Victoria Azarenka may have been quietly optimistic of a maiden Grand Slam victory heading into the Australian Open and her chances of success may have gained a big boost by an ankle injury suffered by favourite Serena Williams.
Williams remains 5/2 in the Australian Open odds to win in Melbourne for a fifth time, despite the likelihood that she may not start in the opening round fully fit.
In beating Bojana Jovanovski at the Brisbane International, Williams landed awkwardly on her ankle during a rally and has wasted little time pulling out of a quarter final with Daniela Hantuchova after limping off court.
The news will be a big blow to Williams as the tournament was her first competitive event since the US Open in September, meaning she was already shy of big-match practice.
Picking the women’s winner of the Australian Open was already tough given the lack of a dominant player in the past year or so and with Williams now having injury doubts, it has become even more wide open.
Azarenka’s temperament has previously come into question and to date her best Grand Slam performance was reaching the semi finals at Wimbledon last year.
However, the Belarusian continued to improve throughout 2011 and may have overcome a serious psychological barrier when reaching a first major final at the WTA Tour Championship at the end of last season.
She beat the likes of Na Li, Sam Stosur and Vera Zvonareva en route to the final, where she was downed in a tight three sets to Petra Kvitova.
Meanwhile, Azarenka’s record is generally good against the majority of the top female players barring Williams, who she would have been most fearful of meeting having been beaten in six of their seven career meetings.
But with Williams potentially being less than 100 per cent, Azarenka could take her moment in the spotlight and looks overpriced at 7/1 to win the Australian Open.