2020 Australian Open – Women’s Singles Preview

Heading into the 2020 Australian Open, there is a lot of excitement around women’s tennis, and for a number of reasons!

Can Ashleigh Barty, after winning her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros last year, and the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen, become the first Australian women since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open?

Can Naomi Osaka defend her Australian Open crown, and become just the fourth woman since the start of 2000 after Jennifer Capriati (2001, 2002), Serena Williams (2009, 2010), and Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013) to win in consecutive years at Melbourne Park?

Can Simona Halep, after reuniting with coach Darren Cahill, win at a third different Grand Slam in as many years, and go one better than what she did two years ago when she made the final at the 2018 Australian Open, losing in an epic to Caroline Wozniacki?

Can Petra Kvitová back up her amazing and emotional run to the 2019 Australian Open, her first Grand Slam final after coming back from a career-threatening left hand injury suffered while defending herself from an intruder in her home in Czech Republic in late 2016, and win her first Australian Open crown, and her third Grand Slam title overall?

Can Karolína Plíšková win her first Grand Slam title after making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year, and making the US Open final back in 2016?

Can Elina Svitolina win her first Grand Slam title after making the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, and Belinda Bencic after making her first Grand Slam semi-final at Flushing Meadows in 2019?

However, the most poignant question heading into the 2020 Australian Open is whether Serena Williams, fresh off winning her 73rd career title, her first as a mother, and her first since the 2017 Australian Open, can at last equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles in the year Court celebrates her 50th anniversary of completing the calendar year Grand Slam?

So, who will win the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in 2020?

Here is my analysis of the 2020 Australian Open women’s singles draw!

 

Section One

The World No.1 Barty, who claimed her first professional tournament victory on Australian soil yesterday in Adelaide, should have little issue in reaching the fourth round and the second week of her home Grand Slam where she will meet either Alison Riske, who defeated Barty in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist Julia Görges, or Petra Martić, who made the Roland Garros quarter-finals in 2019, although Barty will need to be wary of Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Elena Rybakina, who won the Hobart International yesterday, in the third round.

However, you cannot see Barty not making the quarter-finals, and if she hits her absolute top form in the second week, it could a golden event at Melbourne Park for Australia!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Ashleigh Barty vs. (13) Petra Martić

 

Section Two

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová should have no real issues to reach the fourth round, although she will need to be wary of Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round, who won her first career title a couple of weeks ago in Shenzhen. However, who Kvitová will meet in the fourth round is up for debate with the 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys having a tough first round match against Daria Kasatkina, who made the quarter-finals at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018, before a potential third round with either 2014 US Open semi-finalist Peng Shuai, or Maria Sakkari, who won her first career title last year in Morocco.

However, you sense given the form that she showed in Brisbane, especially in defeating Kvitová in the semi-finals, that she will get through to the fourth round for a re-match with last year’s Australian Open finalist. However, can Keys, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2015, make a really deep run into the second week of a Grand Slam and reach her full potential in 2020? Staying fit and motivated will be the key for her!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (10) Madison Keys vs. (7) Petra Kvitová

 

Section Three

Defending champion Osaka has a deceptively tough draw in front of her with Marie Bouzková who made the semi-finals at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last year, in the first round, Zheng Saisai in the second round, and either seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, 15 year old American Coco Gauff, who qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon before defeating Venus Williams in the first round and will meet yet again in the first round at the Australian Open, 2009 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Sorana Cîrstea, or 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist Barbora Strýcová, who failed to make it beyond the first round at her other three Grand Slam main draw appearances in 2019. This is before meeting either 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, 2016 Australian Open quarter-finalist Zhang Shuai, 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, or the highly-talented Sofia Kenin, who won her first three career titles last year, in the fourth round.

Despite how arduous the draw ahead looks for Osaka, you sense she is in strong enough form to overcome all of the challengers in this section to make the quarter-final, and to make a genuine fist of defending her Australian Open crown!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Naomi Osaka vs. (14) Sofia Kenin

 

Section Four

This section features arguably the greatest tennis player (male or female) of all-time in Serena Williams, and the seven-time Australian Open champion shouldn’t have many problems in reaching the fourth round, although she will need to be wary of Wang Qiang in the third round, who of course defeated Barty in the fourth round of last year’s US Open.

This section also features 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, who will be retiring from professional tennis after the 2020 Australian Open, and she has a tough run with 19 year old Dayana Yastremska, who made the final in Adelaide and has won three career titles, in the second round, and then three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Johanna Konta, or 2017 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Caroline Garcia in third round before potentially a final-ever meeting, an emotional occasion with her great friend Serena, which other than winning a second Australian Open title, would be close to the perfect way to say goodbye!

However, back to Serena, can she at last equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2020 Australian Open? Given the form she showed to win in Auckland, she has a very strong chance, but it won’t be easy!

