The road to Melbourne - women

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: December 14 2012, 8:29 GMT

Our Andy Schooler looks at which women are heading where to fine tune their game for next month's Australian Open.

World number one Victoria Azarenka plays in Brisbane

The sea change in this year's pre-Australian Open schedule is the shift in power between Brisbane and Sydney.

Whereas last year the world's best gathered in Sydney to put the finishing touches to their preparations, this time around eight of the world's top 10 will be further up the east coast at the Brisbane International.

It really is a stellar line-up with the world's top three - Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova - all signed to play in the opening week of the new WTA season. The tournament begins on December 30.

Before then Azarenka and Williams will play a potentially-explosive exhibition match at the Hua Hin in Thailand on December 29, while Sharapova faces Caroline Wozniacki in Seoul the day before.

The Apia International Sydney, in which eight of the top nine played last season, looks the loser in 2013. It has attracted seven of the top 10 this time around but significantly none of the leading trio.

It could be that the top female players have taken the long-held male view that going full tilt the week before a Grand Slam is not the best idea. Several leading names picked up injuries in Sydney at the start of last season and duly limped into Melbourne.

World number four Agnieszka Radwanska opts to compete in Auckland in same week as Brisbane - quite a coup for ASB Classic organisers - as does British number one Heather Watson, while Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic head up the female contingent at the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth.

The ITF's mixed team event guarantees its competitors at least three singles and three doubles matches during the week due to its round-robin format, while both Williams and Ivanovic could well expect to play four of each as the USA and Serbia are seeded to meet in the final. Williams teams up with John Isner, while Ivanovic plays alongside men's world number one Novak Djokovic.

There is also a new WTA tournament in the opening week of the season, this one taking place in Shenzhen, China. Unsurprisingly, Li Na is the tournament's star name, while Briton Laura Robson will begin her campaign there.

The week of the Sydney tournament also sees action in Hobart, a field currently led by former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

A list of where the big names are heading for the early part of the season appears below.

Exhibition, Seoul (Dec 28) - Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki

ITF Hyundai Hopman Cup, Perth (Dec 29-Jan 5) - Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic

World Tennis Invitation, Hua Hin (Dec 29) - Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka

WTA Brisbane International (Dec 30-Jan 5) - Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki

WTA Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open (Dec 30-Jan 5) - Li Na, Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic, Laura Robson

WTA ASB Classic, Auckland (Dec 31-Jan 5) - Agnieszka Radwanska, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Heather Watson, Zheng Jie

WTA Apia International Sydney (Jan 6-12) - Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani, Sam Stosur, Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki

WTA Moorilla Hobart International (Jan 6-12) - Francesca Schiavone, Su-Wei Hsieh, Sorana Cirstea

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