x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wozniacki can be the great Dane

The youngster picks up the baton at the Australian Open from Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina as the new "girl most likely" to register a maiden grand slam success.

Caroline Wozniacki picks up the baton at the Australian Open from Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina as the new "girl most likely" to register a maiden grand slam success. The Danish youngster, runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the US Open last September, has made outstanding progress over the past 12 months to occupy a menacing fourth seeding in possibly the least demanding quarter of the women's singles draw at the Australian Open.

Despite a frustratingly early exit from last week's warm-up tournament in Sydney, Wozniacki has the confidence and ability to compensate in Melbourne for her New York disappointment and it promises to be an intriguing quarter-final between her and the American Venus Williams if results over the first half of the tournament go to form. A more likely upset in the first week would be the early departure of Safina, who has failed dismally over the last year to endorse the view of her supporters that she is on the brink of a first major honour.

Safina, who retired from the end-of-season Tour championships with a back injury, was prevented from making her seasonal reappearance in Brisbane earlier this month by the same problem and she looks the most vulnerable of second seeds here. It would be a surprise if she survives to keep a fourth-round appointment with her compatriot Maria Sharapova for the probable reward of a quarter-final against another unimpressive former world No 1 Jankovic.

The Serbian player has managed only a solitary grand slam final appearance - in the 2007 US Open - to reflect her consistently high ranking, and she is running out of time to make her major mark. An undemanding draw which starts with a first-round date with Romania's Monica Niculescu may provide her with the time to boost form and confidence before the serious business starts in the second week.