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Australian Open Women's Singles Preview 2023

I haven't written a Grand Slam preview for a while and I have a bit of time on my hands at the moment, so why not spend some time previewing the action from Melbourne Park. Southern Australia has had a very wet spring and summer, so expect a bit of rain in amongst a few days of hot weather. But there are multiple courts with a roof these days, that won't hold them back too much.

On with the preview!

Running down the draw, listing seeds and notable floaters:

1. Iga Swiatek, R1 v Niemeier
- clear no.1 in the women's game with a 67-9 record last season, bagging two majors (French and US) plus five premier level (WTA 1000) events. Was only #9 in the world this time last year, reaching the semis, then went on a ridiculous 37-match run, winning Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and the French Open consecutively, securing the no.1 spot before finally dropping a match at Wimbledon. Leading in, she has won three decent matches in the United Cup (Putintseva, Bencic and Trevisan) before losing to Jessica Pegula, a player she defeated four times last season and hadn't lost to since 2019. Despite leaving her in tears post-match, something she atrributed to feeling she let her country down on one of the rare occasions she gets to represent Poland, that will have tuned her up nicely, and deserves to be a clear favourite for the event. Ahead of her in the draw, Danielle Collins (beat her in the semis here last year, 1-1 record overall) is a likely opponent in R4; Jelena Ostapenko would be a concern if she sneaked through to the quarters, holding a 0-3 record over Swiatek; Pegula in the semis.

25. Marie Bouzkova, v Andreescu
- fine Czech player who rose from #90 to #24 last season, claiming her maiden WTA title in her home town of Prague. Lost early here last year but claimed wins over Pegula, Garcia and Gauff, showing she can match it at this level. Faces a tricky opponent in Andreescu first up; the Canadian power-hitter has the talent, as shown by winning the US Open in her boom year of 2019, but more recently, that level of form has been few and far between due to injury.

22. Elena Rybakina, v Cocciaretto
- last year's Wimbledon champion deserves to be much higher in the seedings, but with SW19 performances not being recognised in the rankings due to their bold stance on the war in Ukraine, she is probably 15 slots worse than she should be. Last January, she was battling injury and retired three times within a month, so ignore her R2 exit. Good enough to beat anyone on her day but has wobbled a bit in her prep, defeating Collins but then losing to Kostyuk and Kvitova in Adelaide. Needs to get on a run before you can get confident in her.

13. Danielle Collins, v Kalinskaya
- finalist last year and semi-finalist in 2019, a solid return from just four main draws in Melbourne. When she is hot, she can beat anyone, as shown by wins over Barty, Halep, Rybakina, Swiatek, Jabeur, Osaka and Garcia in the past two seasons. Played four matches across the back-to-back Adelaide events, beating Pliskova and Teichmann, losing to Rybakina and Kudermertova - all four being seeded here. Has only won a couple of minor WTA titles but obviously focuses on the majors. Those Adelaide events should be the perfect prep for her, and she won't have to face the 99% home crowd support of Ash Barty in any match this year. Tough draw in Swiatek's 1/8th, but the odds compensate for that and she is very capable.

11. Paula Badosa, v McNally - WITHDRAWN DUE TO INJURY
- was ranked six here last year, arriving on the back of winning Indian Wells (held in October 21), reaching the semis at the WTA Finals and taking out the now-departed Sydney Classic, before losing to Keys in the fourth round. Her ranking dropped from four at Wimbledon to its current number on the back of a poor last half of 2021, going 5-9 post-Wimbledon and losing the Indian Wells points. Unbeaten in four matches in Australia before giving a walkover in Adelaide due to a right thigh injury, she's much better than the average Spaniard on hardcourt and can pull out a decent run. Holds a 2-1 record over Ostapenko, her likely R3 opponent.

17. Jelena Ostapenko, v Yastremska
- the 2017 French Open champion who bases her game on getting under her opponent's skin as much as forehand winners. In 13 hardcourt majors, she's never been past the third round. Won nine of ten matches in Dubai and Doha, soon after last year's event so she's not hopeless on the surface, she just doesn't bring it to the majors. And that makes it very hard to ever back her. Her R1 opponent Dayana Yastresmka looked destined to reach the top echelon of the tour until a drugs ban in 2021. She was awful in the last half of 2022, winning just three matches out of 15 after Wimbledon.