My predicted fourth round match-up: Caroline Wozniacki vs. (8) Serena Williams

 

Section Five

This is one of the tougher sections of the draw, but one where I think the two favoured players in last year’s US Open semi-finalist Belinda Bencic, and 2019 WTA Elite Trophy champion Aryna Sabalenka will make it through to the fourth round. However, Bencic will have to overcome 2017 Roland Garros champion Jeļena Ostapenko in the second round, and Anett Kontaveit in the third round, while Sabalenka has to overcome seven-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Carla Suárez Navarro in the opening round, 18 year old Iga Świątek in the second round, before meeting either 2019 US Open quarter-finalist Donna Vekić, 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova, who is the shadow of her former self having lost eight of her last 11 official matches, and hasn’t won consecutive matches since the 2019 Australian Open, or Alizé Cornet in the third round.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (6) Belinda Bencic vs. (11) Aryna Sabalenka

 

Section Six

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has a tough first round against American Jennifer Brady, who defeated Barty in the second round in Brisbane after Brady went through qualifying in Brisbane, and then a potential third round meeting with last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins. This is before a potential fourth round meeting with either 2019 US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, British player Heather Watson, American youngster CiCi Bellis, who is on the comeback from various injuries, 2013 Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens, or 2019 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Karolína Muchová.

However, given that Halep has lost in the first round in four of her nine previous Australian Open main draw appearances, and given the fact that Halep hasn’t gone through consecutive calendar years without losing in the first round of a Grand Slam event, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if she were to go out before the business end of the tournament.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (16) Elise Mertens vs. (26) Danielle Collins

 

Section Seven

This is a complex section of the draw, but a section where you feel both Elina Svitolina, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park for the last two years, and 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens should make it through to meet each other in the fourth round. However, Svitolina will need to beat either two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza, or 2018 US Open semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova in the third round, both match-ups not an easy task, while Bertens will have to face 18 year old American Amanda Anisimova, who of course made the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, but will be playing her first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon last year after the tragic passing of her father Konstantin a week before last year’s US Open.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Elina Svitolina vs. (9) Kiki Bertens

 

Section Eight

Last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Karolína Plíšková has a brutal draw with two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kristina Mladenovic in the first round, a player who has great recent memories of Australia after being the player of the 2019 Fed Cup Final in Perth to help France to their first Fed Cup win since 2003, and their third overall. Plíšková then has 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist and wildcard CoCo Vandeweghe in the second round, five-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round before meeting fellow countrywoman and 2019 Roland Garros finalist Markéta Vondroušová, who is on the comeback from a wrist injury that kept her out for the back half of 2019 since Wimbledon, or 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who suffered a back injury in Adelaide, in the fourth round.

Vondroušová, before a potential match-up with her fellow Czech in the fourth round, will need to defeat two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the opening round, 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Camila Giorgi, and Kerber in the third round.

However, the focus is on Plíšková, and if she gets through to the second week, she has her best chance of breaking through for her first Grand Slam title!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Markéta Vondroušová vs. (2) Karolína Plíšková

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Ashleigh Barty vs. (10) Madison Keys

(3) Naomi Osaka vs. (8) Serena Williams

(11) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (26) Danielle Collins

(5) Elina Svitolina vs. (2) Karolína Plíšková

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Ashleigh Barty vs. (3) Naomi Osaka

(11) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (2) Karolína Plíšková

 

My predicted final match-up

(1) Ashleigh Barty vs. (2) Karolína Plíšková

 

2020 Australian Open women’s singles champion

(1) Ashleigh Barty

2018 Australian Open women’s singles draw: preview and predictions

The first Grand Slam of the year gives hope to many players wanting to make a fresh start, or wanting to achieve something they haven’t done before, win a Grand Slam singles title, and the 2018 Australian Open will be no different!

After a 2017 which saw seven changes to the world number one position in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Rankings, two new Grand Slam champions in Jeļena Ostapenko winning at Roland Garros, which was incidentally her first career title, and Sloane Stephens, who made a magnificent return from a left foot stress fracture to win the United States (US) Open, as well as defending Australian Open champion Serena Williams giving birth to her first child and making herself unavailable for the first grand slam of 2018, the 2018 Australian Open is wide open!

Can either Simona Halep, who has lost in the first round of the Australian Open in the last two years, as well as in four of the last six, or Karolína Plíšková, who had a consistent 2017, win their first grand slam titles after becoming world number ones last year despite not having won a Grand Slam title?

Can Caroline Wozniacki win her first grand slam title at the 2018 Australian Open after so many years of trying? Of course, she became the world number one back in 2010, and you sense she is returning close to the form of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and to a lesser extent 2014, where she made two Grand Slam finals, losing to Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams at the 2009 US Open and 2014 US Open respectively, as well as making a further seven quarter finals or better in her Grand Slam career.

Can Elina Svitolina claim her first grand slam title after winning five singles titles in 2017, the most by any player last year on the WTA Tour, and after starting 2018 superbly by winning convincingly in Brisbane?

Can Venus Williams, after a wonderful, yet winless year in terms of titles in 2017, in fact the first time she has finished inside the Top 10 in the WTA Rankings without winning a title, turn back the clock again, and perhaps win her first Australian Open crown, which would make her the oldest Australian Open women’s champion in history? Williams will equal Amy Frazier’s and Nicole Pratt’s record of 18 Australian Open appearances.

