Melbourne, Jan 12 (Agencies): Tennis fans could hardly have guessed that when Serena Williams cut her foot in a Munich restaurant last August, the race for the 2011 Australian Open would be thrown wide open.

Serena has towered over the Australian Open in recent times, winning four of the past six titles, including the last two in a row.

But complications to her foot injury have meant Serena will not be making the trip to Melbourne this year and the task of picking a potential winner has suddenly become much tougher.

The early favourite is US Open champion Kim Clijsters, who arrived in Australia last week with her family in tow and brimming with confidence.

The Belgian world number three underlined her credentials when she beat the top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the year-end championships in Doha in November.

"I kind of wished that the season wasn't over yet, after the championships last year, because I was hitting the ball so well," Clijsters said.

"But I feel good (again now). I feel like I'm hitting the ball well and, injury-wise, there's no problems and that's obviously a big key here in Australia -- being fit enough to play these matches."

Clijsters showed she had not lost any of her 2010 form when she downed Wozniacki in an exhibition in Thailand at the start of the year.

The 27-year-old Belgian will also be desperate to atone for 2010, when she entered the Australian Open as one of the hot favourites but crashed out in the third round to Nadia Petrova 6-0, 6-1 in one of the most-lopsided matches of the tournament.

 
Denmark's Wozniacki ended the year as the women's world number one, reaching the peak of the game without having won a Grand Slam.

 
The 20-year-old Dane is the youngest year-end number one since Martina Hingis in 2000, but this week's second-round Sydney International loss has not helped convince critics she is worthy of the top ranking.