6 players vie for women's top ranking in Melbourne

Published January 15, 2012

| Associated Press

Petra Kvitova is closing in on another landmark at the Australian Open, seven months after her first Grand Slam title.

Six players are vying for the No. 1 ranking at the Australian Open. Unlike most players, Kvitova said it was never a childhood dream.

"When I started to play tennis, I didn't think I would be a professional tennis player," the 21-year-old Czech said Sunday. "So for me to win Wimbledon, (the year-end) Championships, Fed Cup, it wasn't my dream. But it's very nice.

"If I maybe can be No. 1, it will be very nice, too, of course."

Despite not winning a Grand Slam title, Caroline Wozniacki holds the top spot because of her tournament victories and ranking points. She must reach at least the fourth round at the Australian Open to have a chance of staying there.

Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska could earn the top ranking after the two-week tournament, but No. 2 Kvitova is the favorite.

Since the win at Wimbledon in July, Kvitova says her command of English has improved. She might need to make a speech at Melbourne Park.

"I had a lot of press and a lot of media. I had to improve my English," she said. "I'm still little bit nervous, but it's much better."

In her first Grand Slam after Wimbledon, she lost in the first round of the U.S. Open. But she recovered to win the season-ending tournament and help the Czech Republic claim the Fed Cup title.

"It's really strange for me," Kvitova said of the fame. "I'm already get used to (it). I mean, it's the part of our life. We have to live with this."

___

HEWITT'S HOPE: The 10th anniversary of Lleyton Hewitt's last Grand Slam win is this July, but he isn't ready to give up on winning the Australian Open for the first time.

A troublesome foot injury means the 30-year-old Hewitt's ranking has slipped to No. 186. He needed a wild card just to compete in Melbourne, but said his approach hasn't differed from any of his other 50 Grand Slam tournaments.

"When I come to Grand Slams or big tournaments anyway, you're sort of in your own bubble a little bit," Hewitt said Sunday. "You're not worried about the outside talk or what it's really about. You're doing everything in your power just to be as ready as possible."

Hewitt won Wimbledon in 2002. His best result in Melbourne came in 2005 when he lost to Marat Safin in the final. He'll play unseeded German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the first round.

While Hewitt prepares for his 16th Australian Open, the 38th-ranked Australian Bernard Tomic is heading into his fourth. Tomic was 5 when Hewitt began his professional career.

The promising 19-year-old is attracting most of the attention from the local media in the buildup to this year's Open, especially after winning the recent Kooyong exhibition.

Tomic has a tough opening-round match, facing 24th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

"When I'm on the tennis court, I don't think about anything, except trying to win," said Tomic, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year.

___

BIRTHDAY BRIT: British player Laura Robson doesn't turn 18 until Saturday. But she's already celebrating after qualifying for the Australian Open for the first time.

Robson, who was born in Melbourne, is one of six British players in the men's and women's draws — the highest since 1992. The 134th-ranked Robson plays No. 13 Jelena Jankovic in the first round.

British journalists packed a tiny interview room to hear her speak, although she wasn't about to let the attention go to her head.

"I think there's a lot of British journalists here because of Andy (Murray), not for me, really, and I'm just sort of an add-along," she said. "But it's great that there's some interest there, and I don't know how I feel, really. It's something that I've gotten used to over the years."

The attention doesn't just come from the media. Robson said she's already had an early birthday present from an admirer.

"This young guy, he gave me a cookbook, which obviously I love, and a necklace with an L on it," she said. "His name was Peter. He's from Australia. I'm going to find out his full name so I can send him a thank-you note."

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/01/15/6-players-vie-for-womens-top-ranking-in-melbourne/