Here are some first round matches in Melbourne that are especially interesting:
Karolina Sprem vs. Tsvetana Pironkova--Pironkova is known as a giant-killer, and her opponent is hardly a ginat, but the chronically injured Sprem--when she is healthy and has trained--can be a formidable foe. Pironkova's baseline game will be put to the test by Sprem's hard hitting.
Sania Mirza vs. Marta Domachowska--One inconsistent player faces another inconsistent player in this match. Mirza is more consistent than Domachowska, but on a good day, Domachowska can be deadly.
Maria Kirilenko vs. Sara Errani--Kirilenko has a lot more variety to her game than Errani, but Errani is relentless at the baseline. This could be a long one.
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Vera Zvonareva--Zvonareva should win this one, of course, but Rybarikova is likely to give her a beneficial workout.
Kimiko Date Krumm vs. Kaia Kanepi--Date returns to the Australian Open after a 13-year absence, and she has her work cut out for her with Kanepi.
Daniela Hantuchova vs. Casey Dellacqua--Under ordinary circumstances, I would just say "too bad for Australia," but these are not ordinary circumstances. Dellacqua had a very good run in last year's Open, and Hantuchova has not been able to come back to form after experiencing a really bad foot injury.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Shahar Peer--In theory, this should be a thrilling match, but Peer isn't as sharp these days as she used to be. Still, being in a major could motivate her. Wozniacki is one of the hottest players on the tour, and Peer--when in form--is one of the most determined.
Jelena Dokic vs. Tamira Paszek--Last year, Paszek took Jelena Jankovic to the brink in the first round, in a marathon of broken service games. This year, she will meet a former world number 4 who appears to have gotten back some of her form. Anything could happen.
Anne Keothavong vs. Anna Chakvetadze--If ever an upset were brewing, it would be here. The extremely talented Chakvetadze just can't seem to get it together, and Keothavong keeps improving.
Elena Vesnina vs. Julie Coin--The "out of nowhere" players meet. For several years now, Vesnina has been a fairly good doubles player, but has not done that well in singles. But her 2009 season has begun with solid results, and it will be interesting to see how far she can go. Coin, for her part, pulled off the upset of the year (perhaps the decade) in the 2008 U.S. Open, and has continued to progress.
Aleksandra Wozniak vs. Sabine Lisicki--Another upset is likely in this match. Wozniak has not lived up to her Bank of the West Classic championship status, and Lisicki has been looking rather confident.
Sorana Cirstea vs. Melinda Czink--Last year, we wouldn't have even noticed this match, but Czink has turned her fortunes around considerably, and now, anything can happen.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Petra Kvitova--Azarenka, after being in four finals, recently won her first. Kvitova just won her first tournament, too. Expect a good match.
My favorites, to win the tournament, are: Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva. They are both in a good shape (tennis speaking)
Though I do not expect Wozniacki to win the tournament, there are horses much darker. If anyone were going to pull a Sharapova, she would probably be it.
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