By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- The Australian Open field sees all four active Slam holders from 2019 coming in with high hopes
- Simona Halep will also want to try and keep hold of the No. 1 spot which could be up for grabs this week
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The field feels quite open, with three of the active Slam holders all having won their first Slam last year, as we break down the Women’s draw for this year’s Australian Open.
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 Simona Halep
Arriving post injury at the end of the year, with no coach, it is a new period of reckoning for Halep. She worked so hard to achieve both the No. 1 spot, and her first Slam, it will be interesting to see how she will make a start after an opening loss in Sydney in her first competitive match of the year.
Halep’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
- R1: Kaia Kanepi | H2H tied at 1-1
- R2: Sofia Kenin | First Meeting
- R3: Mihaela Buzarnescu | Halep leads H2H 1-0
- R4: Serena Williams  | Williams leads 8-1
- QF: Karolina Pliskova  | Halep leads H2H 6-2
- SF: Naomi Osaka  | Halep leads H2H 4-1
- F: Angelique Kerber  | Halep leads H2H: 6-4
This is not a friendly draw to the engaging Romanian. Kaia Kanepi and recent title winner in Hobart Sofia Kenin are going to be tricky openers for a match shy Halep before she meets compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu.
All eyes though will gaze towards a potential fourth round match up with Serena Williams, making her comeback here after winning in 2017 while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia.
 Angelique Kerber
The former champion looks to be in decent form coming in. She impressed once more at the Hopman Cup, and despite not defending her title in Sydney – she is looking match-sharp.
Kerber’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
- R1: Polona Hercog | Kerber leads H2H 4-2
- R2: Bernarda Pera | First Meeting
- R3: Donna Vekic  | Kerber leads H2H 2-0
- R4: Julia Goerges  | Kerber leads H2H 2-1
- QF: Sloane Stephens  | Stephens leads H2H 5-1
- SF: Caroline Wozniacki  | Kerber leads H2H 8-7
- F: Simona Halep | Halep leads H2H: 6-4
It could be an intriguing third round clash against the charge of her former coach Torben Beltz, who of course helped guide Kerber to the Australian Open and US Open titles and Wimbledon final in 2016.
Sloane Stephens represents a very real challenge to Kerber trying to defend her semi-final points in what was very much a de facto final last year against Halep and if that does end up as our final, we could be in for a real treat.
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What a year for Wozniacki, who not only returned to the World No., 1 spot, won her maiden slam but later in the year was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and yet still managed w creditable finish at the WTA Finals.
Now learning how to manage her condition, defending a Slam will be a new challenge for the enduring Dane.
Wozniacki’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
- R1: Alison Van Uytvanck | Wozniacki leads H2H 1-0
- R2: Vera Lapko | First Meeting
- R3: Maria Sharapova  | Sharapova leads 6-4
- R4: Ashleigh Barty  | Wozniacki leads H2H 3-0
- QF: Petra Kvitova  | Kvitova leads 8-6
- SF: Angelique Kerber  | Kerber leads H2H 8-7
- F: Simona Halep  | Wozniacki leads H2H 5-2
It has been a marginally better start to the year for Wozniacki, at least getting one match win under her belt but she faces some string opposition if she wants to defend her title. A fit Maria Sharapova would be a potential pitfall but the Russian continues to struggle with her shoulder and probably is not the force she once was.
However both Petra Kvitova and Kerber have started the year strongly, with Kvitova winning in Sydney and if she can turn her Slam fortunes around, then it will be tough to see Wozniacki making it two finals in a row.
 Naomi Osaka
The reigning US Open champion has a lot of expectation on young shoulders too. It is still heart-breakng to consider that for her, the US Open is still quite bitter-sweet, when it should have been one of her defining moments.
Osaka’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
- R1: Magda Linette | Linette leads H2H 1-0
- R2: Daria Gavrilova | Gavrilova leads H2H 1-0
- R3: Hsieh Su-Wei  | Osaka leads H2H 1-0
- R4: Anastasija Sevastova  | H2H tied at 2-2
- QF: Elina Svitolina  | Svitolina leads H2H 3-2
- SF: Simona Halep  | Halep leads H2H 4-1
- F: Angelique Kerber  | Kerber leads H2H 4-1
Even allowing for the fact that a lot has changed since she lost to both her first two potential opponents, her draw does not seem to do her any favours. She ought to be assured of at least equalling her run to the fourth round from last year, but Elina Svitolina will be keen to make a mark and be a serious contender for her maiden Slam.
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The Australian Open takes place between 14-27 January (GMT +11 hours)
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