Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki is currently ranked at 19 in the world, following a resurgent end to the season, where she reached the semifinals of the US Open for the fifth time in her career, coming up short to an in-form Angelique Kerber, who went on to win the title at Flushing Meadows.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig will have some points to defend following her fantastic run to the final at the Apia International Sydney last year. Moreover, the tournament has been hit with injuries, that caused Karolina Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International last week to withdraw, along with Elina Svitolina, who reached the semifinals withdrew which elevated Dane's seeding to tenth, and Puig was due to play against Svitolina for the second consecutive week.
The story of both players' season so far
Wozniacki began her season at the ASB Classic last week, which was one of three WTA events, she could have competed in. The field was a strong field which featured her best friend Serena Williams and Williams' sister Venus as the top two seeds. Serena lost in the second round to her compatriot Madison Brengle, and Venus withdrew from the tournament in the second round due to an arm injury. Therefore, as soon as both of the Williams sisters withdrew from the tournament, the world number 19 was seen as the favourite to clinch the title at the ASB Classic in Auckland, however, Wozniacki led Julia Goerges, 6-1, 3-0 but the German fought back and upset the former world number one, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals in ASB Classic, which Wozniacki would have been bitterly disappointed with.
Puig is currently ranked at 32 in the world, and she will be seeded at a Grand Slam for the second consecutive time at the Australian Open, which gets underway from January 16th. She began her campaign at the premier event in Brisbane but was dealt with a tough draw, as she was paired up with Elina Svitolina, who is a top 15 player, and was seeded sixth in Brisbane. Unfortunately for the Puerto Rican, she suffered a straight sets 6-3, 6-3 defeat to the Ukranian in the opening round, and Svitolina eventually reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Karolina Pliskova.
Wozniacki and Puig have competed on two occasions, and both of their matches have gone to three sets. The duo is tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head meetings, and they have met on grass and hard courts only. Wozniacki won their second round match at the Miami Open in 2014, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, and Puig defeated Wozniacki in the third round of the premier grass court event at the Aegon International in Eastbourne, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, which was a high-quality match from both players but the Puerto Rican was the deserved winner of that contest.
It's hard to believe that Wozniacki is only 26 years old, as it feels that the Dane has been around forever, as she finished 2010 and 2011 ranked as the world number one player in the world. Wozniacki has reached two Grand Slam finals at the US Open in 2009 and 2014 losing to Kim Clijsters, and to her best friend Serena Williams at the latter, moreover, the Dane still has the credentials to win a Grand Slam singles title but she is usually overwhelmed when she faces the big hitters as she doesn't possess the firepower to harm them.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Gold medalist will have a point to prove to critics that her phenomenal triumph at the Rio Olympics wasn't a fluke. Puig was unseeded in Rio, and she defeated three Grand Slam singles champions en route to gaining the first Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico, ousting French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the third round, eventual bronze medalist and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the semifinals, and not a bigger scalp than two-time Grand Slam champion and world number one Angelique Kerber, who was ranked at world number two at the time.
Both players have phenomenal ball-striking which will make this encounter appealing for the spectators to watch. The duo also possess big serves, and they are good returners, therefore, both Wozniacki and Puig will need to remain patient, and wait for the opportunity to break their opponent's serve. The former world number one will want to win this match, so she has more matches under her belt ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year. The unseeded Puerto Rican will want to get her first win in 2017, which will give her some confidence heading into Melbourne.
This is the third match scheduled in the Ken Rosewall Arena, and the winner of this match will play last year's French Open quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva in the second round. This should be a close encounter between the two players but Wozniacki will just edge this match with having a little too much for Puig.
Prediction: Wozniacki in straight sets