14
Jan
11

Kim Clijsters drawn against another former world No.1, Dinara Safina, in the first round.

Clijsters comes into the tournament in good form but was beaten at the Medibank International final in Sydney by Li Na on Friday afternoon. Facing a two-time Grand Slam finalist in Safina in her opening match at Melbourne Park will still present a significant early challenge. For her part, Safina must be rueing her recent lack of fortune in tournament draws after she had to play in-form Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the first round of the Moorilla Hobart International earlier this week.

In other notable first round draws in the women’s competition, top seed Caroline Wozniacki will have to cope with another world No.1 – in doubles – in Argentina’s Gisela Dulko. Australian Jarmila Groth will also have to hit the Plexicushion courts of Melbourne Park running after she was drawn to play former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in the first round. Groth, who is in the semifinals in Hobart, has notched up some recent giant-killing form by knocking Samantha Stosur out of the Brisbane International last week and has been showing strong form in Hobart this week, so will head into the match in confident mood.

Veteran Japanese player Kimiko Date-Krumm has made a habit of pulling off similar upsets, ever since she came back from a 13-year-long retirement from the tour in April 2008 and could be a handful for Agnieszka Radwanska in their first round match. Radwanska has recovered from the foot surgery she underwent in October last year more quickly than expected but might still be vulnerable to Date-Krumm’s crafty game.

Another of the title contenders, last year’s finalist Justine Henin, has been drawn against a qualifier and will be confident of her chances of progressing to another Australian Open trophy, particularly in the absence of defending champion Serena Williams.

Crowd favourite Alicia Molik will need to be on her guard against swashbuckling Italian Roberta Vinci. Molik and Vinci could face each other against next month when Australia and Italy play each other in Fed Cup in Hobart.

Samantha Stosur, who is bidding to become Australia’s first women’s champion in Melbourne for 30 years, opens her campaign against American wildcard Lauren Davis. Davis is widely regarded as one of the most talented young players in the world game and earned her opportunity to play Down Under by winning the United States Tennis Association’s wildcard play-off.

Much has been made of the pressure on Stosur heading into her home Grand Slam, but the Queenslander, who was runner-up at last year’s French Open, believes that she is better equipped to cope with it this year than ever before. “I think I’ve learned a lot from last January and all of 2010 to be honest,” Stosur told reporters earlier this week at the Medibank International. “Maybe I was a little bit more prepared for it [the pressure] this year. I think you can only get better with handling it the more you experience it.”

“The best players in the world have it day-in, day-out for a long period of time and I’m sure as they stay at the top of the rankings they get more used to it, as now I’m trying to as well. It’s only a good thing that I think there is more spotlight on you and more attention – it’s probably because you are doing something better

than before.”

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