2010 Women's Australian Open preview
All focus appears to be on the "Big 3" for the first Grand Slam of the season.
The top three in William Hill's outright market for the 2010 Women's Australian Open is the perfect indicator... with all the pre-tournament chat surround Kim Clijsters (7/2), Justine Henin (7/2) and of course the defending champion Serena Williams (3/1).
With Williams looking on from the courts of the Medibank International, comeback queen Clijsters (it's NOT a comeback, it's a second career...) began her 2010 campaign entered as the top seed at the Brisbane international and the Belgian didn't disappoint.
After breezing through to Brisbane's final without really breaking a sweat, 2009 US Open winner Clijsters found fellow compatriot Justine Henin, who was playing her first tournament after 20 month break, the only barrier between Kim Clijsters and her first title of 2010.
In a gripping final, Clijsters took a 6-3 4-1 lead with the match looking beyond Henin, but Justine stormed back winning the next eight consecutive games to not only steal the second set, but take a 3-0 lead in the third.
After saving two match points, Clijsters eventually won her 36th career title in a final set tiebreak and in doing so sent out a warning shot across the bow of the good ship Williams.
She's still the Australian Open favourite at 3/1 but Serena Williams - the younger of the sisters - has generally been keeping a low profile since her verbal attack on a lineswoman at the 2009 US Open.
Williams escaped a suspension after the Grand Slam committee opted to hand her a fine and a two year probation period allowing her to compete in the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on the 19th January.
Favourite Serena has already won the Australian Open title four times and this year, looks good to make that five.
Looking further down the list in the outright betting, the next biggest threat would appear to be Williams senior at 8/1, but it's easy not to let the eye linger over the prospect of Venus claiming her first Australian Open title.
Sharapova's back. After missing out on the 2009 event with her dodgy shoulder, the leggy Russian (9/1) will be keen to make a similar impression to her 2008 appearance, where she lifted the Aussie Open trophy.
It would be no huge surprise to see a Sharapova victory and with her recent quiet spell both on court and in the press, there are little expectations and perhaps, this is exactly what the former champions needs.
Fellow Russian Elena Dementieva (14/1) is still... yes STILL without a Grand Slam victory, but it could be a little too early in the season to expect Elena to win in Melbourne, especially following her recent Hopman Cup loss to Sabine Lisicki, the Russian hardly looked anywhere near last season's form.
Other names to keep one eye on are Dinara Safina (16/1), Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic (20/1). The previously brilliant - and not to mention stunning Ana Ivanovic, whose form has almost disappeared over the last twelve months.
Here at William Hill, we intend to get you as involved in the action as possible, so make sure you keep an eye on the William Hill TV schedule to see which of the 2010 Australian Open matches we'll be bringing to you live!