Women's Australian Open Preview: Victoria Azarenka Returns To Defend Title

With the Australian Open, tennis' first Grand Slam in 2013, taking place from Jan. 14 to 27th, in Melbourne's Melbourne Park, the top female seeds will be: 1) Victoria Azarenka, 2) Maria Sharapova, 3) Serena Williams, 4) Agnieszka Radwanska, and 5) Angelique Kerber, matching the WTA world rankings. Although, seeding based on ranking is all the Slams' policy except Wimbledon, Serena should be the top seed as she is almost a lock to win her sixth Australian Open Women's Singles Title.

Serena captured her 47th career title this past week when she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-1 in 50 minutes at the Brisbane International, a warm-up to the Open. Serena has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open, and the season-ending WTA Tour Championships.

Continuing to be healthy, injury-free, and calm, there is no reason that she will not be holding up the winner's trophy in a fortnight. Serena might even be able to re-create her Serena-slam of 2002, where she held all four Grand Slam Titles at one time.

The rest of the women's singles field, if health prevails have a slight chance. Just before the Open, the two top-ranked players withdrew from the warm-up event in Brisbane: Maria Sharapova before play started, and Azarenka the night before playing Serena in the semi-finals. Whether injury or posturing, both are still in the Open draw, with Azarenka drawing the short straw with Serena in her half.

In another warm-up to the Open, the Apia International in Sydney, Radwanska beat Na Li, 6-3, 6-4 in one semi-final, and un-seeded Dominika Cibulkova upset Kerber, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the other semi. Radwanska went on to beat Cibulkova, 6-0, 6-0 and appears to be ready to make a good run in the Open even with Sharapova on her half.

Former champion, Venus Williams, a healthier 25th seed should play Sharapova in the third round to see who's the best and healthiest of the two. Li and Kerber could make runs and are other long shots to win.

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