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Posted: Friday January 16, 2009 9:18AM; Updated: Friday January 16, 2009 8:53PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
INSIDE TENNIS

Australian Open: Dementieva the women's favorite Down Under

Story Highlights

Top seed Jelena Jankovic would do wonders for WTA if the top player could win

A finalist last year, Ana Ivanovic has had few answers since Roland Garros

Venus Williams is a threat to win every tournament (off clay) she enters

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Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva seems primed for an extended run Down Under.
AP
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WERTHEIM: Murray hottest player in men's draw

1. Jelena Jankovic: Would do wonders for the WTA if the top player could win a Slam. And J.J. came close at last fall's U.S. Open. But, for all the talk of her off-season training, we still worry about her fitness in the heat.

2. Serena Williams: Usually plays well Down Under (three titles since 2003), she's gone 13-1 in the last two Majors and, well, she still is Serena. But, tempting as it is, we can't tout as champion a player nursing a sore knee who lost her last match 6-1, 6-3.

3. Dinara Safina: Russian deserves immense credit for recent upgrade. And her improved fitness will pay off in the heat. But one wonders if her body can hold up for two weeks.

4. Elena Dementieva: Beijing gold medalist has had success in the Pan-Asian Slam. And confidence -- which can waver -- ought to be high after tuning Serena in tune-up.

5. Ana Ivanovic: A finalist last year, A.I. has had few answers since Roland Garros.

6. Venus Williams: A threat to win every tournament (off clay) she enters, but is seldom at her best Down Under.

7. Vera Zvonareva: If she were a few inches taller and a few pounds of muscle heavier, she'd be a real threat. Lack of weapons -- and witheringly harsh mid-match self-assessments -- tend to catch up to her in Slams.

8. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Her game is vastly superior to her self-belief. On skills and athleticism, she can win anywhere. But she seems unwilling/unable to her convince herself of this. (Plus she has an abdominal strain.)

9. Agnieszka Radwanska: Like Zvonera, one wishes she had a bigger game. Will win matches on consistency alone but hard to see her challenging at Slams (at least off of clay) with such relatively punchless strokes.

10. Nadia Petrova: Not unlike Kuznetsova, a fine athlete who never seems quite sure she can win.

11. Caroline Wozniacki: A good, if not great, Dane could be a top tenner by tournament's end. Tough first rounder against sliding Shahar Peer.

12. Flavia Pennetta: Carlos who? Slowly, she keeps climbing the ranks, now on the verge of the top 10. A likable player but still a level away from being a real contender.

13. Viktoria Azarenka: We're bullish on VA and it's time she moved into the second week of a Major. Only problem: she's in Serena's quarter.

14. Patty Schnyder: Like a Swiss timepiece, she's still ticking. Hard to see her outplaying her seeding.

15. Alize Cornet: The female Gilles Simon. Elegant game; due for a second- week appearance at a Major.

16. Marion Bartoli: Frenchwoman deserves credit for sticking around the 11-20 region with such an unconventional game. But not a credible threat.

Seeds 17-32:

18. Dominika Cibulkova: Best player you've never heard of

19. Daniela Hantuchova: Should have been a finalist in 2008.

22. Jie Zheng: Love the backhand.

26. Ai Sugiyama: Japanese vet has a nice track record in Australia.

Dark Horse Nation:

Sabine Lisicki: Word is out on the hard-serving German.

Tamira Paszek: Giant killer is a future top tenner.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Another teen destined for the top 10.

First Round Matches to Watch:

Lisicki v. Wozniak

Hantuchova v. Casey Dellacqua

Wozniacki v. Shahar Peer

Jelena Dokic v. Tamira Paszek

Blue Plate Upset Special:

Yaroslava Shvedova d. Petrova

Doubles Winners:

Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The one consistency in the women's game.

Semis:

Jankovic d. Safina

Dementieva d. Serena

Final:

Dementieva d. Jankovic

Champion:

Dementieva

 
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