After two weeks of warm-up tournaments, the first slam of 2020 is here, with 128 women all vying to become the Australian Open champion.
Headlining the draw is Naomi Osaka, the third seed who returns to the tournament as the defending champion. Alongside her in the top half of the draw is seventh seed and 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova, who will be looking to return to the final. Meanwhile, home expectations will be firmly placed on world number one and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, whilst seven-time champion Serena Williams will be looking to finally tie Margaret Court’s record of 25 Grand Slam singles titles.
In the bottom half of the draw, second seed and Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova will be looking to finally reach another Grand Slam final, having not reached one since the 2016 US Open, with fifth seed Elina Svitolina also looking for a major breakthrough in Melbourne. Another woman looking for a breakthrough will be sixth seed Belinda Bencic, coming off a career-best season, whilst fourth seed Simona Halep will be aiming to add to her French Open and Wimbledon crowns.
However, it doesn’t all sit with the top eight seeds, with several notable names and potential title contenders spread out across the draw. With several women performing well in the build-up to the tournament, it could be an incredible two weeks of action.
Projected Q/F: (1st) Ashleigh Barty vs (7th) Petra Kvitova
The first quarter is headlined by home favourite and top seed Barty, who will be aiming to be the first Australian to win in Melbourne for 42 years. The world number one comes into the tournament in fine form, reaching the final in Adelaide, and should ease her way to the fourth round, where she could face 18th seed Alison Riske. The American beat Barty in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, and certainly has the game to challenge Barty once again.
Lower down the quarter, seventh seed Kvitova will be looking to match her run from last year. The Czech had a good run in Brisbane, though the challenging conditions created by the horrific bushfires in Australia may not suit her, and she could come up against fast-rising 25th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in round three. 10th seed Madison Keys also sits here, starting against Daria Kasatkina, and could have a great third round encounter against 22nd Maria Sakkari.
Prediction: Barty def Keys
Projected Q/F: (3rd) Naomi Osaka vs (8th) Serena Williams
Arguably the most stacked quarter of the draw, with six Grand Slam champions present, sees defending champion Osaka looking to win her third Grand Slam title. The third seed may not have the easiest opener against Maria Bouzkova, though should see off the Czech and reach the second week fairly safely, where she could face 14th seed Sofia Kenin. The American had a great 2019 season, and will fancy her chances of progressing even further with a big result in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Serena Williams plays after winning in Auckland last week. The American should safely reach the second week, where either 12th seed Johanna Konta or 23rd seed Dayana Yastremska could provide a tough test for the seven-time champion. Also, look out for 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki in action in her last-ever tournament, whilst Venus Williams and Coco Gauff face off once again.
Prediction: S. Williams def Osaka
Projected Q/F: (6th) Belinda Bencic vs (4th) Simona Halep
The third quarter is perhaps the most open part of the draw, with several potential dark horses sitting here. Bencic has a career-best season in 2019 and is one of the leading contenders to win a maiden slam title this year, but does not have an easy draw, with Jelena Ostapenko and 28th seed Anett Kontaveit potential opponents in the first three round. Former champion Maria Sharapova will also be looking to make a run, though has a tricky opener versus 19th seed Donna Vekic. An interesting third round dual could pit Vekic against 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka, who looked near her best in Adelaide this past week.
Much like Bencic, Wimbledon champion Halep also has a tough draw here. Jennifer Brady, who beat Barty last week in Brisbane, waits in the first round for the Romanian, whilst 26th seed and potential third round opponent Danielle Collins looks to be in the same form that took her to the semifinals last year. 16th seed Elise Mertens, a solid slam performer, could also factor here, as could Karolina Muchova, the 20th seed who was one of 2019’s breakthrough players.
Prediction: Sabalenka def Collins
Projected Q/F: (5th) Elina Svitolina vs (2nd) Karolina Pliskova
After reaching her first Grand Slam semifinals in 2019, Svitolina will have hopes of winning her first Grand Slam title this season, though lost heavily in Brisbane last week, and does not have an easy draw here. Garbine Muguruza could await in the third round, whilst the second week could bring a match against 9th seed Kiki Bertens or 21st seed Amanda Anisimova. Bertens has been one of the most consistent players of recent seasons, though has never done well in recent seasons, whilst Anisimova will look to build on the momentum that saw her reach the last four in Auckland.
Former world number one Pliskova is another looking to finally win her maiden slam title, and the form she displayed in Brisbane suggests she should be able to see off a potentially dangerous Kristina Mladenovic, and then potentially Coco Vandeweghe, in the first two rounds. 2016 Champion Angelique Kerber is a potential fourth round opponent for the Czech, though Kerber has struggled with injury in her first two tournaments. Melbourne does see a welcome return for French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, who missed the US Open due to injury.
Prediction: Pliskova def Anisimova
S. Williams def Barty
Pliskova def Sabalenka
S. Williams def Pliskova