One tournament that has proven to be an excellent indicator of success in Melbourne is the WTA Tournament held in Sydney, Australia one week prior to the Australian Open.
Over the last 10 years, the winner of the Sydney tournament has advanced to the quarterfinals (or farther) of the Australian Open nine times. The lone exception being 2010, when Elena Dementieva was knocked out in the second round by eventual finalist Justine Henin.
In seven of the last 10 years, the winner has advanced to the semifinals. The Sydney tournament winner has produced four Australian Open finalists and two champions (Henin in 2004 and Vika Azarenka in 2012).
This bodes well for Poland’s top player, Agnieszka Radwanska, who enters Melbourne red hot having won her first two tournaments of the year. On Friday, she blanked Russian Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 6-0 to take home the Sydney title.
The No. 4 player in the world has reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne the last two years. In both of those years, she lost to the eventual champion (Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Azarenka last year).
Radwanska’s quarter of the draw is much more favorable in 2013. A looming matchup with Hobart tournament favorite (the other WTA Tournament this week) Mona Barthel is poised for the Round of 32. Unlike Sydney, the Hobart tournament winner had had no success at the year’s first major. The Hobart winner has only advanced to the quarterfinal in Melbourne once in the last 10 years.
Following the potential matchup with Barthel, Radwanska is on a collision course to face China’s top player, Li Na, in the quarterfinals. The 23-year-old Pole beat Na convincingly just a couple days ago in the semifinals in Sydney and should be able to do so again to advance to her first Australian Open semifinal.
If seeding holds, Maria Sharapova awaits the world No. 4 in the semifinals. The two players split their two meetings in 2012, with Radwanska winning their lone match on hard courts.
Sharapova has not played any tune-up matches and could be primed for an upset even before a possible showdown with Radwanska. If that happens, Radwanska’s road to the final becomes even easier with the out-of-form Angelique Kerber, the inconsistent Venus Williams, and the opponent she just blanked in the Sydney Final, Cibulkova, as the threats to knockout Sharapova.
The final would be a much stiffer test with either Azarenka or Serena Williams on deck. These two players combined for all four Grand Slams in 2012, but there’s no reason Radwanska can’t compete.
Azarenka hasn’t played since she withdrew midway through the first tournament of the season due to an injury. Radwanska tested Williams at the Wimbledon Final in 2012 by winning the second set, but ultimately losing a three-set match. She will not be intimidated if they meet again in a major final.
With Radwanska’s current form and the Australian Open draw looking bright, another Sydney tournament winner should have great success at the year’s first Grand Slam event.
JayPrimetown is an avid sports bettor with a strong interest in soccer, tennis, and MMA. He can be reached on twitter @JayPrimetown or by email at JayPrimetown@gmail.com.