MELBOURNE, Australia - The two teams many consider the favorites to capture the 2013 Australian Open doubles title, Serena and Venus Williams and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, are in the same quarter of the draw.
Last time they took the doubles court, the Williams sisters were upended at a Grand Slam for just the ninth time in their legendary partnership in the third round of the 2012 US Open against Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. Nevertheless, they are still 104-9 at majors with 13 titles, one short of Gigi Fernández and Natasha Zvereva for second-most for a duo in the Open Era. Also, they are 33-3 at the Australian Open with four titles, the most recent ones coming at their last two appearances here - in 2009 and 2010.
As for Errani and Vinci, they are coming off a 2012 that saw them collect a WTA-best eight titles, including the French Open and US Open, en route to being named Doubles Team Of The Year. Also, both players spent time as World No.1 in doubles, where Vinci currently resides. Though they are the No.1 seeds, they would surely be underdogs in a final eight affair with the Williamses, as the Italians only mustered two games in their only clash so far - at the Olympics last summer.
Other teams to watch out for on the top half of the draw are Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik and Liezel Huber and María José Martínez Sánchez. Petrova and Srebotnik kicked off their year without losing a set en route to the title in Sydney last week. Huber and Martínez Sánchez's brief history together includes a title at Dubai in 2011, and Huber has five Grand Slam titles to her name - one of them coming at the 2007 Australian Open. On top of that, she has spent the second-most weeks in doubles rankings history as World No.1, while Martínez Sánchez has gotten as high as No.4 on the rankings.
The favorites to get through the bottom half of the draw are second-seeded Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Among their nine titles together are the 2011 French Open. They were also runners-up at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the US Open and the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships last year.