In a "normal" WTA world, there would be five contenders for the Australian Open title: Serena Williams, defending champion Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova, and Li Na. That's a good list. But, as usual, the WTA world isn't "normal," and it's just January.
The defending champion withdrew from the Brisbane semifinals (she would have played Williams) because of a toe infection brought on by a bad pedicure. Sharapova has an injured collarbone. Kvitova is--well, decorum prevents me from saying what she is, but she's obviously in some kind of professional crisis.
Williams just had minor surgery on both big toes, but that didn't stop her from winning the Brisbane title. Because she's, you know, Serena Williams. And Li won the Shenzhen title, which means she had a nice warmup for Melbourne.
Of course, there's every reason to believe that Azarenka will be fine by the time the Australian Open starts, and that Sharapova will be fine, too. I'm not so sure about Kvitova, though it pains me to say so.
We can't talk about the Australian Open without mentioning Sam Stosur, but history tells us that the Australian star is the least comfortable on her home court. It would be great to see her do really well in Melbourne, but perhaps we shouldn't get our hopes up.
What do you think? Can Azarenka defend her title? Can anyone stop Serena?