2019 Australian Open – Men’s Singles Preview

The 2019 Australian Open is just about here, and we have got an exciting fortnight coming up from Melbourne Park, potentially an historic one with both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer looking to become the first player to win the Australian Open seven times.

Federer is also looking to claim his third-straight crown at Melbourne Park after defeating Rafael Nadal in 2017 and Marin Čilić in 2018 (both in five sets), and with that become the first male player, and the third player overall across both sexes (Serena Williams and Helen Wills Moody) to win two separate Grand Slam singles events at least seven times.

While Djokovic, who after Madrid in 2018, when he had just six wins and six losses for the season, and struggling to find his way after having elbow surgery after the 2018 Australian Open, won 47 of his last 53 matches in 2018 to reclaim the World No.1 ranking after slipping to 22nd in the world just before Roland Garros, returning to the top 10 after winning for the fourth time at the All England Club, and became the first end of year World No.1 not have won a title before Wimbledon in the same year. He will be looking to return to the form of his past glories at Melbourne Park after failing to make the quarter-finals in the last two years.

However, the 2019 Australian Open is not just about Roger and Novak, with Rafael Nadal, who had surgery to remove a floating piece of bone in his ankle after pulling out of 2018 ATP World Tour Finals due to an abdominal strain, looking to win his second Australian Open, and become just the third male player to win each Grand Slam singles event at least twice. Nadal has retired or withdraw from 17 of his last 18 official hard court tournaments (which included Davis Cup) that he was entered in, including withdrawing from his last seven.

Then we have the comebacks of Andy Murray from his hip problems, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from a knee injury, and then the potential challengers to Novak, Rafa, and Roger in Alexander Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Marin Čilić, Dominic Thiem, and Kei Nishikori among others who could challenge for the first Grand Slam title of 2019.

However, will there be a twist or two during the next fortnight? Let’s analyse the men’s singles draw.

 

Section One

Djokovic will face a qualifier in the opening round before facing either Tsonga, who he defeated to win his first Australian Open back in 2008, or Martin Kližan in the second round. Djokovic is slated to face the promising and talented Denis Shapovalov in the third round, before facing David Goffin or Daniil Medvedev, who had the most hard court wins in 2018 with 32, compared to Djokovic with 31, at the start of the second week, but assuming he is fit and healthy, no one is going to stop Djokovic going deep into the second week here.

My fourth round match-up: (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Daniil Medvedev

 

Section Two

Nishikori is the clear favourite to make it through this section, and meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals after climbing from 22nd to 9th in the world in 2018, but faces an awkward second round against big serving veteran Ivo Karlović, before facing Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, and then either Fabio Fognini or Pablo Carreño Busta in the fourth round. In saying this, this section is easier on paper than Section One, and should pose no issues for the 2014 US Open finalist.

My fourth round match-up: (23) Pablo Carreño Busta vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

 

Section Three

Zverev, who won four titles in 2018, including the ATP World Tour Finals, should make it through at least to the fourth round, where he will have a shot of making just his second grand slam quarter-final, but the first round match-ups which stand out are the ones between Stan Wawrinka and Ernests Gulbis, and Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic, with the winners of each playing each other in the second round, with the winner of that to play last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung, who missed both Roland Garros and Wimbledon due to an ankle injury, who could face Sam Querrey in the second round, potentially the only roadblock to a blockbuster third round, and then potential Round of 16 with Zverev.

My fourth round match-up: (4) Alexander Zverev vs. (24) Hyeon Chung

 

Section Four

On paper, it looks like a comfortable section for the 2018 Roland Garros finalist Thiem, who made his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside of Roland Garros at the US Open, where he was beaten by Nadal in a epic five set match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, but faces Benoît Paire in the opening round before facing 2017 Australian Open quarter-finalist Mischa Zverev, who defeated Murray in the fourth round as Murray’s physical issues started to become evident on-route to being subsequently smashed by Federer in the quarter-final, and then Lucas Pouille in the third round before a fourth round encounter with Borna Ćorić. The only real obstacle for Ćorić will be Marco Cecchinato in the third round, who became the first Italian to make a Grand Slam semi-final in 40 years at Roland Garros last year after defeating Djokovic in what was a huge upset.

