2011 Australian Open – Women’s Breakdown

Nick breaks down the top women in the 2011 Australian Open field as well as some of the darkhorses and players to watch. Stay with Nick’s Picks throughout the tournament for Nick’s insight into the Australian Open as well as daily predictions.

THE CONTENDERS

Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki is determined to add a major title to her career, but she has yet to breakthrough at the Aussie Open, having never advanced past the fourth round. So far, she hasn’t gotten off to a great start in 2011 and having just switched rackets I am a little wary about her chances down under. She plays a very aggressive style, has great groundstrokes and her movement is off the wall. She gets in trouble when she starts pushing her 2nd serve in, so watch out for that. This is going to be an interesting tournament for Wozniacki.

Vera Zvonareva

Vera Zvonareva is so close to being #1 she can smell. Can she win her first Grand Slam title down under?

Vera Zvonareva is so close to being #1 she can smell. Can she win her first Grand Slam title down under?

Vera spent a month at the Academy with her coach and trainer working extremely hard and putting in long hours. This is what makes her so darn special.  She always wants to do it better and better and will do whatever it takes to win. When she plays, she stands very close to the baseline, hits aggressively and quite flat, and will come in to the net when possible. She is a darn good doubles player because of her ability to volley. At times she might change the pace and add in a few drop shots and slices. There is nothing more that will satisfy her other than winning a Grand Slam, and I feel right now her chance of winning is as good as anybody’s.

Kim Clijsters

Clijsters may be the odds-on favorite to win this tournament especially after repeating at the US Open last year. She has never won the Australian Open, but she has been a semifinalist four times and a finalist once. She has been one of the most consistent players over the last year and with her game, she can beat anyone in the world. I look for her to make a deep run and possibly capture her first Aussie Open crown!

Venus Williams

I have always been very close to the Williams’ family and every time I think back to our time together and when I traveled with the girls I always smile.  Venus plays with grace, beautiful long strokes, outstanding movement and she is very aggressive.  At times her forehand may break down as well as her serve but she has so many weapons she can often play through these breakdowns. I do not know how healthy Venus is, but if she is healthy, watch out because she can win this tournament!

Sam Stosur

Stosur is one heck of an athlete who gives it all and she has a great kicker serve to both the deuce and ad side.  It’s not easy to play before your home crowd, but I am sure it will help her more than hurt. I don’t know if she can win this with just a kicker serve, she must play very aggressive and force play, including coming to the net more and more. She’s never been past the fourth round here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her best that mark.

Jelena Jankovic

Jankovic is another former student of the Academy and a friend of mine. I can still remember her changing her forehand grip a few days before she played in the Australian Open Jr. Championship when she was 16 years old. Guess What? She won the tournament. At one time, she was the #1 ranked player in the world.  She is fit as a fiddle, plays very aggressively, and has one of the best two-handed backhands in the world.    She has improved her second serve and was on a roll last year when IMG Bollettieri Tennis Director, Chip Brooks, was traveling with her for several months (including at Indian Wells, which she won).

The clock is ticking on Jelena. She is no longer a young girl.  It is very important she clears her mind and stays believing in herself again.     She must focus on the court and not look to her player’s box for help.  She has to stop complaining and play the game that she is capable of which is:

1.)    Standing close to the baseline

2.)    Controlling Play

3.)    Hitting her second serve in

4.)    Focus-Focus-Focus

Justine Henin

When physically fit, Justine defies the odds by standing only 5’5” and beating many players that are bigger and stronger than her. She won this title back in 2004 and was a finalist here last year. She is a shot-maker with a beautiful one-handed backhand, a killer forehand with very little spin, excellent serve,  movement beyond imagination,  and she won’t hesitate to come in. The question is her health. If she is not in tip top shape her determination and will to win will not be enough to take home this title.

Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka is a big, strong girl with excellent techniques, a very consistent two-handed backhand, and a consistent first serve. Her second serve can be attacked at times and her physical fitness has been questioned at times as she had to retire in big tournaments multiples times last year. That’s a big question when you are playing in the sweltering heat of Australia and that will determine how far she goes.

Li Na

Li Na was a semifinalist here last year, which is her best result at any Grand Slam. She hugs the baseline and pounds the ball from both sides. She has an excellent athletic foundation with exceptional movement side-to-side and she makes early contact with the ball. Can she repeat last year’s success or will she flame out like she did at the 2010 US Open?

Maria Sharapova

Can Sharapova get back in the winner's circle?

Can Sharapova get back in the winner's circle?

