The women’s draw is set for the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open and features many intriguing early matches as well as a loaded top half. The absence of new Mom Serena Williams means that a new champion will be crowned in Melbourne at the end of January and opportunity knocks for the top seeds. Here’s what you need to know before play starts on Sunday night.
Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki lead the way at the top and bottom of the draw. Both have won the Rogers Cup title in Montreal, in 2016 and 2010, respectively and both are looking to capture their first Major. Halep could meet Eugenie Bouchard in the second round while Wozniacki finds herself in the same quarter as French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and 2017 Aussie Open semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe.
On paper, it would appear that the second quarter of the draw, anchored by no. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza, is the toughest section with the likes of Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova, Madison Keys, and Caroline Garcia all looming for the two-time Grand Slam champion just to make the semifinals.
Last year’s finalist in Melbourne, Venus Williams, will have to be at her best from the get go this year as she open’s against an in-form Belinda Bencic, a former Top 10 player who is back on track following multiple surgeries. Other notable first round matches include: Ostapenko versus Francesca Schiavone, Rio gold medalist Monica Puig against Samantha Stosur, and Dominika Cibulkova versus Kaia Kanepi.
Fresh off her maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, Sloane Stephens will be hoping to rekindle her New York form as the no. 13 seed. She opens against world no. 36 Shuai Zhang.