Serena Williams Topped by Victoria Azarenka as Favorite for Australian Open 2016

Serena Williams Topped by Victoria Azarenka as Favorite for Australian Open 2016

Serena Williams indeed had a campaign to remember last season, but ESPN tennis pundits aren’t sure she can emulate that incredible run this year, especially after taking a long layoff at the tail end of the tour.

Williams, the reigning Australian Open champion, didn’t have the overwhelming support she had last season as only two of 12 ESPN tennis experts picked her to win the first Grand Slam tourney of the year.

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Only Cliff Drysdale and Matt Wilansky believed that Serena can still pick up where she left off despite taking quite a lengthy hiatus from tennis after falling short of winning all Grand Slam tourneys in one season at the US Open in September.

Former Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka is emerging as the early favorite in women’s singles after dominating the competition at the Brisbane International.

Already nursing a knee injury, Williams will be facing immense pressure in defending her title this year, with former world’s no.1 Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova all pitted in her half of the draw.

The opening round won’t get any easier as the 21-time Grand Slam winner faces up-and-coming Camila Giorgi, who is not stranger to upsetting higher-ranked opponents after besting Wozniacki, Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka in the past.

Still, Williams appears unfazed of her tough draw and insisted that she has prepared enough to defend the title.

“I’ve had a really good preparation,” Williams told reporters via the Associated Press. “I didn’t have the match play that I’ve wanted to have but after playing for so many years on tour, I should be able to focus on that and the fact that I have played a lot of matches. I don’t really ever look at the draw, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention it. Thank you.”