The first major tournament of the year always generates a great deal of excitement and anticipation. Players have been training hard over the Christmas break to get themselves fir for another gruelling season and being the first major, the Australian Open generally throws up some unexpected results.
The women’s draw at the year’s Australian Open is one of the tightest in recent years with several genuine contenders amongst the top seeds. Let’s have a look at how the draw might pan out…
The Top Seeds
- Angelique Kerber (GER) – Starts the year as the new Number 1 having claimed two out of the four grand slam titles from last year. Is the reigning champion here in Melbourne and is well positioned to defend her title. She will be tough to beat.
- Serena Williams (USA) – Serena has copped a very tough draw for the first few rounds and is grouped with the likes of Belinda Bencic, Yanina Wickmayer and Lucie Šafářová. If she can get through her first few matches unscathed, it will provide a great springboard into the rest of the tournament. Recovering from a Shoulder injury and looked rusty in the lead-up tournament but I still expect her to do well.
- Agnieszka Radwańska (POL) – Has a good record at Melbourne Park. Has twice reached the semi-finals here at the Australian Open and has made it to the quarter-finals on four other occasions. In a relatively tough quarter of the draw but should feature in the second week at the very least.
- Simona Halep (ROM) – Halep has a good draw this year but has not had a great deal of success by her standards here in Melbourne. She was knocked out in the first round last year but did make the quarter-finals in 2014 and 2015. Well placed to make her first semi-final here.
- Karolína Plíšková (CZE) – The one to watch at Melbourne in my opinion. Had a terrific finish to last season where she fell just short of winning the US Open in a tight loss to Angelique Kerber. Won the lead up tournament in Brisbane with ease and looks in great form.
- Dominika Cibulková (SVK) – Finalist here in 2014 but she was knocked out in the first round here last year. Her results have been very inconsistent at the majors of recent years and will need to work hard on stringing some good matches together. Can be very dangerous on her day though.
- Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) – Has never progressed beyond the fourth round at the Australian Open. She has been drawn in the same quarter as Angelique Kerber but I expect Garbiñe to make the quarters at the very least. The Melbourne hard courts should suit her game and she’s extremely dangerous when firing.
- Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) – Kuznetsova hasn’t had a great record of late at the Australian Open but crucially finds herself amongst the top 8 seeds with a good path to the second week. Still has the ability to do a lot of damage.
- Johanna Konta (GBR) – Clearly enjoys playing here in Australia. She was a semi-finalist here last year and brings some great form to Melbourne Park this year having just claimed the Sydney International in the lead-up. Does have a relatively tough draw though with Kirsten Flipkens her opponent in the first round.
- Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) – Always a tough player on any day. She is twice a quarter-finalist here in Melbourne. Can’t see her challenging for the title but wouldn’t be surprised to see her feature in the second week.
Sam Stosur – Melbourne has never been a happy hunting ground for Sam. She Seeded 18 this year but has not had great form in the lead-up tournaments. Sadly I don’t think we’ll see her beyond the first week.
Daria Gavrilova – Dasha enjoys playing in Melbourne and recorded her best grand slam result with a fourth round appearance here last year. Could be an outside chance to make the second week but it will be tough.
Winner: Karolína Plíšková
I’m backing Plíšková to take out the title this year. Her form in the latter half of last year was excellent and she is coming off a comprehensive win at the Brisbane International. She was up a break in the third set of her US Open final to Angelique Kerber last year but nerves may have gotten the better of her on that occasion. I think she will be better for the experience and will go one better at Melbourne this year.
Runner-up: Angelique Kerber
I believe there’s only a small handful of players who can beat Kerber at this year’s tournament but I’m picking Plíšková to be one of them. I expect Angelique to still do extremely well and she should at least feature in this year’s final.
Dark Horse: Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki had a great second half of last season after recovering from injury. Enjoys playing on the hard courts. She comes into this season with full fitness for the first time in a few years and I think she is definitely an outside chance. Worth noting that she is a former world number 1 so she is more than capable of going deep into the draw.