Maria has been a student of the IMG Bolletieri Academy since she was nine years old. She has had a heck of a career, including being one of the highest paid female athletes in the world. Her game is quite simple: stand close to the baseline and hit the tar out of the ball from both sides with very little spin. Because of injuries, Maria has had a difficult time getting back her aggressive, reliable serve that helped her win multiple Grand Slams. She is surrounded with her coach of several years (Mike Joyce) and now a new addition to the team and a heck of a coach, Thomas Hogstedt (he has spent time with several top players including Tommy Haas). Maria spent several weeks at the Academy during the Holiday Breal and for most part she in darn good shape physically and mentally. Despite her loss to Great Arn in Auckland I feel Maria will perform very well at the Aussie Open.

DARKHORSES

Shahar Peer

Peer comes into the Aussie Open ranked a career high of #12 in the world and she should be full of confidence. She is very disciplined, has consistent groundstrokes and is a fierce competitor. She must be a little more patient at times and hit a few extra shots on the big points. She’s never been past the quarters of any Grand Slam, will this be her breakthrough?

Aravane Rezai

Rezai loves to bang the ball from both the forehand and backhand side and for a smaller girl (5’5”) she packs a big punch. After winning a title at Bastad last July, she has really struggled so we will have to see if that carries over into 2011. If she was to get past the fourth round it would be a first for her at any Grand Slam.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Watch out for this dangerous 19-year old. She is a big, strong girl with powerful groundstrokes and a big serve. She’s looking for her first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance. Could this be her time?

Ana Ivanovic

Ana has issued some strong words heading into the 2011 season, saying that she is ready to play the way she was back in 2008. During her slide over the last couple of years, her ranking dipped as low as #63 and she hasn’t been past the fourth round of any Grand Slam since winning the 2008 French Open. To regain her form she hired a top coach (former coach of Steffi Graf) to work with her for a while and she now is under the guidance of Antonio van Grichen. She has been focusing on her fitness and I think this was right move considering your fitness will determine everything about how you play. It’s difficult to predict how she will play, but I think she could have a bounce-back 2011.

Heather Watson

Heather Watson is primed for a breakthrough season

Heather Watson is primed for a breakthrough season

Heather has been a student at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy for several years and still trains her on a regular basis. She is a darn good ball striker from both sides, has excellent movement, stands close to the baseline and also has a good serve. Her mother has been a huge supporter and is very open to listening and accepting our help and suggestions. Heather is only 18 and at times thinks too much on the court instead of using her natural talents. This could be the year that Heather really breaks through as she is the youngest player in the top 150 and just reached her first WTA quarterfinal last week.

Maria Kirilenko

Kirilenko was a quarterfinalist here in 2010 and she is a very dangerous player. She plays aggressively and when she is clicking she is tough to beat. She has wins over top players and then loses to people she should beat. She needs to be more consistent if she wants to be considered a threat in every tournament.

Sabine Libsicki

Sabine has been at the Academy for several years, and had a great 2009 reaching the quarters at Wimbledon. Last year she was hurt for a majority of the season, but she is feeling better physically and she seems to be mentally strong as well. She has a big game from both sides and her serve is huge when she gets it in. At times, she plays to quickly and this really hurts her. She has what it takes to get back to the top, but she must be more patient when building points.

Flavia Pennetta

Pennetta became so successful in doubles (#2 in the world) that it took a toll on her singles play. She can hit any type of shot in the book and she has fantastic movement as well. She’s a two-time quarterfinalist at the US Open, but she has never been past the third round of the Aussie Open.

Kaia Kanepi

Kaia is a big girl, but still moves quite well. When in position, with good balance, she is consistent but she is still vulnerable if a wee bit late with her movement. She hits with power from both sides but once again she cannot have a movement breakdown. She doesn’t prefer to come into the net and she gets hurt when players move her around the court and hit behind her. She reached the quarters at both Wimbledon and the US Open, can she keep the streak going?

Yanina Wickmayer

Wickmayer is already off to a great start in 2011, reaching the finals at Auckland. She is a very strong player and usually is brimming with confidence. Don’t be surprised to see her come in towards the net when she can. When on the run, she has a tendency to have too big of a swing which results in unforced errors.  She reached the semis of the 2009 US Open, but she hasn’t been to the quarters of any Grand Slam since.

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~ by Nick's Picks on January 13, 2011.

3 Responses to “2011 Australian Open – Women’s Breakdown”

  1. I’m getting older and noticed my hearing starting to fade. Gotta protect those ears, so I am hoping for classy Kim Clijsters. I can’t imagine the damage from an Azarenka-Sharapova meeting. Please Nick, teach those budding stars that screeching…just isn’t cool.

  2. An excellent, insightful round-up of an impressive number of players. It’s nice to see many of the more esoteric ones being discussed here, some of whom are in the qualifying this week.

    I love Vera Zvonarëva and your analysis of her game. Unfortunately she’ll slip to #3 if Kim Clijsters wins Sydney, but it would be so cool to see Vera win her first Major singles-title. I hope you’re right about Maria Sharapova, too.

  3. What about Kuznetsova? She’s shown signs of getting back, definitely more of a shout than Kirilenko, Wickmayer, Watson etc.

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