Will Garbiñe Muguruza overcome her physical issues to be a factor at the 2018 Australian Open after winning at Wimbledon last year?

Can Jeļena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens handle the pressure of expectations at Melbourne Park after winning their first Grand Slam titles in 2017?

Will someone else jump out of the pack, such as a Caroline Garcia, Johanna Konta,  CoCo Vandeweghe, Kristina Mladenovic, Julia Görges, or even a Madison Keys to go deep at the first Grand Slam of 2018?

Can Angelique Kerber bounce back after a poor 2017 to contend for her second Australian Open title?

Can Petra Kvitová bounce back from her issues to contend for her first Australian Open crown?

What about a dangerous floater, such as a Belinda Bencic or a Maria Sharapova, causing some damage at Melbourne Park?

Or will an Australian, such as Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, or Samantha Stosur, star at their home Grand Slam?

There are so many storylines, so without further adieu, here is my look at the 2018 Australian Open women’s singles draw.

 

Section one

The very top section of the draw appears to be the toughest with the likes of world number one Simona Halep, 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, 2014 Roland Garros semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová, number one Australian Ashleigh Barty, highly-rated Italian Camila Giorgi, Japanese rising star Naomi Osaka, and 2016 Wimbledon semi-finalist Elena Vesnina lurking within this section.

While Halep is certainly in better form heading to Melbourne Park compared to the last two years, winning in Shenzhen, you sense that the quicker surface will be better suited to the power game of Kvitová, and the all-court game of Barty.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (27) Petra Kvitová vs. (18) Ashleigh Barty

 

Section two

In this section, Great Britain’s Johanna Konta, and the Czech trio of Barbora Strýcová, Lucie Šafářová, and Karolína Plíšková, each of them making at least one Grand Slam quarter-final or better, look a class above their immediate rivals, with Konta and Plíšková having a comfortable edge on paper over Strýcová and Šafářová respectively.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (9) Johanna Konta vs. (6) Karolína Plíšková

 

Section three

Section three contains a number of big guns including 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who just won in Sydney, 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova, two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza, as well as the likes of 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwańska, and two-time US Open quarter finalist Anastasija Sevastova just to name a few.

However, you sense that Kerber is getting back to the form that took her to world number one, and two Grand Slam titles in 2016, and should be a serious title threat, with Radwańska also looking in good shape given the fitness issues for Muguruza.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (26) Agnieszka Radwańska vs. (21) Angelique Kerber

 

Section four

2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys looks the standout player in this section of the draw with two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kristina Mladenovic and 2017 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Caroline Garcia looking like the only players in this section capable of challenging Keys.

If Keys finds her best form, she can make the final, and perhaps lift her first Grand Slam singles title.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (17) Madison Keys vs. (8) Caroline Garcia

 

Section five

The first thing that stands out in section five of the women’s draw is the blockbuster first round match-up between seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams and 2014 US Open quarter-finalist Belinda Bencic, which is certainly a potential upset in the making!

Two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova, Australian star Daria Gavrilova, rising Belgian player Elise Mertens, who just won in Hobart, France’s Alizé Cornet, and German star Julia Görges, who recently won in Auckland, are the other strong players in this section of the draw, and you sense Gavrilova is primed for another big run at Melbourne Park.

My predicted fourth round match-up: Belinda Bencic vs. (23) Daria Gavrilova

 

Section six

2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, and world number four Elina Svitolina are the best two players in this section, and should meet each other in the fourth round, with only Russian youngster Daria Kasatkina and 2014 US Open semi-finalist Peng Shuai capable of challenging them.

However, I believe Svitolina after winning in Brisbane is in the best position to claim the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, and win her first Grand Slam singles title.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Sloane Stephens vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

 

Section seven

This is an interesting section with 2017 Roland Garros champion Jeļena Ostapenko facing a tough first round match-up against 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone, who is really in the twilight of her career, and then possibly a difficult third round encounter with either the in-form Aleksandra Krunić or Estonian player Anett Kontaveit.

However, you still think Ostapenko will make the round of 16, where she will likely meet American CoCo Vandeweghe, who had a breakout year in 2017, making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park and Flushing Meadows, as well as the quarter-finals at the All England Club, but she will face tough opposition from Spaniard Carla Suárez Navarro in the second round, then either 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulková or 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the third round before she can get to Ostapenko.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) Jeļena Ostapenko vs. (10) CoCo Vandeweghe

 

Section eight

In the final section of the draw, Danish superstar Caroline Wozniacki is comfortably the strongest player with only four-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova capable of challenging her.

The big question is whether Wozniacki can make her third Grand Slam final, and be able to do what she hasn’t achieved before, and that is win a Grand Slam singles title?

Time will tell if she can finally achieve her dream after so many years of trying!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(27) Petra Kvitová vs. (6) Karolína Plíšková

(21) Angelique Kerber vs. (17) Madison Keys

Belinda Bencic vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

(10) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(27) Petra Kvitová vs. (17) Madison Keys

(4) Elina Svitolina vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

My predicted final match-ups

(17) Madison Keys vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

My predicted 2018 Australian Open champion

(4) Elina Svitolina