It would be nice if the first major of the season featured a draw of healthy players, but sadly, that isn't the reality of the situation. Andrea Petkovic (stress fracture in back) and Venus Williams (complications of Sjogren's Synrome) have withdrawn from the tournament, and other players--Serena Williams (ankle), Kim Clijsters (thigh muscle spasm), Maria Sharapova (ankle), Sabine Lisicki (back) Flavia Pennetta (back), and Caroline Wozniacki (wrist)--have already sustained injuries. Julia Goerges has been sick lately, Svetlana Kuznetsova was brought down by heat illness, and Petra Kvitova--because of her asthma--is vulnerable in humid conditions.
Williams and Sharapova are reported to be doing well. Sharapova, of course, could have used some more match play. Pennetta has been playing doubles, which could indicate that she's okay, too, or maybe she's overdoing it. Clijsters, the defending champion, says she's ready to play.
Now that the Australian Open court surfaces are safer, the players aren't quite as vulnerable as they used to be in Melbourne. The heat can be overwhelming, however, and adds another element of physical stress.
Not all of the fitness issues are physical. Sam Stosur, Australia's number 1 player, has already crashed out in her initial rounds of both Brisbane and Sydney. She lost to Iveta Benesova and to friendly nemesis Francesca Schiavone. And while there's no shame in losing to either of those players, this is the 2011 U.S. Open champion warming up for her country's big tournament--and it just doesn't look too good for her. Stosur, though, is nothing if not umpredictable, so we'll all have to wait and see how she does.