2018 Women’s Australian Open Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
We have reached the first Grand Slam of 2018 as the Australian Open approaches. There will be plenty of sunshine and tennis to feast on over the next two weeks, and the womens draw looks as open as ever. Here is a rundown of what to expect in Melbourne.
Simona Halep enters a Grand Slam as the top seed for the first time in her career, and she opens as one of the favourites for the title. The Romanian has an interesting section with a few players who are capable of blowing her off the court. The world number one has shown she is vulnerable in early stages of major events when she is not firing, and with Petra Kvitova potentially waiting in the third round, we could see Halep exit another Grand Slam early. Combined with the fact you have in-form players such as Ashleigh Barty and Camila Giorgi, and young big hitters Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka and Oceane Dodin, the world number one will do well to come through this section.
Prediction: Halep def. Barty
Karolina Pliskova is Halep’s projected quarter final adversary, and we do not know what her form is a like at the moment. The Czech lost to Elina Svitolina in Brisbane and did not look overly convincing in that match. We all know Pliskova can blow anyone off the court with her serve and effortless power, but she has not quite pulled it together during Grand Slams. That may open the door for Johanna Konta to make the last eight. The Brit has reached the quarter finals and semi finals in her two previous visits to Melbourne and if prior history has anything to do with it, she should make the last eight again.
Prediction: Konta def. Pliskova
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Garbine Muguruza heading into the Australian Open. The Spaniard withdrew from both her warm up tournaments with injury and there are doubts about how far she can go in Melbourne. She can not be happy with her draw either. Muguruza could face former champions Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova on the way to the quarter finals. Kerber in particular is in excellent form heading into the tournament. The other seeds in the section are Agnieszka Radwanska and Anastasija Sevastova, both are awkward opponents with variety in their games. This is undoubtedly the strongest section in the draw.
Prediction: Kerber def. Muguruza
Caroline Garcia finished 2017 in the form of her life and that has led to some lofty expectations for 2018. The Frenchwoman comes into the Australian Open as an outside favourite, but a back injury has left her short of preparation. She is still a heavy favourite to make the last eight though with her biggest test probably being Madison Keys. The American can blow hot and cold, but she often brings her best to the big events. Kristina Mladenovic has landed in this section too, and it will be interesting to see if she can end her losing slump. The Frenchwoman has not won a match since last August and is on a 14-match losing streak.
Prediction: Garcia def. Keys
Venus Williams is a defending finalist in Melbourne, but there are a few players in her section who can mount an upset. The American opens against Belinda Bencic in arguably the most anticipated round one match as the young Swiss is finding her best form after a long injury layoff. Julia Goerges is arguably the most in form player on the tour at the moment. The German has won her last three tournaments and is certainly a name to look out for in this tournament. However there are some dangerous floaters in this section too with Australia’s Daria Gavrilova, the ever dangerous Ekaterina Makarova and Hobart champion Elise Mertens looking to cause an upset in this section of the draw.
Prediction: Goerges def. Venus
Daria Kasatkina (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Elina Svitolina heads into Melbourne as the favourite to lift the trophy in the eyes of many people, and it is easy to see why after her run in Brisbane. The Ukrainian has a pretty soft draw to the last eight too, with the out of form Sloane Stephens being her projected last 16 opponent, though it may end up being Daria Kasatkina. None of the seeds in this section are In good form, so Svitolina will be a huge favourite to advance to the last eight from this section.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Kasatkina
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Jelena Ostapenko is the seventh seed in Melbourne and heads into the tournament in poor form having lost her previous two matches. The Latvian has shown she is capable of producing her tennis on the big stage though, she proved that at the French Open last season. This section is full of unpredictable players who can easily go far, making this quarter one to look out for. Ostapenko opens against Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone and could meet the promising Anett Kontaveit in the third round. Upsets could leave the door open for Coco Vandeweghe, who heads into the tournament as the 10th seed. The American is capable of producing big tennis on her day, but she like many others can often blow cold too. With former finalist Dominika Cibulkova, Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig and veterans Cara Suarez Navarro and Sam Stosur in this section, this feels like a section that could do either way.
Prediction: Ostapenko def. Cibulkova
Second seed Caroline Wozniacki has never won a Grand Slam before despite being a former world number one, but with the way thing stand, this may be her best chance yet to end that duck. Wozniacki has been drawn into the lighter half of the draw and is heavily favoured to make the semi finals from this section. The Dane has some dangerous seeds in her section such as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Magdalena Rybarikova, and that is where she could fall into danger territory in the fourth round, but apart from that it should be plain sailing for the second seed until the last eight.
Prediction: Wozniacki def. Rybarikova
Quarter Finals onwards Prediction:
Halep def. Konta
Kerber def. Garcia
Svitolina def. Goerges
Wozniacki def. Ostapenko
Kerber def. Halep
Wozniacki def. Svitolina
Wozniacki def. Kerber
This is a hard slam to predict as there is no clear favourite to win. Despite the rumours of courts playing pretty quickly, form favours the defensive players so we could end up with some long semi finals. Kerber is in good form and I believe she will go deep if she continues that into Melbourne, but I think the winner comes from the bottom half. Both Wozniacki and Svitolina have good draws until the semi finals where they should meet each other. Despite the Ukrainian’s head to head advantage, she could falter on the big stage here and I think Wozniacki’s experience will tell.