My fourth round match-up: (11) Borna Ćorić vs. (7) Dominic Thiem

 

Section Five

This is a really intriguing section of the draw with a big first round match-up between last year’s Australian Open finalist Čilić, and 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic, who has made the fourth round at Melbourne Park, and according to former Australian tennis player Paul McNamee believes Tomic is in best form for five years, around the time when Čilić and Tomic last met back in 2015 at Montreal, a match which Tomic won in the lead up to the 2015 US Open, where Čilić made the semi-finals in the defence of his 2014 crown. And, although Čilić made the final here last year, he has only made the quarter-finals or better here twice, making the semi-finals back in 2010, where Čilić defeated Tomic in a five set struggle in the second round. If there was to be a big upset in the opening round, this is the match where it could happen.

Regardless, the winner of this match-up could make it through to the third round to face Fernando Verdasco before a fourth round meeting with either Karen Khachanov, last year’s quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, or Murray. Both Bautista Agut and Murray face each other in the opening round in what is going to be a tough match for Murray, who has only played 14 matches in his comeback so far, and has announced his intention to retire from the sport at some point in 2019 due to his ongoing hip problems. I think patience is going to be the better part of valour over the next couple of months if Murray is to make a truly successful comeback.

My fourth round match-up: Bernard Tomic vs. (10) Karen Khachanov

 

Section Six

Federer, although he faces Denis Istomin in the opening round, who of course defeated Djokovic in the second round two years ago, and Gaël Monfils in the third round, should have no problems making it to the Round of 16 to meet Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas, who gave Federer some trouble over at the Hopman Cup in Perth. In saying this though, Federer is certainly a strong chance of going deep into the second week, and perhaps winning his 21st Grand Slam title.

My fourth round match-up: (14) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (3) Roger Federer

 

Section Seven

This is one of the more stronger sections of the draw with Anderson a chance of reuniting with John Isner in the fourth round in what would be re-match of the 2018 Wimbledon semi-final, which was the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, but has to get past Adrian Mannarino in the opening round, Frances Tiafoe in the second round, and either Steve Johnson, Andreas Seppi, or Feliciano López in the third round.

However, Isner has obstacles of his own to overcome as well, facing his fellow giant American Reilly Opelka in the first round, and then Grigor Dimitrov in third round, who looks to be returning close to his best after making the quarter-finals in Brisbane.

My fourth round match-up: (5) Kevin Anderson vs. (20) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section Eight

Nadal, despite his fitness clouds, should have no problems making it through to the third round to play Alex de Minaur, who won his first ATP title in Sydney, and could meet either last year’s semi finalist Kyle Edmund, 2011 Wimbledon finalist Tomáš Berdych, or Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round. Both Edmund and Berdych will face each other in a blockbuster opening round, while Schwartzman should have little trouble in making the third round.

In any case, I can’t see anyone in this section right now capable of denying Nadal a passage through to the second week, and a shot at a second Australian Open crown.

My fourth round match-up: (18) Diego Schwartzman vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (8) Kei Nishikori

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (7) Dominic Thiem

(10) Karen Khachanov vs. (3) Roger Federer

(20) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

(3) Roger Federer vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted final

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (3) Roger Federer

 

2019 Australian Open champion prediction

(3) Roger Federer

2019 Australian Open – Women’s Singles Preview

The 2019 Australian Open is just about here, and we have got an exciting fortnight coming up from Melbourne Park, and the dominating theme in regards to the women’s draw is the return of Serena Williams to the Australian Open for the first time since having her first child Alexis Olympia.

Of course Williams won the 2017 Australian Open when she was eight weeks pregnant, and will play her first official tournament since last year’s US Open, when she lost to Naomi Osaka, a final dominated by the whole controversy with the code violation from Carlos Ramos for the coaching she received from Patrick Mouratoglou, and the whole argument from Serena that she has never cheated in her life, and the meltdown in her performance after that. If Williams were to win the 2019 Australian Open, it would be her first title since her victory at Melbourne Park two years ago, and she would equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

However, she is not the only contender, with the four grand slam winners of 2018 in Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, and Osaka looking to start 2019 in the best possible way.

