There is nobody dominating the women’s tennis circuit in the same way that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and now Novak Djokovic do in the men’s equivalent, with the 2011 Australian Open ladies title being claimed by veteran Kim Clijsters.
Clijsters is back in Melbourne to defend her title as the 11th seed and can’t be easily written off, with Ladbrokes (£50 free bets) offering 10/1 about the Belgian who was injured towards the end of last season causing her to miss the 2011 US Open.
However, this will be the 28-year-old’s final hurrah at the Australian Open and she can count on plenty of support on the show courts.
The favourite for the 2012 women’s title is Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion and second seed in this tournament. The Czech was too classy for the field in London last summer, although she is still inexperienced and odds of 12/5 (Paddy Power – £100 free betting) seem too short for someone who hasn’t made it beyond the quarter final in Oz.
Serena Williams should prove to be a force and the American did claim the Australia Open singles in 2009 and 2010, meaning she has won here an incredible five times. At the age of 30, she should go close and is second favourite at odds of 4/1.
The hard courts at Melbourne Park should suit baseline Victoria Azarenka who seems to feature at the business end of most Grand Slam events at the moment, having reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the French Open in 2011.
The Belarussian is yet to break her major duck, although 7/1 probably represents a decent each-way bet on a player who could be open to more improvement.
However, the player who could be the best bet is Maria Sharapova at odds of 33/1. The Russian is the 4th seed in Melbourne and seems to be injury-free coming into this tournament which makes the price all the more surprising.
“That’s a tough one because we all come in here trying to be as prepared as we can.This is the start of a new year for us. We’re coming off a little bit of an off season where we’re training on the things maybe we feel we needed to improve,” Sharapova said ahead of the tournament.
“It just kind of gives us time to settle down and get away from the tour life for a little bit. This is just where it begins.… It’s cool to see how everyone comes out of it, where they are, where they’re playing, where their level is,” the former Australian Open champion added.