Williams injury leaves Open up for grabs

Updated: Jan 12, 2011, 15:25 PM IST

Melbourne: Tennis fans could hardly have
guessed that when Serena Williams cut her foot in a Munich
restaurant last August, the race for the 2011 Australian Open
would be thrown wide open.

Serena has towered over the Australian Open in recent
times, winning four of the past six titles, including the last
two in a row.

But complications to her foot injury have meant Serena
will not be making the trip to Melbourne this year and the
task of picking a potential winner has suddenly become much

The early favourite is US Open champion Kim Clijsters,
who arrived in Australia last week with her family in tow and
brimming with confidence.

The Belgian world number three underlined her credentials
when she beat the top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in the final
of the year-end championships in Doha in November.

"I kind of wished that the season wasn`t over yet, after
the championships last year, because I was hitting the ball so
well," Clijsters said.

"But I feel good (again now). I feel like I`m hitting the
ball well and, injury-wise, there`s no problems and that`s
obviously a big key here in Australia -- being fit enough to
play these matches."

Clijsters showed she had not lost any of her 2010 form
when she downed Wozniacki in an exhibition in Thailand at the
start of the year.

The 27-year-old Belgian will also be desperate to atone
for 2010, when she entered the Australian Open as one of the
hot favourites but crashed out in the third round to Nadia
Petrova 6-0, 6-1 in one of the most-lopsided matches of the

Denmark`s Wozniacki ended the year as the women`s world
number one, reaching the peak of the game without having won a
Grand Slam.

The 20-year-old Dane is the youngest year-end number one
since Martina Hingis in 2000, but this week`s second-round
Sydney International loss has not helped convince critics she
is worthy of the top ranking.

Bureau Report