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Coming Out on Top (Australian Open Predictions: Women's Edition)

To quote the famous "Domestic Diva" Martha Stewart: "It's a good thing."

I'm not referring to any particular recipe or coat-sewing technique, but rather the depth in women's tennis occurring right now. Remember when it used to be only two to four players capable of winning a Major? Now, I'd say there's at least 12 to 15 that can pull it off. A good thing, indeed.

That makes it harder to call than ever, but for my money, I'm going with Venus Williams. I think winning the season-ending championships show's she can still get it done on something besides grass, so why not here and now?

Here's how I think it will go down, from the quarters on:

Jelena Jankovic (1) vs. Vera Zvonareva (7): The winner of the derby for the top spot has been Jankovic. While she's achieved that, she's walking around with the biggest asterisk aside her name as she has yet to win a big one. There's a lot of pressure on her to come through here, but I don't think she can do it. Her draw up to this point is pretty easy with probably the only threat being Marion Bartoli. As for Zvonareva, after that run at the tour-ending championship, you have to think she's for real. A quarterfinal run here is a good result, but I'm not expecting her to get further.

Dinara Safina (3) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (11): It's funny, but I almost feel like I'm going out on a limb with Safina getting this far. If this would've been the second half of last year, then I might would be picking her to win the whole thing. However, she kind of hit a rough patch at the end of the year and to me, her Hopman Cup play this year wasn't that impressive. Then she lost the finals in Sydney this past weekend. I did say, though, last year that I was going to stop doubting her, so I'll give her a good run here. And I'm expecting her to meet the soon-to-be-great Dane Wozniacki at this point. Her draw's pretty brutal, but I think she can handle it. If she gets to the quarters, check out the scalps she'll probably collect: Shahar Peer first up; maybe Jelena Dokic, Anne Keothayong or Anna Chakvetadze in the third; then the big one, Ana Ivanovic in the fourth. That's some serious playing to get through that! She's going to do it at some point, so why not now?

Venus Williams (6) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (18): Before I talk about these two, let me talk about the hottest player in the universe right now, Elena Dementieva. You put her in a tournament this year and I guess you just automatically start engraving the trophy and making out the big check to her. But, and I think this is a big but, I don't think she can sustain this nice run forever, and I think future top-fiver Cibulkova catches her in the third. The only player I'm kind of worried about Williams facing to this point is Flavia Pennetta, who she's lost to a couple of times. But I think her win in Zurich against her re-established who's dominant. Nice run for Dom, but it should end here.

Agnieszka Radwanska (9) vs. Victoria Azarenka (13): "Wait, hold up. Where the heck is Serena Williams?" I went ahead and took the question out of your head for you! If things go as I see them, she should go out in the 16s to Azarenka. I know that's a tall order to ask of a young player who's only won her first career tournament a couple of weeks ago, but I think she can do it. Plus, Williams warm-up play at Sydney was kind of shoddy. I know she steps it up at the Slams, but I think lack of match play catches her this time around. Of course, that's been thought many a time before by me and plenty of others out there, but she always proves us wrong. I don't think so this time. Radwanska's draw is pretty easy, unless Svetlana Kuznetsova or Nicole Vaidisova snap out of their slumps. Aggie should be a consistent Slam quarterfinalist and this is a good time to show that.

For the semis:
Jankovic vs. Safina: This has the potential to be a really good match, maybe even the best of the tournament—if it happens, of course! I really think it will and I like Jankovic to come out on top. She may not have the Majors (or a Major), but she is determined.

Williams vs. Azarenka: It always seems like the Aussie is prone to more players making big breakthroughs and I think that happens for Azarenka this tournament. However, she's going up against a legend who she won't be able to do anything to make a difference in the eventual outcome.

For the finals:
Williams over Jankovic: It's going to happen for Jankovic; I don't think there should be any doubt of that. But you know, not everyone wins their first couple of Slam finals and if she gets this far, I'm definitely fine with calling her number 1. Williams, though, is creeping up on her, so I don't know how long she'll have the top spot!

I guess we'll see how this all goes soon enough with first serve about an hour away!

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