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Now it's my Turn

Café Tennis

December 30, 2012 | 03:20 PM

Café Tennis

Welcome to an informal weekly look at what the sport of professional tennis is serving up to fans all across the globe and how it may all unfold.

Joanie Agler

Brisbane International (ATP) -

Top 4 Seeds - Murray, Raonic, Simon and Dolgopolov

Potential Spoilers - Hewitt, Benneteau, Robredo, Baghdatis, and Baker

On paper, defending champion Murray is heads and shoulders above the competition. But after a lackluster performance in Abu Dhabi, an inspired Hewitt, tricky Stepanek, or dangerous Klizan or Dolgopolov could derail the Scot's title hopes. On the flip side, the bottom half of the draw is a golden opportunity for Canadian Raonic, who has some experience defeating Murray, to prove he's ready to live up to the promise he's exhibited, or for American Baker to show what we saw last year was no fluke.

Biggest Opportunity For... Andy Murray - There's enough talent in the field for the Scot to test his game, and he has the added comfort of knowing he can beat everybody in the draw if he plays anywhere in the vicinity of his best.

ATP Aircel Chennai Open -

Top 4 Seeds - Berdych, Tipsarevic, Cilic and Wawrinka

Potential Spoilers - Paire, Haase

Unlike Brisbane, the field in Chennai doesn't appear to have nearly the same potential to cause upsets. Assuming they're capable of staying out of their own way, there's no reason to expect any of the top four seeds to falter before the quarters. As playing up to snuff is sometimes a struggle for Cilic and Wawrinka, however, there may be a slight opening for players with big or aggressive games, like Paire and Haase, to make a move.

Biggest Opportunity For... Tomas Berdych - He's been handed a kind draw where theoretically he doesn't need to play well until the last couple of rounds. It's just what the doctor ordered to put a little space between himself and Delpo in the rankings, as well as to gain some much needed confidence going into Oz.

Quatar Exxonmobil Open - - English

Quatar Exxonmobil Open - - Arabic

Top 4 Seeds - Ferrer, Gasquet, Kohlschreiber, and Youzhny

Potential Spoilers - F. Lopez, Troicki, Andujar, Davydenko, and Monfils

The event in Doha may have lost its star attraction when Rafael Nadal withdrew, but the No. 1 seed is well-covered by his countryman, David Ferrer. Outside of fellow veterans Youzhny and Davydenko rediscovering their form, or Rosol catching lightening in a bottle twice, it's hard to envision Ferrer failing to make the title match. The bottom half of the draw is filled with underachievers who have let nerves or lack of drive hold them back. Gasquet leads the charge as the No. 2 seed, but it's feasible to see Troicki, Kohlschreiber, or perhaps even the entertaining Monfils (provided he's even remotely healthy enough) putting together a nice run.

Biggest Opportunity For... David Ferrer - He's top seed, he's in a position to defend points from 2012, continue his momentum from last season, and further legitimize the rise in the rankings he'll likely soon be making with Nadal's withdrawals from Doha and the Aussie Open.

Brisbane International (WTA)

Top 4 Seeds - Azarenka, Sharapova, S. Williams and Kerber

Potential Spoilers - Lisicki, Safarova, Wozniacki, Stephens, Stosur, Kvitova, and Errani

To say that the women's field in Brisbane is loaded would be an understatement. The top half in particular is strong. Azarenka and Williams will be the favorites to reach the semis, but if either woman is off her game, there's a pool of talent that includes former No. 1 Wozniacki and Grand Slam Champion Stosur just waiting to bump them off. The bottom half is slightly less stacked, which will be much to the liking of Sharapova. Still, don't underestimate Kvitova suddenly finding her form or Kerber backing up her 2012 to remind everyone they're also still among the game's elite.

Biggest Opportunity For... The WTA - It's time to prove that there's stability at the top, and if Azarenka, Williams, or Sharapova walks away with the title, that will help the cause. As for those three ladies, Sharapova has the slightly easier road to the final, but if either Azarenka or Williams is there to meet her, with their respective records against the Russian, you have to like their odds.

Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open - - Chinese

Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open - - English

Top 4 Seeds - Li, Bartoli, Jankovic and Hsieh

Potential Spoilers - Peng, Robson

Li will be looking to delight the home crowds that are apt to come out in droves to watch her play. Li's draw has certainly lent itself to making such an effort possible, though Hsieh could provide a potential roadblock, as could Peng should she re-discover that old magic. The bottom half is anchored by the quirky Bartoli, but it should be seen as a real chance for Robson to build on what she did last season and prove that British women's tennis truly has something to smile about.

Biggest Opportunity For... Li Na - The top female Chinese star is going to be continuing her partnership with Rodriguez, and it's a partnership that has already seen plenty of success in the short time that they've been together. She should get some love from the home crowd and with any luck, be able to ride that support to a title and gain the confidence necessary to perform well in Oz.

ASB Classic -

Top 4 Seeds - A. Radwanska, Goerges, Wickmayer and J. Zheng

Potential Spoilers - Shvedova, Kuznetsova, Watson, Cirstea, McHale, Barthel

Away from the sport's biggest hitters, the event in Auckland will provide Radwanska with a chance to start her season with a win. She can't hit anyone off the court, so an in-form Kuznetsova or Cirstea could pull off the upset, as could winner of the golden set, Shvedova. The bottom half is much more open and features the hard-hitting and hot-headed Julia Goerges, who actually stands a good chance of reaching the final. Potential hurdles for her include the big-swinging Vandeweghe, as well as McHale, the young American who'll be looking to get her game back on track.

Biggest Opportunity For... Agnieszka Radwanska - The Pole is craftier, more consistent, and has more big-match experience then virtually anyone else in the field. With her most fearsome opposition playing in Brisbane, Radwanska needs to take advantage of the chance to post a deep run to protect her ranking and hone her touch-and-feel game. She's going to need those hands to be working well when she faces her biggest rivals two weeks from now.