My Australian Open men’s draw preview and predictions for the Australian Open was pretty long. For the women’s side, I’m sharing five observations from the draw instead.
1. The draw could not have been much kinder to Angelique Kerber
She’s returning to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time, and any nerves Germany’s world no/ 1 felt could have been eased slightly by a rather soft draw. Opening against the once-notable Lesia Tsurenko, Kerber’s first real test is likely to come in the third round against the teen who downed her in Sydney: Daria Kasatkina. Nevertheless, if the counter-puncher is dialled in, her only real problems should come against Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals – and we all know about the Spaniard’s struggles of late. No excuses for Kerber here.
2. And you can say the same regarding Garbine Muguruza
Still, there are big chances for Garbine Muguruza in this draw, too. With a lack of self confidence a core issue for the Spaniard last season, the world no. 7 has plenty of opportunity to build upon a promising start to the season (which was halted by a Brisbane withdrawal.) Carla Suarez Navarro is her highest-seeded projected opponent before the last eight, and her countrywoman has not picked up great results lately. If she makes it through to a quarter-final clash with top seed Kerber, Muguruza might just have rediscovered some of her old self… and that could make things close.
3. The top half of the second quarter is the most intriguing section of the whole draw…
World no. 4 Simona Halep could face the insanely talented Ashleigh Barty if she wins her first round clash with Shelby Rogers. Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig would probably await in round three, should 16-year-old upriser Destanee Aiava not make a surprise – but not inconceivable – home run. And with Venus Williams, seeded no. 13, highly likely to duel the surviving woman in the last 16, each round will herald a clash worth watching.
Really, no. 8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova should be sighing will relief at her substantially less-loaded side of the quarter.
4. … but Serena Williams gets the toughest road once again
I dislike talking about Serena getting ‘tough draws’. The American, despite her ranking, is the best woman in the present game, and the greatest woman ever to play the game, and thus remains the favourite to win every match she contests. But as far as comparing her draw with Kerber’s goes, she drew the short straw in the opening rounds. With just two warm-up matches under her belt, she opens against former world no. 7 Belinda Bencic – whom she has fallen to before, and who has played plentiful pre-Open matches at exhibition event the Hopman Cup.
The second round would be a step up, with former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer or Lucie Safarova – Serena’s opponent in the 2015 French Open final – lining up to take the on the six-time event champion. With Caroline Garcia, Barbora Strycova and Andrea Petkovic all third round possibilities – and any one of Dominika Cibulkova, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova and Johanna Konta able to make the American work in round four – one thing is for sure:
If Serena Williams comes through this quarter, she should be free of all rust – and in fit state to win the tournament.
5. There are no shortage of notable first round match-ups
Is it just me, or are there more than usual? No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska opens against Tsvetana Pironkova, who delivered the Pole her most painful 2016 loss in a rainy French Open encounter. Daria Kasatkina, seeded no. 23, should have some trouble with 2014 US Open semifinalist Shuai Peng, while no. 26 seed Laura Siegemund’s clash with Jelena Jankovic is bound to appeal to many. Heather Watson may be out of form, but she should still give unpredictable Aussie Samantha Stosur a run for her money. Dominika Cibulkova versus Denisa Allertova could go down the wire, with young Elizaveta Kulichkova looking to back up her 2016 run as she opens against Strycova. Add Wickmayer against Safarova and Serena versus Bencic – among others – to that collection, and there should be indicative matches from the word ‘Go’!
Thanks for reading! Any thoughts on the women’s draw? Share them in the comments section! (And if you want my semifinal and eventual champion predictions, ask below…)