Serena Williams is again the favorite at a Grand Slam, but the 38-year-old hasn’t won a title at this level in three years when she won at the Australian Open in 2017 to close within one of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
Since, Serena has seen the evolution of players like Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and watched new faces like Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff rise up.
The 7-time champion just ended a 5-match final losing streak in Auckland, but the competition looks to be much, much stiffer in Melbourne.
Here’s a look at the four quarters of the Australian Open draw:
Top 4 Seeds: (1) Ash Barty, (7) Petra Kvitova, (10) Madison Keys, (13) Petra Martic
Threats: Maria Sakarri, Katerina Siniakova, Ekatarina Alexandrova, Julia Goerges, Elena Rybakina, Alison Riske
Notes: Tough openers for Kvitova (Siniakova) and Keys (Kasatkina)… Home favorite Barty has a good draw though has only made it into week 2 once at the Australian Open, but that was a year ago when she reached the QFs losing to Kvitova… Shenzhen finalist Rybakina and Riske could surprise, both have friendly draws… Kvitova could meet Keys in fourth round with a look at Barty in the quarter rematch… Big serves, big hitters in this section.
Top 4 Seeds: (3) Naomi Osaka, (8) Serena Williams, (12) Johanna Konta, (14) Sofia Kenin
Threats: Maria Bouzkova, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Carolina Wozniacki, Caroline Garcia, Anastasia Potapova, Dayana Yastremska
Notes: Easily the toughest quarter of the draw with the last three champions Osaka, Wozniacki and Serena… Overall, 6 Grand Slam champions adding Stephens and Venus who have both gone deep in Melbourne, and Australian veteran Stosur… Serena and Osaka are the two tournament favorites for now… A gimpy Venus collides with Coco Monday in their Wimbledon first round rematch and the match of the first round… Serena en route to No. 24 might have to navigate through an upset-minded Wang, young Yastremska who is coached by former Serena-team member Sascha Bajin… Both Serena (Potapova) and Osaka (Bouzkova) have tricky openers… 2018 winner Wozniacki plays her final event… A Kenin-Stephens looks tasty.
Top 4 Seeds: (4) Simona Halep, (6) Belinda Bencic, (11) Aryna Sabalenka, (16) Elise Mertens
Threats: Jelena Ostapenko, Donna Vekic, Maria Sharapova, Iga Swiatek, Karolina Muchova, Danielle Collins, Jen Brady
Notes: Former finalist Halep will be under immediate pressure against the in-form Brady then 2019 semifinalist Collins… Both Brady and Collins have been playing well to start 2020… And Halep could run into Sabalenka in the quarters, she just lost to the Belarussian in Adelaide… Halep is still the class as Bencic and Sabalenka have little to show in Melbourne and Mertens hasn’t been a big factor in Slams since her 2018 Australian semifinal run… Back with coach Cahill, if Halep can survive week 1, it could be her quarter.
Top 4 Seeds: (2) Karolina Pliskova, (5) Elina Svitolina, (9) Kiki Bertens, (15) Marketa Vondrousova
Threats: Garbine Muguruza, Amanda Anismova, Ajla Tomljanovic, Anastasia Sevastova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Angelique Kerber, Kristina Mladenovic, Coco Vandeweghe
Notes: Despite a tough opener with Mladenovic, Pliskova has to like her draw with seed Pavlyuchenkova in the third, former champion Kerber in the fourth and a quarterfinalist the last two years, Svitolina in the last eight… Muguruza and Kerber are the lone former Slam winners, but neither come in with momentum…. Anismova could take advantage in her 16.
The top half of the women’s draw will see action on Monday, bottom half on Tuesday.
Reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu withdrew due to a knee. Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka also pulled out due to personal issues.
Former champions in the field are Osaka (2019), Wozniacki (2018), Serena (7 times), Kerber (2016), Sharapova (2008).
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