The Australian Open comes at a perfect time for the world's top-ranked women, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Vera Zvonareva of Russia.
By winning the first grand slam event of 2011 they can tamp down much of the rampant scepticism that they are worthy of their Nos 1-2 rankings. To be sure, the women's draw has been weakened by the absence of Serena Williams, the five-time champion who continues to nurse her mysterious foot injury; the slow comeback by Justine Henin and the abrupt retirement in October of Elena Dementieva.
But a slam is a slam, and both Wozniacki and Zvonareva could do much for their reputations by winning a first major championship. More than a few observers believe Wozniacki as No 1 may soon be viewed in the same "however did that happen?" light now shed on the brief top-of-the-world positions held in 2008 by Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, each of whom promptly wilted.
Wozniacki has not been sharp; she lost her first match at Sydney last week. But she has a fairly easy path to the final. Henin or Francesca Schiavone loom in the quarter-finals, but neither is quite healthy, and Venus Williams is the likely semi-final opponent.
Zvonareva has the rougher road, with the Aussie hope Samantha Stosur likely her opponent in the quarters, and tournament favourite Kim Clijsters in the semis.
No matter. We ought to see a Wozniacki-Zvonareva final. That is, if they are deserving of their rankings.