The Apia International Sydney will receive yet another world-class quality field, with the cut-off ranking for the main draw standing at 32. Hence, even its qualifying draw is full of star players, with former top-10 players and Olympic Gold Medalists headlining the draw. Play will begin on the 5th of January, with three rounds of qualifying matches to be played.
First section: Makarova leads the draw
In the first section of the qualifying draw where eight players are vying for just one main draw spot, top seed Ekaterina Makarova is the huge favorite to come through of the section. However, she will face a tricky opposition in the opening round, with her opponent being Gabriela Dabrowski. A potential second-round meeting with hard-hitting compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova would be a match to look out for as well.
The other seed in this section is teenage prodigy Catherine Bellis, who will open her campaign against her giant-killing compatriot in Jennifer Brady. If she could get past the world number 65, the highest-ranked unseeded player, she would face either Kristina Kucova or Yang Zhaoxuan in the next round.
Prediction: Makarova d. Brady
Second section: Hard-hitters rule the section
There would be a couple of hard-hitting contests with second seed Anett Kontaveit leading the pack of players. Camila Giorgi is a dark horse in this section, and she could face the Estonian in the second round.
World number 49 Carina Witthoeft has a relatively clear path to the final qualifying rounds, though she would have to beware of her first-round opponent, home favorite Anastasia Rodionova.
Prediction: Witthoeft d. Kontaveit
Third section: Tricky draw for former top-10 player
Former world number seven Carla Suarez Navarro’s current ranking of 40 meant that she has to take part in the qualifying draw of Sydney, despite just being seeded two years ago. She would most likely not face any problems in the opening rounds though Johanna Larsson is never an opponent to underestimate. Nonetheless, the Spaniard should have a smooth path to the final qualifying round.
Rio Olympics Gold Medalist Monica Puig is a former finalist back in 2016 as a qualifier and has achieved some decent success in this tournament in the past. Hence, she would be looking to replicate the same result but Duan Ying-Ying could pose some huge danger in the second round.
Prediction: Suarez Navarro d. Duan
Fourth section: Packed draw with many quality players
Fourth seed Lauren Davis leads this section, but she received a poor draw after she was drawn to face world number 86 Lara Arruabarrena in the opening round. The dangerous Ons Jabeur, who already proved that she could do some damage to top players, potentially awaits in the second round.
Meeting for the third time in their respective careers would be Kateryna Bondarenko and Christina McHale, but the American has triumphed in all their past meetings. 2017 Wuhan Open semifinalist Maria Sakkari faces Veronica Cepede Royg, who was a surprise package at the French Open last year as well. This section of the draw has many thrilling match-ups, with the winner being extremely unpredictable.
Prediction: McHale d. Jabeur