By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Probably one of the most wide open fields
- Will we see a maiden Slam winner to start the year?
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – With perhaps one of the most wide open fields in a while, who will capitalise in the first Slam of the year.
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Top Quarter – Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova
Simona Halep could not have asked for a better start to the year having scooped the title in Shenzhen at the start of the season. As she searched for that elusive first Slam, her first seed could be Petra Kvitova, whose start to the year has not been anywhere near as encouraging. There ought to be nothing stopping her reaching the quarter-finals.
At the other section of the draw, Karolina Pliskova will most likely face fellow Czech Lucie Safarova in the third round and Johanna Konta in the fourth round. The Brit seems to have some renewed vigour at the start of this year, although had a disappointing end to her Sydney title defence.
Second Quarter – Garbiñe Muguruza, Caroline Garcia
This section does feel a little like the battle of the walking wounded. Garbiñe Muguruza has been struggling early on with her fitness, collapsing with cramp in the season opener in Brisbane, and then withdrawing after scrapping her way through injury in Sydney.
With the prospect of Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round who seems to have re-found her groove a little, not to mention Angelique Kerber, Anastasija Sevastova and Maria Sharapova lurking as possible fourth-round opponents, it may not be the chance for the Spaniard to add to her Slam haul.
At the bottom of the quarter – Caroline Garcia, who impressed many at the WTA Finals retired in her opener in tears with a lower back spasm, and would potentially come up against Madison Keys in the fourth round, or Kristina Mladenovic, although her compatriot’s form has been a mess since the middle of last year.
Given the way she has been playing this year, expect some scattered seeds here and Kerber to emerge from this quarter.
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Third Quarter – Venus Williams, Elina Svitolina
Last year’s finalist Venus Williams will be looking to repeat that form, but has not had the best of starts to the year, losing to an inspired Kerber in Sydney. She could come up against Ekaterina Makarova, who beat her here when they last played in 2014.
At the other side of the bracket, Elina Svitolina will expect to build on her strong start to the season and a lot depends on exactly which Sloane Stephens turns up. Reigning champion Sloane Stephens props up the other side of the bracket and will be looking to rekindle that form.
Bottom Quarter – Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Wozniacki
Despite coming out the winner of a competitive exhibition match against Serena Williams, the start of the season has not been as good with a first round exit in Sydney. Her first seed could be Anett Kontaveit who had a solid season last year.
Caroline Wozniacki must surely put herself in with a shout to advance to the quarter-finals and beyond – and having won the WTA Finals, can she finally lay claim to a Slam title?
The Australian Open starts on 15 January.
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