws clears up. A good bet to win were it not for Serena Williams, who owns her. (And now it's mental.)

2. Maria Sharapova: The 2008 Australian Open champion is always dangerous. But apart from harboring the unpleasant memory of the 2012 final (a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Azarenka), she's a bit dinged up with injury. Plus, a third-rounder with Venus Williams looms. The result will tell us a lot about both players.

3. Serena Williams: Not only is she the overwhelming favorite, but it's hard to envision a situation in which she loses. There are 127 other players in the draw. But put together, their prospects don't equal hers. Williams has lost once since her shocking French Open exit, and the calls for completing a "Serena Slam" in Paris this year are growing louder.

[Evert: Serena Calendar Grand Slam 'absolutely possible']

4. Agnieszka Radwanska: An admirable player who gets a lot from her talent and strategizes as well as anyone. Radwanska has won back-to-back titles to start the season, but she matches up poorly with the three players ranked above her.

5. Angelique Kerber: A (sub)journeywoman for the first few years of her career, Kerber's remarkable ascent deserves praise. But, not unlike Radwanska, does she simply lack the weaponry to win Grand Slams?

6. Li Na: We all need somebody to Li Na. You never quite know what you're getting. She did come within a few points of winning in 2011, falling in the final to Kim Clijsters. And she looked strong in this year's tune-ups (one win, one semifinal). We have her going through to the finals.

7. Sara Errani: All credit to her for reaching this level. But you have a sneaking sense that she had her magical year in 2012 and she's due for a rankings "market correction."

8. Petra Kvitova: One of the WTA's elite talents has been a mystery since winning Wimbledon in 2011. She has the game to win -- dense lefty strokes, improved movement, abundant power -- but the will and focus sometimes lag behind. If it's merely hot outside, Kvitova tends to wilt. If it's so hot that the roof opens and it becomes an indoor event, her prospects improve dramatically.

9. Sam Stosur: There's almost something wildly endearing and humanizing about this. But Stosur is a completely different player in Australia, where she is susceptible to pressure. Plus, this year she comes in injured.

10. Caroline Wozniacki: A year ago, she was the top seed. Now, she is a player in crisis, struggling to win matches, trapped between her defensive instincts and her recognition that she needs to be more aggressive. A first-rounder against Sabine Lisicki could be a disguised blessing, enabling her to open with a quality win. (A loss would mark another blow to her confidence.)

11. Marion Bartoli: The Frenchwoman is always good to have for diversity and quirk. But, at 28, are her best days behind her? She's also made it past the third round in Melbourne just once in 11 trips.

12. Nadia Petrova: She's still dangerous (as usual) and, at 30, has some accrued wisdom. Petrova is not a threat to win but a good bet to reach the middle weekend.

13. Ana Ivanovic: For all her ups and downs, Ivanovic is still an intriguing player, and she can still smack the ball. She's not the player she was in 2008. But take a look at her draw, and you can certainly envision her playing into the second week.

14. Maria Kirilenko: Nice draw for the recently engaged (to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin) Russian, but then, after three rounds, she becomes Serena Williams fodder.

15. Dominika Cibulkova: The unfortunately nicknamed "pocket rocket" has a nice compendium of upset wins (though she was just double-bageled in the Sydney final by Radwanska). Watch out for her potential fourth-rounder against the Venus-Sharapova winner.

16. Roberta Vinci: The Italian cut-and-paste: a fun, athletic, expressive player. But she lacks weapons and has gone out in the first round in four of the last six years.

Seeds 17-32

17. Lucie Safarova: Huge range of results. Can threaten anyone; can lose to anyone.

18. Julia Goerges: Haven't heard much from her lately. Are we due?

22. Jelena Jankovic: See above.

24. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: A better player than her ranking indicates. Looking to rebound after a dismal 2012, and she's starting the year strong already.

25. Venus Williams: Ultimate wild card, compounded by her uncertain health. If her body is up to it, she has a real chance of taking down Sharapova.

28. Yaraslava Shvedova: Athletic, all-court player who bring her best to majors.

29. Sloane Stephens: The flavor of the month. And for good reason.

32. Mona Barthel: We eagerly await the marriage of "game" and "self-belief."

Dark Horse Stable

Monica Niculescu: Likely won't beat Azarenka, but a lot of potential.

Svetlana Kuznetosva: Any multiple-time Grand Slam champion gets mentioned here, if only as a hedge. Talent, athleticism, spirited personality. And thoroughly unpredictable results.

Madison Keys: Big opportunity for American teenager.

Sabine Lisicki: Hopes to rebound from a dismal 2012. This event would be a good starting point. And she gets Wozniacki off the bat.

First-Round Matches To Watch

Sabine Lisicki vs. Caroline Wozniacki: Big result regardless of outcome.

Petra Kvitova vs. Francesca Schiavone: Two former Grand Slams champs.

Nadia Petrova vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm: Almost 75 years represented on the court.

Romina Oprandi vs. Tsvetana Pironkova: For the purists.

Upset Special: The hot pick is Lisicki to beat Wozniacki, but we'll stick with Anabel Medina Garrigues over Marion Bartoli.

Most Likely Brad Gilbert Sports Metaphor

"That's some questionable behavior right there. Right from the Ndamukong Suh playbook."

Doubles Winner

Pick' em. So many players are with new partners -- it's like Woodstock -- there's bound to be a surprise winner.

Singles Picks

Semifinals: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka; Li Na vs. Dominika Cibulkova

Finals: Serena Williams vs. Li

Winner: Serena Williams

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