The defending champion Wozniacki won three titles last year, but struggled after winning the second of those titles at Eastbourne, winning just seven of her next 13 matches, and later revealed that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis prior to the US Open, right in the middle of this poor form streak, while last year’s runner-up Halep finished as the end of year World No.1 for the second year in a row after winning her first grand slam title at Roland Garros after defeating Sloane Stephens in the final.

Kerber, who defeated Williams in the Wimbledon final in 2018 to win her third Grand Slam title, returned back to her best form after winning no titles in 2017, claiming two titles last year as she climbed from 21st at the start of the year back up to 2nd, and within striking distance of the No.1 ranking, while Osaka emerged to win her first career title at Indian Wells, and then claiming the US Open crown as she firmly secured her place as a Top 10 player.

Then we have the likes of Stephens, Elina Svitolina, Karolína Plíšková, and Petra Kvitová among others who are capable of challenging the five players above, and potentially take home the first Grand Slam of 2019.

But, could there be a surprise on the horizon? Let’s have a look at the women’s singles draw.

 

Section One

Section One is one of the more tougher sections of the draw, but in saying that, both Halep and Serena Williams should both make it through to the fourth round to meet in what could be a thrilling encounter. Halep, who lost in the second round in Sydney to Ashleigh Barty, has to overcome Kaia Kanepi in the opening round, while she could meet seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, or Mihaela Buzărnescu in the third round, while Serena, who won all three of her singles matches at the Hopman Cup, could meet 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the second round before meeting either Carla Suárez Navarro or 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the third round.

My fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (16) Serena Williams

 

Section Two

Section Two is another strong section of the draw, and although she could face Camila Giorgi in the third round, Plíšková should have no troubles making the Round of 16, where she could meet either Daria Kasatkina, Johanna Konta, or Garbiñe Muguruza. Konta and Muguruza are slated to meet in the second round, with Kasatkina waiting in the third round should either of them get through.

My fourth round match-up: (18) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (7) Karolína Plíšková

 

Section Three

Section Three is also another strong section of the women’s draw, but one which you would expect Osaka to survive and at least make it through to the fourth round, although she will need to overcome Daria Gavrilova in second round, and then either two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka or Hsieh Su-wei in the third round to make it through to meet either Anastasija Sevastova, who made the quarter-finals in Brisbane, or Wang Qiang, who lost to Barty in the final of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai at the end of last year.

My fourth round match-up: (4) Naomi Osaka vs. (13) Anastasija Sevastova

 

Section Four

Svitolina, who won the WTA Finals last year in Singapore, and 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys both feature in this section, and should both make it through to meet each other in the fourth round, but they will need to overcome 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulková, and last year’s semi-finalist Elise Mertens in the third round respectively to make it through to the second week.

My fourth round match-up: (17) Madison Keys vs. (6) Elina Svitolina

 

Section Five

Talking about strong sections, Section Five of the draw is the strongest, but one you would expect Kvitová to navigate her way through successfully to meet either Lesia Tsurenko, who made the final in Brisbane, or Aryna Sabalenka, who won the title in Shenzhen, but lost in the first round to Kvitová in Sydney.

However, the two-time Wimbledon champion will have to overcome 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdaléna Rybáriková in the opening round before meeting 2011 Australian Open and US Open quarter-finalist Andrea Petkovic in the second round before meeting either Belinda Bencic, Kateřina Siniaková, Yulia Putintseva, or Barbora Strýcová in the third round.

My fourth round match-up: (8) Petra Kvitová vs. (24) Lesia Tsurenko

 

Section Six

This section is not particular strong overall, but it has four big names in Wozniacki, 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova, 2017 Roland Garros champion Jeļena Ostapenko, and Barty, who is in career best form right now after finishing runner up to Kvitová in Sydney. At the moment, you would expect Barty and Wozniacki to make it through to face each other in a fourth round showdown, but before that, Barty will have to overcome Ostapenko, who she beat in the first round in Sydney, or Maria Sakkari in the third round, while the defending champion will have to conquer Sharapova in the same round.

