Here we go again! As always the season will kick off with a bang at the premier level Brisbane International held at the intimate Pat Rafter Arena. The event has once again attracted a stellar lineup, an exciting mix of experience and youth.
Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka are the headline acts at this year’s event . Their biggest competition will come from Dominika Cibulkova, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankovic. Whilst Rising stars: Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Madison Keys will all be keen to make a bright start to what shapes as a critical season in their respective careers.
Home Crowd favourite Samantha Stosur will return to her home state event this year. Stosur choosing to avoid the Hopman Cup, instead opting for a more pressurised start to her 2015 Australian Open campaign.
A notable absentee at this year’s first premier level event is world number 1 and 2 time defending champion Serena Williams. Serena instead choosing to begin her season at the Hopman Cup. It seems Serena is looking to mix things up after consecutive seasons of disappointment in Melbourne despite playing well in Brisbane. Serena will be joined in Perth by fellow top 10 occupants Agnieszka Radwanska and Eugenie Bouchard. Whilst Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep will begin their season at the international level Shenzhen Open.
Several players will be desperately seeking much needed ranking points in a final push to be seeded at the upcoming Australian Open. Most notably, Victoria Azarenka. The belarusian will be under extreme pressure to defend her finalist points from 2014 in order to ensure she is seeded in Melbourne. Madison Keys, Caroline Garcia and Varvara Lepchenko are also delicately poised in the race to obtain a seeding at the Australian Open.
At the top of the draw lyes Maria Sharapova, the first seed will receive a bye into the second round. The two biggest threats in Maria’s quarter will be Sabine Lisicki (potential second round opponent) and seventh seed Carla Suarez Navarro (potential quarterfinal opponent). Sabine Lisicki would certainly be a tricky first up opponent for Maria, a potential banana skin indeed.
Quarter 1 predication: Maria Sharapova
Third seed Angelique Kerber and sixth seed Jelena Jankovic headline the second quarter of the draw. Angie will begin her 2015 campaign against the dangerous Caroline Garcia. Whilst Jelena Jankovic faces another talented youngster, Ajla Tomljanovic. Elina Svitolina and Alison Riske lurk as potential threats in the second quarter.
Quarter 2 Prediction: Angelique Kerber
The third quarter is by far the most challenging section of the draw. Eighth seed Garbine Muguruza and fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova are joined by the unseeded Victoria Azarenka, Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Sam Stosur. Azarenka will face Pliskova in a blockbuster opening round match whilst Dominika Cibulkova will face Madison Keys. An Extremely exciting section which is sure to provide some drama.
Quarter 3 Prediction: Victoria Azarenka
The bottom quarter is a mess… Compared to the other sections. Fifth seed Andrea Petkovic and second seed Ana Ivanovic have certainly been treated kindly. The two are joined by two qualifiers. Petkovic will face Kanepi in the opening round whilst Ivanovic will receive a bye into the second round. Ana will face either Shuai Zhang or Jarmila Gajdosova in the second round.
Quarter 4 Prediction: Ana Ivanovic
Champion Prediction: Victoria Azarenka Def. Maria sharapova
The first tournaments of the year are always the most difficult to predict.
This tournament is particularly important for Vika who will be desperate to ensure she is seeded in Melbourne but more importantly to gain momentum heading into her most successful Grand Slam. Vika is the type of player that can win and compete with the best even when she is rusty, she may need to call on those qualities in Brisbane.
In the past a fully for Vika has been extremely difficult to defeat, especially in Australia. I’m tipping Vika will remind us what a champion she is in Brisbane despite having a reasonably difficult draw.