By Sean Goff | Tennis
Serena Williams is back to her brilliant best and is Paddy Power’s 5/6 favourite to win her sixth Australian Open title in Melbourne.
The World No 3 rolled her ankle in the tournament last season forcing her to withdraw and will be doubly-determined to pick up the season’s opening Grand Slam to add to the 15 (and 47 career titles) already on her mantelpiece.
The American – who won the season-opening Brisbane International tournament earlier this month recording a serve of 200kph (124mph) in the process – is on a mission to become the oldest World No.1 again since Chris Evert (aged 30 years 11 months) in 1985.
Williams is the reigning Wimbledon, Olympics and US Open champion and will take some stopping in this tournament.
Last season’s French Open champion and World No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova was forced to pull out of the Brisbane International to rest a collarbone injury. But the chief grunter has a history of succeeding in major tournaments with little match practice. She pulled out of Brisbane last year but went on to make the final of the Australian Open before losing to Victoria Azarenka.
The Belarusian World No. 1 is 9/2 to retain her title in Melbourne and the top seed and defending champion in the women’s draw is on course for a possible semi-final clash with Williams.
Former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki made a shaky start to the new WTA season with a shock defeat to Kazakhstan qualifier Ksenia Pervak (2-6 6-3 7-6) in the first round of the Brisbane International.
Cheered on by boyfriend and World No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy the Dane now heads to Sydney to get in some match practice ahead of the Australian Open where she’s a 66/1 shot.
China’s Li Na will look to her 2011 form – when winning the French Open and making it to the Australian Open final. At 18/1 with Paddy Power she could be a bit of value to lift the trophy if rediscovering her form of two seasons ago.