My fourth round match-up: (15) Ashleigh Barty vs. (3) Caroline Wozniacki

 

Section Seven

If Stephens can find her best form, the 2017 US Open champion should have no problems in reaching the fourth round, but that could be a big if as she lost in the first round in Brisbane, second round in Sydney, and has lost in the first round in her last three appearances at Melbourne Park despite making the semi-finals back in 2013. If Stephens does make the Round of 16, she will meet either Anett Kontaveit, who made the quarter-finals in Brisbane, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who made the semi-finals in Sydney, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, or 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens.

My fourth round match-up: (5) Sloane Stephens vs. (20) Anett Kontaveit

 

Section Eight

The final section of the draw is a reasonable section, one that 2016 Australian Open champion Kerber should be able to navigate successfully through to meet Julia Görges or Caroline Garcia in the fourth round, but Kerber will need to defeat either Donna Vekić or
Kristina Mladenovic in the third round in order to make it through to the second week.

My fourth round match-up: (14) Julia Görges vs. (2) Angelique Kerber

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(16) Serena Williams vs. (7) Karolína Plíšková

(4) Naomi Osaka vs. (17) Madison Keys

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (15) Ashleigh Barty

(20) Anett Kontaveit vs. (2) Angelique Kerber

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(16) Serena Williams vs. (4) Naomi Osaka

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (2) Angelique Kerber

 

My predicted final

(16) Serena Williams vs. (8) Petra Kvitová

 

2019 Australian Open champion prediction

(16) Serena Williams

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

After a year in 2017 where Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer turned the clock back to their glory days of being the top two players in the world after coming back from serious injuries suffered in 2016, with Nadal winning at Roland Garros for the 10th time as well as the United States (US) Open for a third time, and Federer winning the Australian Open for the fifth time in a classic, and Wimbledon for the eighth time.

2017 was a year where their rivals, including Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray (who sadly won’t be at the 2018 Australian Open) suffered serious injury setbacks of their own, what will the 2018 Australian Open bring?

Can Federer continue his remarkable form at 36, and win his sixth Australian Open crown to equal the records of Djokovic and Roy Emerson? He will move to within one of Lleyton Hewitt’s record of 20 Australian Open appearances.

Can Nadal back up the 2017 he had when he returned to world number one for the fourth time in his career by going one better and winning his second title at Melbourne Park?

Can Djokovic make an extraordinary comeback from a serious elbow to win a record seventh Australian Open?

Can Grigor Dimitrov, who won four titles including Cincinnati and the ATP World Tour Finals, and Alexander Zverev, who won five titles including Rome and Canada, justify their high seedings and their brilliant years in 2017 to contend for their first Grand Slam singles titles respectively?

Can Dominic Thiem make a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time outside of Roland Garros?

Can Marin Čilić, who is of course a former semi-finalist here back in 2010, back up his performance at Wimbledon last year, and make his third Grand Slam final?

Can David Goffin or Jack Sack back up their wonderful years and be surprise contenders at the 2018 Australian Open?

Can 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic comeback from their injury troubles to challenge for the trophy?

Can 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martín del Potro continue their strong comebacks from injury, and challenge for their first Australian Open crowns?

Can one of the other seeds, or a dangerous floater shock the world to contend at the first Grand Slam of the year?

And, what about Nick Kyrgios? Can he deliver Australia their first singles champion at Melbourne Park?

There are so many tantalising storylines leading into the 2018 Australian Open, so let’s have a look at the men’s singles draw, and determine who will win the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup!

 

Section one

Rafael Nadal is the clear favourite to make the quarter-finals from this section of the draw, and will likely meet big-serving American John Isner, who made the US Open quarter-finals in the fourth round in what will be his greatest challenge before the quarter-finals.

With this draw, Nadal will be perfectly placed to contend and possibly win his 17th Grand Slam singles title!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (16) John Isner

 

Section two

Both 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić and Pablo Carreño Busta, who of course made the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows last year look to be the ones to beat in this section, although there a few strong players, such as two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Gilles Simon, Gilles Müller, who of course defeated Nadal in an epic fourth round match to make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Mikhail Youzhny, and American Ryan Harrison, who are all capable of causing serious damage!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (10) Pablo Carreño Busta vs. (6) Marin Čilić

 

Section three

Grigor Dimitrov has a good draw for the opening two rounds, meeting qualifiers, but the thing that really stands out from this section is the opening round match-up between David Ferrer, who made the Roland Garros final back in 2013, and 2017 US Open quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev, which should be one of the best first round matches, and they are both in great form with Ferrer making the semi-finals this week in Auckland and Rublev making the final in Doha the week before.

