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It's the start of a new season and everyone is rested, fit and ready to go, right? Not exactly. It's only the first week, but illness and injury have already hit WTA stars hard. Ana Ivanovic, Francesca Schiavone, Daniela Hantuchova and a home favorite, Jelena Dokic, are just some of the players who have hit road bumps in their Australian Open preparations.
But with two-time defending champion Serena Williams missing because of injury and no dominant player on the circuit at the moment, everyone is feeling optimistic about their chances.
Here are upsides and downsides for some of the names to watch in Melbourne.
Good sign: Captured three of the six biggest events on tour last year -- the U.S. Open, the year-end WTA championships and Miami -- so next to Serena Williams, she's the one to beat at big events. And Serena isn't going to be in Australia.
Bad sign: She herself says reducing her schedule to balance family and career means she's not quite as grooved going into the Grand Slams as she used to be. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that her victories have all come at the U.S. Open, which has a long lead-up and is in the back half of the season.
Good sign: Reached the final in Melbourne last year, just two events into her comeback. This year, she'll be returning three events into her comeback.
Bad sign: The elbow injury that kept her out during the second half of last year is still not 100 percent, she says, and estimates it'll be June before she feels fully grooved. Is she laying her cards on the table or trying to take the pressure off?
Good sign: Enjoying a rare period of health, Venus put together an impressive string of results early last year, winning Dubai and Acapulco and reaching the final of Miami in three consecutive tournaments. At her best, she's still a contender.
Bad sign: By the end of Wimbledon, she was all strapped up again, and the U.S. Open was the only event she played for the rest of the year. Beginning this season at an exhibition event in Hong Kong, the elder Williams lost both her matches in straight sets and kept tight-lipped about her physical condition. She hasn't won a major since Wimbledon 2008, and none other than Wimbledon since -- can you believe it? -- 2001.
Good sign: Feels more comfortable on hard courts than clay despite being a French Open finalist. And she'll have the home crowd behind her for extra support.
Bad sign: She'll have the home crowd behind her for extra pressure, too. Another thing to note is the way her serve went off during her loss to compatriot Jarka Groth in Brisbane; she can't afford an off day on the serve or forehand once the big games get underway.
Good sign: Showed definite signs of upward movement last summer before packing her season in early to spend some time at home. It worked out, with Sharapova getting a proposal from boyfriend Sasha Vujacic in the fall. It's not the only change she made in the offseason -- the Russian has a new co-coach, Thomas Hogstedt, as well as a newly unveiled stick and new playing shoes.
Bad sign: She still didn't make it past the quarterfinals of Auckland, falling to veteran Greta Arn while making 30 unforced errors. There's still little sign of the powerfully consistent Sharapova, who won the Australia in 2008 -- the peak performance of her career.
Good sign: Sitting at No. 1 at just 20 years old, precocious by today's standards, and showed her reserves by playing Montreal, New Haven and the U.S. Open back-to-back for 14 matches in 3½ weeks. The 2009 U.S. Open finalist has so far built her reputation on sheer quantity of play but ended the year by putting up a good fight against Kim Clijsters at the year-end championships, suggesting that she's working toward being able to hit with the big guns. But is she there yet?
Bad sign: More than anyone on tour, Wozniacki needed a proper break during the offseason but spent chunks of it playing league matches and exhibitions -- though some of it for charity. She also began the year with an exhibition event in Doha, and her last match there was a 6-0, 6-1 defeat to Vera Zvonareva. Not a strong signal of intent from the reigning No. 1 still looking for her first major.
Good sign: Didn't fall completely off the map after her unexpected French Open victory, helping Italy to win the Fed Cup at the end of the season and even stealing a bit of Roger Federer's thunder at the U.S. Open with a between-the-legs shot of her own.
Bad sign: Hurt her leg in the Hopman Cup last week and won't be able to catch the field off guard again.
Good sign: Had few bright spots in a miserable start to last year but played more promisingly once the summer began. She looked slim and cheerful partnering with childhood friend Novak Djokovic in the Hopman Cup last week, a stark contrast to the teary exits that punctuated her tumble after winning the French Open in 2008.
Bad sign: A bad stomach strain forced her to pull out partway through the Hopman Cup, which will leave her short on court time if she does make it to Melbourne.
Good sign: Unlike pal Wozniacki, Azarenka has the big game but not the consistency. She says she's spent the offseason working on her strength and fitness, which she'll need for the brutal conditions in Oz.
Bad sign: Just when she looks ready to get on a roll, something always happens -- a stomach illness when she's got Serena on the ropes, fainting at the U.S. Open or just succumbing to her combustible temper. The former Miami champion is still looking to make her first dent in a major -- and surely this has to be the year.
Good sign: Reached a whole new level last year, getting to the final of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, Beijing and Montreal.
Bad sign: The only event she won was a minor tournament in Pattaya City. It's quite appropriate she's ranked No. 2, but it'll take a lot to change it.