One of the busiest and most attention-grabbing weeks of the tennis year has just finished. With players returning from the off-season in need of match practice, the first week of 2013 saw all members of the WTA top ten in action. Most chose to kick-start their Australian Open build-up in Brisbane, but Shenzhen and Auckland also attracted some big names.

Here is a brief rundown of what the WTA top ten achieved last week, and where they stand leading up to the first Grand Slam of the year…

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

The world number one looked in sensational form during her first two matches in Brisbane, defeating the dangerous floater Sabine Lisicki and then thrashing Ksenia Pervak. Unfortunately, a toe infection – apparently the result of a bad pedicure – forced her to pull out of a semi-final against Serena. Azarenka says should be fit and ready to defend her Australian Open title, and the limited match practice shouldn’t be a problem for such a focused player, but if the going gets tough in the early rounds in Melbourne, the injury may become a factor in the latter stages of the tournament.

Maria Sharapova

The French Open champion will be the only top ten player not to have struck a ball competitively before the year’s first Grand Slam, as a collarbone injury forced her out of her only planned warm-up event in Brisbane. The Russian is practising intensively, however, so the ailment appears to have been only a minor setback. Moreover, she didn’t play any lead-up tournaments before last year’s Australian Open, and made it all the way to the final.

Serena Williams

The American legend is the hot pick for the 2013 Australian Open title, and her exploits in Brisbane last week only confirmed her status as the front-runner. Serena charged through all four of her matches without dropping a set, and looked focussed and intense throughout – a worrying sign for her competitors. The younger Williams sister remains favourite to not only win a 16th Grand Slam title, but also recapture the number one ranking.

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