29. Qinwen Zheng, v Galfi
- fast-rising Chinese player who most casual observers will have never heard of. Ranked 111 this time last year, she came through qualifying to reach the secound round, then steadily improved, winning a couple of minor titles and reaching the final in Tokyo in September. Definite talent who got some solid match practice in Adelaide before retiring against Kvitova, citing a left thigh strain. How serious that is, we will have to wait and see. R1 opponent Galfi is on a six-match losing streak, all on hardcourt.

Emma Raducanu, v Korpatsch
- the belle of Britain rolled her ankle in Auckland on Jan 5 and is facing a race against time to be fit. Since her shock US Open win in 2021, things haven't really progressed for Raducanu, with injuries, coaching changes and the pressure of her new-found fame weighing upon her. She lost to world 98 Danka Kovinic here last year, and apart from beating Caroline Garcia in March (ranked 66 at the time, fought back from injury to be #4 by end of season), she beat nobody in the top 20, with losses to the likes of Friedsam, Cornet and Kalinina - players she really should be beating comfortably. Let's hope she doesn't become a one-hit wonder, she could be enormous for the sport in Britain (already is, to a degree) if she can get it together.

7. Coco Gauff, v Siniakova
- the 18yo sensation arrives having won the title in Auckland, without dropping a set, after a sour end to 2022, losing all her matches at the WTA and Billie Jean King (formerly Fed) Cup finals, including to her R1 opponent Siniakova. Her first round loss here last year was her weakest Slam result of the year, improving to reach the Roland Garros final, R3 at Wimbledon and the quarters at the US Open. Super-talented, will soon be at the stage she can beat anyone if she isn't there already. Her time can't be far away.

3. Jessica Pegula, v Cristian
- the billionaire's daughter is up to a career-best ranking of three, an impressive achievement considering she only has two individual titles at any level. Reached the quarter-finals in all three of the 'counted' majors last season (losing to the world no.1 at the time on each occasion), as well as the Aus Open in 2021 as well. Her last four regular tournaments have ended in QF loss to Garcia (Cincinnati), QF loss to Swiatek (US Open), SF loss to Swiatek (San Diego), won title in Guadalajara. She mightn't have many trophies yet but she has earned her place at the top table. Maria Sakkari (possible QF opponent) holds a 4-2 record over her, as does Swiatek, although one of those wins was just a week ago. She wouldn't need much luck in the draw to be taking her place in the later rounds.

28. Amanda Anisimova, v Kostyuk
- the American was absent from the tour for four months after playing the US Open (lost R1) with a broken toe. Until then she had a good run in 2022, reaching the second week at all three majors (R4, R4, QF) with an overall win-loss record of 33-15. Can win a few rounds but unlikely to be there at the business end of the tournament.

20. Barbora Krejickova, v Beljek (Q)
- the 2021 French Open champion reached the quarters here last year on her eighth attempt (failed to get out of qualifying five times). Had a relatively poor run after that until she won successive indoor tournaments late in the season in Tallinn and Ostrava, defeating Bencic, Rybakina and Swiatek along the way. A lead-in of two matches, beating Riske, losing to Kasatkina in Adelaide. Faces an exciting 16yo also from Czechia in the first round, Sara Beljek. Might reach the weekend.

15. Petra Kvitova, v van Uytvanck
- not the threat she was when twice winning Wimbledon a decade ago. A finalist here in 2019, then quarter-finalist a year later, her most recent visits have been R2 and R1 exits, both at the hands of Sorana Cirstea. Coming off a 28-19 year, she has won four of her five lead-up matches in the United Cup and Adelaide, losing only to Daria Kasatkina. Can shock any player on her day but I have no faith in her stringing enough wins together to be a threat.

10. Madison Keys, v Blinkova
- the hard-hitting American went undefeated through the United Cup but faced only one player in the top 40. Reached the semis here last year, beaten by eventual champion Barty, a similar fate to 2015 when Serena Williams knocked her out in the semis. Capable of beating anyone on her day, especially on hardcourt.

Ajla Tomljanovic, v Podoroska, WITHDRAWN DUE TO INJURY
- Australia's no.1 female player just missed the seedings, another victim of the non-ranking Wimbledon, but it did at least launch her on a run of form, going 9-3 across the WTA 1000s and US Open. Hopefully that gives her confidence as her record here is abysmal, never going past the second round in eight main draw appearances.

24. Viktoria Azarenka, v Kenin
- a dual Australian Open champion (2012,2013) meets the 2020 champion in the first round. Neither of them are much of a threat lately though, Azarenka's last title came in 2020 (with the previous one in 2016), while Kenin's was in 2020, just two months after her biggest-ever victory. Azarenka did at least have a good run in the Slams last year, R4 here, R3 in Paris and R4 in New York (banned from Wimbledon). Hopefully this match is a highlight of the opening round, as I can't see either of them going far.

