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 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 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 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
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
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
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
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
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