The Brisbane International marks the start of WTA season when it gets underway on 30 December. Many of the world’s top-ranked players are already down to compete in the tournament that acts as the ultimate precursor to the Australian Open, yet one major competitor may not be fit to contribute.
Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and home favourite Sam Stosur will all compete in Brisbane, but one woman the fans will be desperate to see take part is Serena Williams, who recently revealed she’s had surgery to her big toes over the past week.
Williams has pulled out of an exhibition event in Thailand on 29 December and will instead rest her feet before the big clash Down Under. She expects to be “fit and ready” for the event and we all hope she will make the $1,000,000 tournament.
With Williams potentially not fully fit for Brisbane there is a real opportunity for her rivals to claim an early lead in the race for 2013 ranking points. World number one Azarenka will defend her Australian Open title in January and must be hoping for a good result in Brisbane to kick-start her campaign.
Sharapova, meanwhile, could do with an early win. She’s made the quarter-finals or better in each tournament since Wimbledon yet wasn’t able to secure a tour title in the second half of the 2012 season before the winter break last month. Yet we all know of Sharapova’s brilliance and if Williams feels the effect of that minor surgery the Russian could swoop down and claim the top prize.
However, we must be careful not to ‘over talk’ the top three in the world. Their sole mission this winter is the win the Australian Open and as nice as the Brisbane trophy would be, they won’t risk their bodies and energy levels with a Grand Slam just around the corner.
The books are therefore slightly more balanced and we could see another face lift the Brisbane title this season. Petra Kvitova has now fully recovered from her illness problems that blighted the back-end of the 2012 season while Sara Errani looks set to kick on after last year’s impressive season.
Sam Stosur has the home crowd for support yet one player who really could turn up trumps is Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane finished 2011 as world number one yet slumped down the ranks this year after a number of disappointing outings. The old adage that form is temporary and class permanent should be applied here, however, for 2012 is over and done with and the 22-year-old can start her tennis afresh after a decent winter break.
The draw hasn’t been made yet but if Wozniacki can avoid one of the top three until the quarters she could provide an upset in the Pat Rafter Arena. Not that a Wozniacki title would be an upset – she’s 10th in the world for goodness sake – but the eyes of Brisbane will be on Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka, meaning this Dane could slip through and thrive without the pressure of last year.