The Contrarian explains why hot favourite Serena Williams is worth opposing at the Australian Open...
The start of another year can only mean tennis' Grand Slam calendar is taking its annual swoop down under as the world's top tennis talents prepare to do battle in the sweltering Melbourne sun.
In the women's draw Serena Williams is backed in to hot-favouritism for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at 1.981/1 as she goes in search of a third straight slam. However, the Contrarian will not be getting behind the American as he goes in search of more lucrative returns. Here's why...
The Brisbane International winner has never gone on to win the Open
Most observers would have you believe Serena's preparation for the year's first slam was completed in perfect fashion following victory in the Brisbane International. However, closer inspection of the statistics reveals a worrying trend for one half of America's greatest sporting sister act. Since this hard-court appetiser for the Open was introduced by the WTA in 1997 not one single winner of the trophy has gone on to polish off the main course in Melbourne. And if you think this could be because of weakened fields, guess again, as four out of the last five victors represent previous grand slam champions.
She is on the tougher side of the draw
If there was one player that Serena would have hoped to avoid until the final it is defending champion and world number one Victoria Azarenka. As it is, the draw has offered up a potential semi-final showdown for the pair who last clashed in that epic two hour, three-set finale to the 2012 U.S Open. The Belarusian was only two points away from claiming her second Slam of the year at 5-3, before Serena somehow clawed her way back into the contest before closing out the championships. Azarenka was also a set up on the American here in 2009 before Williams was forced to retire through illness. However, before this anticipated match-up can even happen, Serena potentially faces a very dangerous third-round opponent in Yaroslava Shvedova. The rising star of Russian tennis ousted defending champion Li Na at the French last year, recorded a golden set (winning every point) against French Open finalist Sara Errani at Wimbledon, and pushed Serena to three sets in the fourth round in London.
She has not won three Slams in a row since "Serena Slam"
Serena may have won the last two Slams in 2012, but you have to flick through the annals to the famous Serena Slam of 2002/03 - in which she completed the full house of majors - for the last occasion she won more than two on the spin. The American will have last year's fourth-round upset at the hands of Russian Ekaterina Makarova still fresh in her mind too, in what was a blustery start to her season last year. Williams' year didn't take off until after the French Open in June where once again her massive favouritism was unfounded after an even more staggering upset to little known French player Virginie Razzano.
Serena is her own worst enemy
The younger Williams is undoubtedly the one everyone else wants to beat but on certain days her opponents need not hit every base or tramline to get past the queen of grunting. As with many great talents, Serena has a temper and if things are not going her way then she can lose it upstairs. The 2009 US Open was a perfect example, when Serena literally screamed herself out of the tournament after peppering the line judge with some most unladylike four-letter expletives.