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

Advertisements

2018 Roland Garros Preview – Women’s Singles

In a clay court season that has been wide open, we head now to Roland Garros for the 2018 French Open with a wide open field of contenders for the title, looking to knock defending champion Jeļena Ostapenko, who won her first career title here last year against Simona Halep, off her perch!

In addition to this, six players (Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbiñe Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Karolína Plíšková and Caroline Garcia) are in contention to either retain or gain the world No.1 ranking by the end of the championship.

So, who will win at Roland Garros in 2018? Let’s have a look at the women’s singles draw!

Section one

Section One contains last year’s finalist and the No.1 seed Simona Halep, and given her consistent form, quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Madrid, as well as making the final in Rome, she is certainly the one to beat in this section, and will most likely meet either Daria Gavrilova or Elise Mertens in the fourth round.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (24) Daria Gavrilova

 

Section two

Caroline Garcia has been arguably the most consistent player during the clay-court season, making the semi-finals in both Stuttgart and Madrid, as well as the quarter-finals in Rome, and should make it through to the fourth round for a likely meeting with Angelique Kerber, despite Kerber going out of the opening round at Roland Garros the last two years!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (12) Angelique Kerber vs. (7) Caroline Garcia

 

Section three

Garbiñe Muguruza has struggled for form during the clay-court season (two wins from four matches), but I can’t see anyone stopping her from making the fourth round where she will likely meet CoCo Vandeweghe, who made the final in Stuttgart, and is capable of doing some damage if she gets on a roll!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (15) CoCo Vandeweghe

 

Section four

This is a really interesting section with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams returning to play her first grand slam after the birth of her first child, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova continuing her redemption story from a drugs suspension, and with other standout players in Karolína Plíšková, Ashleigh Barty, and Julia Görges.

Both Sharapova and Plíšková should meet in the third round in what will be a blockbuster match-up, and while I respect her record, I don’t think Williams is in good shape at the moment, and I think either Barty or Görges will meet either Sharapova or Plíšková in the fourth round.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

 

Section five

The defending champion Jeļena Ostapenko is in this section of the draw, and after making the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Rome, looks like a strong tip to go through to the fourth round after a difficult second round match against two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.

Johanna Konta is also in this section of the draw, along with seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, with the winner of their third round encounter to meet the defending champion in the round of 16.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Jeļena Ostapenko vs. (9) Venus Williams

 

Section six

After making the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and winning in Rome, Elina Svitolina is a strong chance of going deep at Roland Garros, and will likely meet either Madison Keys, who won two matches in Rome, or Naomi Osaka, who won a match in Rome, in the fourth round.

 

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

 

Section seven

Petra Kvitová has been in strong form during the clay-court season, winning in Prague and Madrid, and while she isn’t renowned for being strong on clay, making the semi-finals at Roland Garros just once (2012), you sense she has the right draw to go deep here, and will likely face last year’s US Open champion Sloane Stephens, or Anastasija Sevastova in the round of 16.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) Petra Kvitová vs. (10) Sloane Stephens

 

Section eight

The 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is the strongest player in the final section of the draw, and despite some underwhelming performances during the clay-court season, with best results being quarter-finals in Istanbul and Rome, I think she can go deep at Roland Garros, where she has made the quarter-finals twice (2010, 2017).

Wozniacki will likely meet either Russian youngster Daria Kasatkina, or Spanish veteran Carla Suárez Navarro, who both made the quarter-finals in Madrid.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (14) Daria Kasatkina vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (7) Caroline Garcia

(3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

(5) Jeļena Ostapenko vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

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

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

 

My predicted 2018 Roland Garros champion

(1) Simona Halep

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

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview

The 20th and final round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend from the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and while the battle for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship has been decided, there is still plenty to play for many drivers and teams on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton (345 points) for Mercedes leads the drivers’ championship by an unassailable 43 points over Sebastian Vettel (302 points) for Ferrari. Hamilton had an unusual weekend in Brazil, being strong in practice before losing control of his car on the first flying lap in qualifying, going straight into the wall, forcing him to a pit-lane start after his team decided to change and add new components to his car. Then he stormed from the back of the field to the front, leading the race for 13 laps, starting on Lap 30, before finishing in fourth, 5.468 seconds behind race winner Vettel.

Vettel, after his win in Brazil, is on track to claim second spot in the championship ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (280 points). This will only change if Bottas wins in Abu Dhabi, and Vettel finishes ninth or lower.

The battle for fourth in the championship is interesting between Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (200 points), and Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (193 points), who are only separated by seven points in the championship. They are followed in the championship by Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen (158 points), who cannot catch fifth-place Räikkönen in the championship standings.

Also important to note is that it will be the final race in the Formula One career of Felipe Massa, currently 10th in the championship on 42 points. From 268 starts, Massa has won 11 races, claimed 41 podiums, 16 pole positions, and 15 fastest laps in a career spanning from 2002 to 2017, driving for Sauber, Ferrari, and Williams. We wish him all the very best for his future endeavours!

Looking at the constructors’ championship, Mercedes (625 points), Ferrari (495 points), Red Bull (358 points), and Force India (177 points) have secured the top four spots respectively, while Williams (82 points), Toro Rosso (53 points), who are starting their last race with a Renault engine, Renault (49 points), and Haas (47 points) are all in mathematical contention for fifth spot, while McLaren (28 points), who are starting their last race with a Honda engine, are in mathematical contention for sixth spot in the constructors’ championship, and are ahead of Sauber (five points), who are in mathematical contention for eighth in the championship.

As for who is going to win the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this circuit on paper suits the Ferrari, and should really ought to end the season on a high, for Vettel to secure second spot in championship, but I think Lewis Hamilton is going to bounce back after a couple of difficult races to claim his 10th victory of the season to set a marker for the 2018 season.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 1pm and 5pm local time (Friday 8pm and Saturday 12am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (Saturday 9pm and Sunday 12am AEDT).

The 55 lap race is on Sunday from 5pm local time (Monday 12am AEDT).