Thursday, January 15, 2009 Updated: January 16, 11:42 AM ET
Serena sets sights on Aussie crown
No one knows for certain whether order will be restored to the WTA Tour after a palpable shake-up in 2008. Maria Sharapova appeared to be top diva in the game after manhandling the field Down Under. But she subsequently went down with a shoulder injury. Soon after, world No. 1 Justine Henin abruptly retired.
When the dust settled, the Williams sisters took control of the season's second half. Venus Williams claimed her fifth Wimbledon title and closed out the year by winning the Sony Ericsson Championships. Sister Serena flourished in Flushing, seizing the U.S. Open crown.
Will it be sibling supremacy again? Our experts give it their best shot.
Australian Open women's predictions
Bonnie D. Ford ESPN.com tennis writer
Greg Garber ESPN.com tennis writer
Sandra Harwitt Florida-based tennis writer
Last year's finalist, Ana Ivanovic, still doesn't seem as if she's on an even keel after injuries caused her to spiral down in the second half of '08.
Ana Ivanovic lost to Amelie Mauresmo in the Brisbane quarterfinals. An ominous start to a season in which many were forecasting a Serbian revival.
Svetlana Kuznetsova just doesn't seem to get her act together early in the year, and has reached the quarters just once in seven trips to the Australian Open.
One -- perhaps last -- run for the conflicted French lioness, Amelie Mauresmo. who has always played well in Melbourne.
The Perth-born Aussie, Casey Dellacqua, reached the round of 16 a year ago here and might take it a step further in 2009.
Caroline Wozniacki continues to put her Scandinavian country on the tennis map. Considered a champion-in-waiting, she should show off her form in Oz.
Three-time champion Serena Williams loves this tournament and will take charge in a field lacking assertiveness.
Serena Williams won the Australian Open titles in 2003, '05 and '07. Do we see a pattern?
There's no clear-cut favorite this year, so why not Serena Williams? She's been on the every-other-year winner's plan in Melbourne.
Kamakshi Tandon Toronto-based tennis writer
Ravi Ubha London-based tennis writer
Matt Wilansky ESPN.com tennis editor
At this point, Ana Ivanovic is the obvious choice. Only some very impressive play in the early rounds will remove the doubts surrounding the Serb.
Ana Ivanovic barely reached the quarters at her first tournament of 2009, and reportedly has split with her main coach, Dutchman Sven Groeneveld.
Does anyone else get the feeling Dinara Safina will revert to her former irascible ways? After all, instability does run in the gene pool.
Yes, Dinara Safina is in the top three, but she's lower in most people's list of favorites. She has the weapons to beat the big hitters, even when they're playing well.
The Slovak battler, Dominika Cibulkova, won all four of her singles matches at the Hopman Cup, including against Dinara Safina.
The Danish are rhapsodic about the emergence of talented Caroline Wozniacki. She has all the tools to reach the elite circle.
Picking from such a crowded field this early in the season is essentially impossible. But this could be one of Venus Williams' last chances to win Down Under.
Venus Williams ended 2008 with a bang. She is motivated and, just as crucially, not injured heading into Australia.
Upon hearing Ana Ivanovic was my selection to win Down Under, a certain London-based colleague incredulously responded, "Who spiked your milk?" Point taken, but I'm sticking with it.