32. Jil Teichmann, v Dart
- the Swiss left-hander is often seen as a clay specialist but she did beat Anisimova and Pavlyuchenkova in Adelaide before losing to Collins. Switched coaches over the off-season, she is now working with Andrew Bettles, former coach of Elena Svitolina. Meanwhile Harriet Dart will be a worthy foe in the opening round. She beat Badosa and Tomljanovic in the Billie Jean King Cup in November, then in her next event, the United Cup, she lost a tight three-setter against Badosa and in straight sets to Pegula. No tournament winners here, but perhaps an upset, at least as far as the rankings are concerned.

6. Maria Sakkari, v Yuan
- after two R4 appearances in the past three years, the sixth seed will hope to capitalise on the heavy Greek support in Melbourne to go a step further. With two major semi-finals to her credit, at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadow in 2021 plus a SF at the Tour Finals last year (beating Pegula, Sabalenka and Jabeur), she is close to the level she needs. The United Cup has provided her warm-up matches leading in, with three wins out of four matches. Nice draw, gets a few rounds to find form before she needs to get serious.

8. Daria Kasatkina, v Gracheva
- after a couple of years in the wilderness, Kasatkina has returned to form and now sits at a career-high ranking #8. She has captured four titles in the past two seasons, all relatively minor ones on the WTA Tour, but additions to the trophy cabinet all the same. Never past the third round here, she won't get many better chances to improve that record.

30. Karolina Pliskova, v X.Wang
- probably the most frustrating player on the WTA Tour. The former no.1 has played in 40 Grand Slam tournament singles draws, with a total of two finals and a further two semi-finals appearances to show for it. So many chances, so much underachieving for a player of her rank. Since reaching the quarters at the US Open in September, she has gone 4-8 and in regard to her chances of winning the event, that ship has long since sailed.

23. Shuai Zhang, v Tig
- Shuai Zhang has exited the third round here in three of the last four seasons and reached R4 at the US Open last September. This is the peak of her ranking which means R3/R4 is as far as she is expected to go.

9. Veronika Kudermertova, v Zanevska
- the Russian has looked in fine form while in Australia, up to a career-high ranking and four wins, three of which were over former Grand Slam winners or finalists. That is, until her semi-final in Adelaide was conceded as a walkover due to a left thigh injury. Retirements and walkovers this close to a major are often just precautionary but it's worth seeing her in action before investing on her. Last season she equalled or bettered her best performances at all three of the majors she was permitted to enter.

10. Anett Kontaveit, v Grabher
- somehow the Estonian reached no.2 in the world last year, and she is now seeded ten, despite being 17th in the WTA rankings. Covid and politics have really made a mess of the rankings system, she's not won any of the bigger events nor gotten beyond the quarter-finals at any major (best result QF here 2020). Not an ideal preparation for the first major of the year, two losses from two matches, but to Q.Zheng and Badosa, who are both seeded here. Can win a couple of rounds and stay in that top 20/30 bracket.

19. Ekaterina Alexandrova, v Bonaventure
- the 28yo Russian rested this week to nurse a left thigh injury after a win over Fourlis and a loss to Vondrousova in the back-to-back Adelaide events. Has a couple of R3 returns here, both times defeating Krejickova, but her upside is limited, that's as far as she's ever been in 23 major singles draws.

27. Irina-Camelia Begu, v Zheng S.
- the Romanian reached the semis in the Adelaide 1 event, beating Ostapenko and Kudermertova before falling to Sabalenka. Based on her draw, she should look forward to a R3 clash against Garcia. Her opening opponent Saisai Zheng is a former top 40 player but hasn't been seen on the singles court for over a year.

4. Caroline Garcia, v Sebov
- after a decade of grinding on the tour, the former world junior no.1 has hit herride, winning four events in 2022, including the WTA Tour Finals in November. In a recent interview, she revealed how she had battled bulimia and mental health issues until recently and now seems to be in a much better place. So far in Australia, she has beaten Podoroska, Martic and Siniakova, before losing in three sets to Bencic. That should have her in prime condition, and now that she has the draw protection earned as the fourth seed, she has a tremendous chance of going deep in the tournament.

