HONG KONG, Jan 8, 2011 (AFP) - - Swedish tennis legend Stefan Edberg backed three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters on Saturday to continue her raid on the majors in the Australian Open.
Edberg made the prediction during an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong as Danish world number one Caroline Wozniacki was being thrashed in straight sets by second-placed Vera Zvonareva, with both preparing for the Grand Slam starting in Melbourne on January 17.
Clijsters, not in Hong Kong, is ranked third behind the Dane and the Russian, but former serve-volley master Edberg said the Belgian had her nose in front as the only woman in contention to have previously won a major.
"It's a tough call," Edberg said, adding that any one of the three could win. "Clijsters obviously has the edge because she has won the big ones. She's a little bit more of a favourite, I would imagine."
Last season Clijsters, 27, suffered a shock upset at the hands of Nadia Petrova in the third round at Melbourne.
With Wozniacki out of sorts and Zvonareva something of an unknown quantity, Venus Williams' fans will be hoping the American world number five can pull off a shock and add to her seven Grand Slams as she returns from a knee injury.
But Edberg said he didn't see the title going outside the top three.
"It's not an easy place to play and you need to be in good shape to make it through the two weeks," he said.
Edberg, 44, who has 42 career singles titles including six Grand Slams, was in Hong Kong to represent Europe in the World Team Challenge.
The Swede easily beat former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov on Saturday, hitting nine aces and getting the better of the Russian, eight years his junior, at the net.
Kafelnikov predicted world number one Rafael Nadal or 16-time Grand Slam singles winner Roger Federer would win in the men's tournament in Melbourne.
But he said competition among the women made the outcome too close to call.
"For the ladies it's different," he said. "There are six or seven ladies who can really win. In that respect, I think the women may be more interesting to watch and unpredictable."
Kafelnikov said Hong Kong was a special tournament because it came after a long break for most players, and competitors were given the chance to play in several matches, even if they lost in their first.
"It's one of the favourites among all the females," said the Russian, who competes in the senior event at the Australian Open.
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