Defending champion and seven-time champion Serena Williams is out, but six women can leave this year’s Australian Open with the No. 1 ranking, including current No. 1 Simona Halep who has no points to defend.
Unseeded Maria Sharapova and lower seeds such as Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys will keep the Top 10 players on their toes as a first-time champion is likely to break through in Melbourne.
Here’s a look at the four quarters of the draw:
Top 4 Seeds: (1) Simona Halep, (6) Karolina Pliskova, (9) Johanna Konta, (16) Elena Vesnina
Floaters: Genie Bouchard, Oceane Dodin, Camila Giorgi, Naomi Osaka, (27) Petra Kvitova, (29) Lucie Safarova
Notes: The top quarter is the toughest in the bracket seed-wise. The world No. 1 Halep is grouped with the former No. 1 Pliskova, Top 10er Johanna Konta, the former Wimbledon champion Kvitova and a host of floaters…Tough starts for (1) Halep vs. the Bouchard-Dodin winner 2nd. rd. and then (27) Kvitova 3rd rd., (18) Ashleigh Barty vs. Giorgi 2nd rd., and (16) Vesnina vs. Okasa 2nd rd…Bouchard is 0-6 in her last six matches…Halep will have a tough time pressure-wise as the top seed at a Slam for the first time in her career where she could lose the No. 1 ranking.
Top 4 Seeds: (3) Garbine Muguruza, (8) Caroline Garcia, (11) Kristina Mladenovic, (14) Anastasija Sevastova
Floaters: (21) Angie Kerber, (26) Aggie Radwanska, (17) Madison Keys, Maria Sharapova, Shelby Rogers, Carina Witthoeft
Notes: The toughest section overall, with crazy low-seeded floaters and unseeded threats (former No. 1 Kerber, former No. 2 Radwanska, Keys, former No. 1 Sharapova)…Challenging beginnings for (14) Sevastova vs. Sharapova (Sevastova beat her at last year’s US Open) in the 2nd rd., (28) Lucic-Baroni (still suffering a shoulder injury?) vs. the upset specialist Rogers, and (8) Garcia (still suffering a back injury?) vs. the 2017 breakout player Witthoeft of Germany…Potential 3rd rd. matches are (3) Muguruza vs. (26) Radwanska, and (21) Kerber vs. Sharapova…Confidence has to be low for (11) Mladenovic who can’t buy a win…Kerber looks on form after going undefeated in Hopman Cup and into the final at Sydney, if she hasn’t overplayed going into Melbourne.
Top 4 Seeds: (4) Elena Svitolina, (5) Venus Williams, (12) Julia Goerges, (13) Sloane Stephens
Floaters: Belinda Bencic, Irina-Camelia Begu, (22) Daria Kasatkina, (23) Daria Gavrilova, Shuai Zhang
Notes: (5) Venus vs. Bencic the must-watch 1st rd. match in Melbourne…Other tough starts for (31) Makarova vs. Begu, and the injury-hampered (13) Stephens vs. Zhang, who she has previously lost to…Watch the hot-handed (12) Goerges who is lining up (23) Gavrilova in the 3rd rd. and (5) Williams in the 4th rd…Goerges has never made it past R16 in Melbourne, but is currently riding a 14-match winning streak.
Top 4 Seeds: (2) Caroline Wozniacki, (7) Jelena Ostapenko, (10) CoCo Vandeweghe, (17) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Floaters: Francesca Schiavone, Kaia Kanepi, Sam Stosur, Monica Puig, Carla Suarez Navarro, Timea Babos, Cici Bellis, Mihaela Buzarnescu
Notes: Big opportunity for Wozniacki to retake No. 1 — and win a first Slam title…Interesting starts for the struggling (7) Ostapenko vs. the former Slam winner Schiavone, (24) Cibulkova vs. the veteran Kanepi (winner to meet the Stosur-Puig winner), (10) Vandeweghe vs. Babos (winner to meet Suarez Navarro), (30) Bertens vs. the American upstart Bellis, and (2) Woz in an interesting match-up vs. the streaking unknown Buzarnescu who is in the Hobart final this weekend…(7) Ostapenko is 1-3 in last 4 matches and 0-1 in 2018.
Serena beat Venus in the all-Williams final last year. The seven-time champion Serena (maternity) withdrew from the tournament as did former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, Timea Bacsinszky, Ana Konjuh, Laura Siegemund, Sara Sorribes Tormo, and Zheng Saisai.
This is the 50th edition of the tournament in the Open Era and the 106th overall.
Women’s wildcards were awarded to American Kristie Ahn, France’s Jessika Ponchet, China’s Wang Xinyu, and Aussies Destanee Aiava, Lizette Cabrera, Jaimee Fourlis, Olivia Rogowska and Ajla Tomljanovic.
Former champions in the field are Kerber (2016) and Sharapova (2008).
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