1. Caroline Wozniacki The world number one will once more play in a Grand Slam with the pressure of trying to capture her first title at this level. Wozniacki’s talent is as a defensive player and while that is more than sufficient over the course of a yearlong campaign to earn the right to be called the world number one it is not the approach needed to win the biggest tournaments. The Dane’s injured wrist should be healed in time for Melbourne but with a game lacking the power of the likes of Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova there is little to suggest that Wozniacki’s wait for her first Grand Slam title will end in two weeks time.
2. Petra Kvitova The reigning Wimbledon champion will take over as world number one with victory in Melbourne and she looks to be in superb form for the opening Slam. The powerful Czech has a vast array of weapons at her disposal and rightly starts the fortnight as the favourite.
3. Victoria Azarenka The Belarusian is in a very similar position to Wozniacki; she needs a Grand Slam victory to justify her world ranking in the eyes of many fans. The hard hitting Azarenka can compete with anybody but she needs to strengthen her resolve at the business end of a Slam if she is to make people remember her for her tennis rather than her grunting.
4. Maria Sharapova The former champion has returned to the top five in the world after a strong campaign in 2011 that saw her finish runner-up in Wimbledon and a French Open semi-finalist but she is still waiting for her serve to return to the level it was during her spell as world number one in 2005. The Russian will face Gisela Dulko in the opening round in what could be a challenging game if the Argentinean is on form.
5. Li Na Last year’s runner-up’s season tailed off after winning the French Open so there will be much interest on Na to see if she can recapture her previous form. She has started 2012 in promising style, including beating Kvitova, so her confidence should be high. 6.
Samantha Stosur The reigning US Open champion is sure to get a terrific reception from her home crowd but the pressure of expectation will be huge. Stosur has never made it past the fourth round at her home Slam and her chances of success in Melbourne will depend on whether she uses the home crowd to her advantage.
7. Vera Zvonareva The 27 year old has seen younger players come into the frame and overwhelm her over the course of the last year and while she still has a superb ability to attack and defend from the baseline her Achilles heel is once more her serve. The Russian consistently offers opportunities to opponents from weak serving and by not winning many easy points on serve she is constantly under pressure during matches. A repeat of last year’s semi-final berth would mark a very successful tournament.
Agnieszka Radwanska A dark horse in the draw. Radwanska has superb imagination on court and while she lacks the power of the top players she is one of the players that no one will want to play.
9. Marion Bartoli One of the most mercurial players in the draw. Bartoli is equally capable of a run to the latter stages of any Slam as she is of being knocked out in the opening round. If the Frenchwomen is on form she is superb but she lacks the consistency to be considered a true contender at this level.
10. Francesca Schiavone The Italian is a former Grand Slam champion and is one of the most entertaining players to watch in any tournament but her game is much better suited to the clay of Rolland Garros rather than the hard courts of Australia. If Schiavone can match last year’s quarter-final exit she will have shown that she is still ready for another season as a contender even at age 31.
11. Kim Clijsters Injuries limited the defending champion for much of 2011 but with a proven track record at this level and the ability to grind out and win matches Clijsters should not be underestimated. She has matured since making a return from retirement and now realises that the most important thing for her is to peak at the right times; the Grand Slams. A very dangerous player who would shock no one if she retained the trophy as the 11th seed.
12. Serena Williams The five time champion returned to tennis at Wimbledon following a year long absence due to injury and finished runner up to Stosur in the US Open. William’s has always had an ability to play with minimal tournament practice before a Grand Slam and she will be very eager to win despite her low seeding. With a day off between matches her body will have ample time to recover from strains and niggles and by the second week of the Open she should be firing on all cylinders.
13. Jelena Jankovic The former world number one will never regain the form that made her a perennial contender at this level. She is now a shadow of that player but one that can still challenge many on tour; unfortunately the leading players have left her behind. Jankovic will have a tough opening assignment against Laura Robson.
14. Sabine Lisicki A Wimbledon semi finalist last year Lisicki has a huge serve but lacks the ground strokes to challenge the leading players. If she can develop that side of her game she could be a dangerous wildcard at this level. Until that occurs however she will not be able to win a Slam.
15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova The Russian is a solid player but lacks the weapons to challenge the very best on the Tour. A strong Open would be making it the middle weekend.
16. Peng Shaui Another strong player but Shaui lacks the ability of her compatriot, Li Na. The Chinese player also has a difficult draw so making it through three rounds could be very difficult.