Oz 2011: Is it Caroline vs Kim as Raf and Rog rivalry continues

You all know the drill by now – new year and a wave of enthusiastic posts for the first Slam after the break. Then inevitably things dry up around the US Open which i never get to see due to it being on Sky Sports.

Anyway, it is indeed an Australian Open preview…of sorts.

In a bid to offer shorter, more succinct posts I will be brief.

Obviously the men’s game will be centering on the ‘who will win’ question between Fed and Nadal, but – more than ever due to the unpredictable nature of the opening major of the year, outsiders shouldn’t be ignored.

If you really can call the likes of Djokovic, Tsonga, Murray and Davydenko as ‘outsiders’ – all of which have either triumphed or come mightily close here in years gone by.

Elsewhere? Expect strong fortnights from the old guard and comeback bright flames – Roddick, Hewitt, Del Potro etc.

Indicators this year of early form point to the aforementioned Davydenko, David Ferrer (who won in Auckland) and Gilles Simon, now 41st in the world after knee misery last year, who triumphed in Sydney).

It’s a case of familiar ground with the women’s game: injuries for Serena and a still-rusty Justine Henin have left a blonde young thing who hits the ball harder than most men at the top of the rankings. And again, she sits here without having won a Slam.

Now this is neither a problem for the game nor is it a new phenomenon – but the regularity with which we see this today is slightly alarming.

Still Wozniacki looks as good as anyone else for the title here – it is unlikely that she too will herald Safina’s unenviable record in Slam finals. So the Dane is to some the favourite, but Kim Clijsters remains the hot tip despite her disappointing loss to Li Na recently.

Can Vera Zvonareva continue her blistering 2010? I duly hope so but sense a downfall of sorts, this will be a good early indicator. It’s questions marks abound elsewhere, the top ten looks shaky, Stosur and Schiavone in particular and the likes of Petrova, Sharapova and the detestable Azarenka are still either too rusty or inconsistent to confidently tip.


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