Here we go with the first Grand Slam event of the season. For many of the top players the first two weeks of the season are really preparation for this tournament. Some players choose to play exhibition events and some are a little wary of giving 100% in the tournaments leading up to the Australian Open as they try to hit peak form at the right time.
As always the women’s tournament is a little more open than the men’s. Let’s have a look at how the draw came out.
This is Halep’s section but she certainly won’t be having everything her own way. other contenders in the section include Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Giorgi. We also have Kasatkina although she will need to play better than she did in her only 2019 match. She plays Bacsinszky in the first round.
Konta and Tomljanovic meet in the first round. Based on their early matches that will go Tomljanovic’s way. Muguruza has to feel that she has a chance of doing well but she is so unpredictable that she could even struggle in her first round match with Saisal Zheng.
Halep has played just 1 match this year which was a loss to Barty. She faces in form Kenin in the second round and if successful is likely to meet Venus in the third round. Serena and Venus could meet in the fourth round if Venus beats Halep.
In the bottom half of the section the top player is Pliskova. Her first real test is likely to come in the third round against Giorgi. If she reaches the fourth round she will probably meet the winner of the Bacsinszky / Tomljanovic match.
Halep against Serena Williams could be the match of the section although the quarter final should be a great match.
Predicted Quarter Final: Serena Williams v Pliskova
Osaka heads this section. There are players in her half of the section who can spoil her hopes of another slam title. Azarenka can trouble most players on her day. They are likely to meet in the third round. Osaka played well after her US Open title although retired from her third match at the year end finals after losing to Kerber and Stephens in 3 sets. In Brisbane 2 weeks ago she did reach the quarter finals but had a poor loss to Lesia Tsurenko. A first slam title can affect the player for months so she needs to up her game this week.
If Osaka makes the fourth round she could play Qiang Wang if Wang gets past Sevastova in the third round. Wang had an amazing run of results in September and October. I have never seen any player string so many long tournaments together and maintain their level. I felt that her run had to have an effect on her body. Her only match in 2019 resulted in a poor loss to Alison Riske in Shenzhen.
The bottom half of the section is packed with talent. The third round matches should include Mertens, Keys, Cibulkova and Svitolina. Of those 4 players Svitolina is the more consistent player on hard courts. Madison Keys certainly has the ability to reach the quarter finals. Cibulkova has struggled to find consistency since she got married but is another player who, on her day, can trouble most players on a hard court.
Predicted Quarter Final: Osaka v Svitolina.
This section is perhaps the most open section of the draw.
The top half has several players who have performed well in the first 2 weeks of the season. Kvitova won the title in Sydney. Bencic reached the semi finals In Hobart. Putintseva has been one of the surprises of January reaching the quarter finals in Sydney.
Tsurenko reached the final in Brisbane where she lost in 3 sets to Pliskova. Sabalenka won the title in Shenzhen. So we have a lot of early form players fighting it out for the quarter final.
Bencic could trouble Putintseva in the second round and Anisimova could give Tsurenko a scare.
I would expect the third round matches to include Kvitova, Putintseva, Tsurenko and Sabalenka.
The bottom half of the section has Barty who reached the final in Sydney. We also have last year’s champion Wozniacki. Barty would probably have to get past Ostapenko in the third round. Wozniacki has a potential third round match with Sharapova.
Predicted Quarter Final: Sabalenka v Wozniacki.
The main contenders in the top half of this section are Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens. Stephens improved her consistency last season. Martic may take a set from her in the third round but I think Stephens should be safe enough up to the fourth round.
Bertens has a tougher route to the quarter final. Pavlyuchenkova is an inconsistent performer but on her day is a very tough opponent. They are set to meet in the second round. The other place in the third round is likely to be contested by Kontaveit and Sasnovich. I give Sasnovich the edge in that one.
The bottom half of the section has Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber. She has a pretty favourable draw with only Vekic looking like giving her any trouble.
Goerges and Garcia make up the rest of this half. Goerges has started 2019 well with a title in Auckland. Caroline Garcia has a strong record on hard courts but her more recent form has not been great.
Predicted Quarter Final: Stephens v Kerber.