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The Fitness Factor
By Anton Lagani, Lawn Tennis Analyst, Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2012 4:10am PST USA
The Fitness Factor, Serena Williams MELBOURNE-- Five time Australian Open singles champion Serena Williams of the USA is set to lead a string of top contenders next week at Melbourne. And while her talent on the tennis court is unquestionable, we canít help but wonder how much will fitness be a factor?

After rejoining the WTA Tour last summer following multiple injuries, the 30 year old former number one Williams showed signs of rust

Serena Williams of the USA | Image: Getty
Australian Open
Iím picking Williams, who has won fourteen Australian Open matches in a row, to top the defending champion Clijsters in this yearís Melbourne final.

but still managed to reach the Wimbledon round of sixteen.

Then at the US Open in September, Williams would fall in the final round after failing to deliver the same tennis in the final round which had resulted in the American winning her prior 18 WTA Tour matches in a row.

Following the US Open, Williams took time off before competing in Brisbane near the start of the year. A left ankle sprain in the Brisbane round of sixteen would lead to a walkover loss from Williams in the quarterfinals.

Joining Williams on the WTA Tour injury watch list are the fourth seeded Russian Maria Sharapova (ankle), the 11th seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium (left hip) and the top seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark (wrist).

Iím picking Williams, who has won fourteen Australian Open matches in a row, to top the defending champion Clijsters in this yearís Melbourne final. Williams missed last yearís Australian Open due to injury after taking titles in 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005 and 2003.

In menís tennis, the world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the world number two Rafael Nadal of Spain will both look to shake off nagging injuries. Following Melbourne, Nadal will reportedly take most of the month of February off from the ATP Tour to rest a shoulder injury before taking part in major ATP Tour tournaments in California and Florida.

After a 70-6 2011 ATP Tour record which includes grand slam titles at Melbourne, Wimbledon and the US Open, it would be difficult to bet against the Serbian, even though he suffered a back injury late in the year. But tennis loves an upset and if youíve followed my picks before, you know so do I.

Iím picking the talented and also recently injured (wrist) 11th seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina to breakthrough to win his first grand slam title since the 2009 US Open by ousting the defending champion Djokovic in the Melbourne final. The 6 feet, 6 inches tall, 23 year old former ATP Tour number four is overdue for another grand slam win considering his stunningly powerful serve and baseline game which includes perhaps the most powerful forehand in the game today.

2012 Australian Open Champions: Serena Williams and Juan Martin del Potro

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