The other thing that stands out is the difficult draw that 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has got, potentially facing either Denis Shapovalov or Stefanos Tsitsipas, both talented youngsters, in the second round before meeting Nick Kyrgios in the third round. Kyrgios has a slightly easier draw, potentially facing Viktor Troicki in the second round before meeting Tsonga, and then Dimitrov in a round of 16 blockbuster on Rod Laver Arena.

Both Dimitrov, but particularly Kyrgios are showing the right signs that they can go deep at Melbourne Park.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (17) Nick Kyrgios

 

Section four

An evenly-matched section of the draw, but one which Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock should negotiate with little trouble to make the fourth round.

However, they must be wary of the likes of British youngster Kyle Edmund, Denis Istomin, who of course defeated Novak Djokovic in the second round last year at Melbourne Park, Lucas Pouille, who made two Grand Slam quarter-finals in 2016, German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2012, Japanese youngster Yoshihito Nishioka, who is on the comeback trail from a serious knee injury, Andreas Seppi, who defeated Kyrgios in the second round at last year’s Australian Open, a match that was considered the unlosable match for Kyrgios, and 2009 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ivo Karlović, whose big serve will always be a major threat!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Kevin Anderson vs. (8) Jack Sock

 

Section five

Dominic Thiem, who has made the semi-finals at Roland Garros in the last two years, and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka are the two best players in this section and should meet each other in the fourth round.

However, they will be wary of the likes of American journeyman Steve Johnson, Czech player Jiří Veselý, French player Adrian Mannarino, the consistent Roberto Bautista Agut, 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco, and to a lesser extent Lithuanian player Ričardas Berankis who could make their runs to the second week difficult.

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Dominic Thiem vs. (9) Stan Wawrinka

 

Section six

This section contains 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, who is returning to tennis after six months out due to an elbow injury, which has affected his service motion, and has received a tough draw as the 14th seed. He plays American journeyman Donald Young in the first round before playing two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Gaël Monfils in the second round! If he can get through this, he could play either American youngster Jared Donaldson or 2016 Roland Garros quarter-finalist Albert Ramos Viñolas in the third round before playing Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.

Zverev appears to have a simpler path, but could face older brother Mischa Zverev, who of course made the quarter-finals at last year’s Australian Open after defeating Andy Murray in the fourth round, in the third round in what would be an intriguing match-up in so many ways!

My predicted fourth round match-up: Gaël Monfils vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

 

Section seven

David Goffin, who was the finalist at last year’s ATP World Tour Finals and the injury-plagued Juan Martín del Potro look like the players most likely to make it to the second week of the Australian Open.

Although Goffin could meet French veteran Julien Benneteau in the second round, and the enigma that is Italian player Fabio Fognini in the third round, he should have no problems making the fourth round, while del Potro could meet 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomáš Berdych in the third round after meeting rising star Karen Khachanov in the second. It should also be noted that Berdych plays Australian young gun Alex de Minaur, who made the final in Sydney, in the opening round in what will be one of best first round matches of the tournament!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) David Goffin vs. (12) Juan Martín del Potro

 

Section eight

The 19-time Grand Slam champion, and defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer is in this section, and easy first two matches before meeting Richard Gasquet in the third round, and will likely meet 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in the fourth round.

Raonic also has a comfortable draw before meeting either 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey or Feliciano López, who will move to within one of Federer’s record of 65 consecutive Grand Slam singles main draw appearances, in the third round.

In my view, Federer is the championship favourite!

My predicted fourth round match-up: (22) Milos Raonic vs. (2) Roger Federer

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (6) Marin Čilić

(17) Nick Kyrgios vs. (11) Kevin Anderson

(5) Dominic Thiem vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

(12) Juan Martín del Potro vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (17) Nick Kyrgios

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted final match-ups

(17) Nick Kyrgios vs. (2) Roger Federer

My predicted 2018 Australian Open champion

(2) Roger Federer

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