The first Grand Slam of the season, held each January in Melbourne, is always filled with surprises. Last year, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka claimed the singles titles. The 2013 event takes place from Jan. 14-27. Meet some of this year's top contenders (as well as underdogs) and let us know who you think will prevail.
Serena Williams © Jason O'Brien/Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com
Serena Williams was pegged as the one to beat. The five-time Australian Open champion has been victorious in 52 of her last 54 matches, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and Olympic gold as well as WTA Player of the Year.
Williams came face to face with the next generation of U.S. tennis when she took on 19-year-old Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals on Wednesday and guess what? Serena is not the one moving on.
NEW: NEXT PHOTO: Sloane Stephens
Sloane Stephens © Action Press/ZUMAPRESS.com
Talk about an upset! Rising American star Sloane Stephens took on her idol Serena Williams in the quarter-finals giving U.S. tennis a boost with her victory. It was the first time Serena, 31, had never lost to a younger U.S. player during her entire professional career. Stephens, who is just 19, is scheduled to face Victoria Azarenka in a Melbourne semifinal.
NEXT PHOTO: Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka © Jason O'Brien/Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka is the reigning World No. 1. She withdrew from her Brisbane semi-final against Serena Williams after failing to recover from a toe infection, but has said, she's there "to win".
Azarenka has advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 7-5, 6-1 win over former two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
NEXT PHOTO: Sam Stosur
Sam Stosur © Imago/ZUMAPRESS.com
Despite being plagued by injury and not winning a single match last year, 2011 US Open winner and local favourite Sam Stosur was hoping to be a strong challenger. Instead, she suffered a dramatic and devastating collapse with a 6-4 1-6 7-5 second round loss to China's former semi-finalist Zheng Jie.
NEXT PHOTO: Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska via Zumapress.com
World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska has become a real threat to Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. The Pole was on a roll after a Sydney victory (since 1968, the winner in Sydney has gone on to win the Australian Open 23 times) but was defeated in the quarter-finals by Li Na.
NEXT PHOTO: Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova © Chen Xiaowei/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com
Last year, Maria Sharapova became only the sixth woman to complete a career slam. Sharapova, along with Victoria Azarenka, are seen as the biggest threats to Williams winning her 16th Grand Slam, although her early games have been hampered by a collarbone injury.
Sharapova had a straight-set win over compatriot Ekatrina Makarova on Tuesday, conceding only nine games in five matches en route to a semifinal against Li Na.
NEXT PHOTO: Li Na
Li Na © Bai Xue/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na is a crowd favorite after becoming runner-up to Kim Clijsters in 2011.The 30-year-old Li advanced to her third semifinal in four years at Melbourne Park with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Agnieszka Radwanska, ending the Pole's 13-match winning streak.
Any predictions on who will take home the trophy in Melbourne?
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