The 2014 Australian Open is right around the corner. Victoria Azarenka will be attempting to win her third consecutive title in Melbourne, and top seed Serena Williams is trying to win her first since 2010 and recover from some early losses over the past couple seasons.
Williams doesn't have an easy draw by any means, but as the top seed, she seems primed to at least make it through to the semifinals. Williams drew No. 7 seed Sara Errani as the second-highest seed in her section, which is significant given that Williams downed Errani, 6-0, 6-1, at last year's French Open.
That match was significant given that it's Errani's best surface and arguably Williams' worst, yet Williams took just 46 minutes to win that one. The toughest matchup Williams could face in the quarterfinals in No. 17 Samantha Stosur, and then Errani in the quarterfinals. The tough matchup is No. 4 Li Na in the semifinals.
While the women's side is increasingly unpredictable these days -- top seeds seem to drop like flies -- there's a clear and comfortable path to the quarterfinals and two winnable matchups to make the finals for Williams. She's the favorite this time around and it's clear to see why.
Azarenka, the defending champion, looks to have a somewhat tougher route. Azarenka is the No. 2 seed this time around, and there's four big names potentially keeping her from the finals. No. 27 Jamie Hampton is an underrated player who could play Azarenka in the third round, and No. 13 Sloane Stephens sets up a tough fourth-round matchup.
Stephens made it all the way to the semifinals last year, but has some tough matchups of her own with Yaroslava Shvedova in the first round and a potential matchup with Ajla Tomljanovic in the second. Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round makes her chances of advancing even more unlikely.
Going back to Azarenka, there's Agnieszka Radwanska, the tournament's No. 5 seed, in the quarterfinals. No. 3 Maria Sharapova would likely be waiting in the semifinals, though she has some tough matchups with her own with Jelena Jankovic, the no. 8 seed, potentially in the quarterfinals. That's provided Sharapova even makes it past Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is Sharapova's first-round opponent. Mattek-Sands is a much tougher outing than she's given credit for.
If these seeds hold up -- something that's not entirely likely -- the quarterfinals and semifinals would be absolutely stacked with impressive matchups. Still, most are predicting a finals featuring both Williams and Azarenka and many feel this is Williams' year to get back on track and win it all.
For a full look at the women's draw, go here.