5. Aryna Sabalenka, v Martincova
- the woman most affected by the Wimbledon ban was the Belarussian who was unable to defend her semi-final points from 2021. A repeat of the same result, entirely reasonable based on her form, would push her back into the top three. Hardcourt is her surface. She reached the semis at the US Open (lost to winner Swiatek) and was runner-up at the WTA Tour Finals (beat Swiatek, Jabeur and Pegula, lost to Sakkari and Garcia) in the latter part of 2022. Her last two appearances here have ended in the fourth round, she can go better this time.

26. Elise Mertens, v Muguruza
- an intriguing R1 matchup between an unseeded former no.1 and the Belgian seed who has promised much but never quite lived up to the hype. Elise Mertens is very consistent in the majors; in her last 19 big events, only last time in New York (R1 loss) has she not reached at least third round. Just one semi and two quarter-finals in that run, with lots of third and fourth round exits. Garbine Muguruza's ranking fell off a cliff last year as she only won three matches across the four majors and then the points from her WTA Finals win in 2021 expired. From #3 here last year out to #58. The highlight of the R1 schedule, the victor should get to R3 at least.

21. Martina Trevisan, v Schmiedlova
- the late-maturing Italian is at a career peak in the rankings but don't get too excited by her chances here. In the non-clay majors, she has won just two matches from seven main draws. Beat Sakkari in the Unired Cup but also suffered heavy defeats to Haddad Maia, Swiatek and Pegula. Schmiedlova hasn't dropped a set through qualifying and this might be ripe for a R1 upset (in terms of rankings anyway).

12. Belinda Bencic, v Tomova
- another highly-touted player who hasn't delivered the results in a major tournament yet. The former no.4 has three final eight appearances in New York (2x QF, 1x SF), but none anywhere else (best 1x R4 here, 2x R4 Wimbledon). Perhaps her body clock thinks she should be skiing because that's a poor return on her talent. Semi-finalist (so far) in Adelaide, beating Muguruza and Garcia, but she's had decent lead-in form in the past...

14. Beatriz Haddad Maia, v Parrizas-Diaz
- 2022 was the year it all clicked for Haddad Maia, surging from no.83 in the world up to no.15 on the back of two British grasscourt titles and a finals appearance at the WTA 1000 in Toronto, after progressing from the lower tours. She has a big volume of matches under her belt from ITF level, racking up 10 trophies from late 2020-22, and the confidence she has built from that has paved the path for her sharp rise in rankings. She's yet to crack it at the majors but she does have wins over Swiatek, Sakkari, Halep, Bencic and Kvitova, so a change in fortune would not surprise. Can reach week two with her draw.

Sloane Stephens, v Potapova
- Sloane Stephens is tennis' version of the mystery bet, you just never know what you are going to get. Six of her last seven visits to Melbourne have resulted in opening round defeats, but she also has two R4s and a semi-final in her AO career. Her record at the other Slams is similar apart from Roland Garros where she regularly makes the second week. She just missed a seeding here this year, and R1 losses to Masarova and Davis in Auckland and Hobart don't resemble the form she displayed in October, beating Bencic and Garcia in Guadalajara. Dangerous on her day but can never have any certainty in which version of her will show up.

18. Liudmila Samsonova, v Paolini
- the Russian 24yo had a strong back half of 22, winning three hardcourt titles and reaching a career-best fourth round at the US Open, in consecutive events. That pushed her into the top 20 for the first time and the comforts of a seeded draw. In Adelaide she lost to Sabalenka in a pair of tiebreaks and Anisimova in the second event. Getting to the fourth round again should be her target.

31. Kaia Kanepi, v Birrell
- the ageless Kaia Kanepi reached the quarters here last year, her best result in Melbourne in 16 visits. She hasn't won a WTA Tour event since 2013 (plenty of ITF tournaments though) and her lead-up form (three wins, three losses in Adelaide) could best be described as about her level.

2. Ons Jabeur, v Zidansek
- back-to-back major finals for the Tunisian have given her a taste of the big time, now it's time to move into the major tournament winners' column. She missed last year's Aus Open due to injury but in her previous two visits, she was knocked out by the eventual winners. Her draw looks rather soft through to the quarter-final against Sabalenka who holds a 3-1 record over her. On the other side Swiatek leads her 3-2, while Jabeur has the wood on Garcia over their career, leading 7-0 including major junior tournaments.

While Swiatek deserves to be clear favourite, there's no value to be had in her price. Danielle Collins has shown she thrives Down Under and Ons Jabeur still doesn't have enough respect in the market.

1pt Danielle Collins 33/1 (40 Betfair)
1pt Ons Jabeur 14/1 (18 Betfair)


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