Melbourne | Kerber to upset the rankings
The women’s Australian Open title is up for grabs in the absence of the defending champion Serena Williams.
Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep are the two most favoured to wear this year’s crown, but there are plenty of challengers who could trip them up during the fortnight.
Svitolina, the world number four from the Ukraine, cruised to the Brisbane title to warm-up for Melbourne and is continuing to play at the constant level she displayed during last year. She is definitely on the verge of collecting her first major and her challenge starts on Day one against Serbia’s Ivana Jotovic..
Meanwhile the world number one, Halep, has been unable to win he first major though she has come close and is consequently not perceived as being a favourite. However she shouldn’t be discounted.
Meanwhile Caroline Wozniacki, another player who has topped the rankings despite not winning a grand slam, won the WTA Championships in Singapore at the end of last season and warmed-up for Melbourne by reaching the final in Auckland. The Dane is playing as well as she ever has done and is too good a player not to win a grand slam so this year could be hers and she plays an evening match on the opening day against Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, the Hobart International finalist..
Karolina Plisova is an obvious candidate for the title but she been inconsistent when it matters the most. She briefly held the No.1 spot last but her game remains brittle despite her big serve and strong ground shots. Nonetheless she is a contender.
Ass is Britain’s No.1 Jo Konta, the world number nine who had a mixed season last year and a meltdown towards the end of it. She was a semi-finalist in 2016 but must be viewed as an outsider for the title though he made the quarters at Brisbane falling to Svitolina over three sets, The Briton was not helped by hip problems at the start of the decider.
Angelique Kerber is the player who arrives with the most consistent record of this season. She was unbeaten in her singles matches at the Hopman Cup in Perth and won the Sydney International on Saturday which has rekindled her confidence after a dismal 2017 season.
The German has a good record in Melbourne having won the title in 2016 and will certainly be targeting a second.
The Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza shouldn’t be discounted either, but she has struggled with her fitness over the last few weeks and is vulnerable, especially in the early stages but she is a tenacious competitor and could surprise the pundits.
Julia Goerges has surprised many in her build up to Melbourne, defeating Wozniacki for the Auckland title. The German has forced herself into contention despite the fact that she has never progressed past the fourth round at a major. She is destined to do better than that, if not at Melbourne then later in the year. She takes Kenin Sofia of the US in her opening match on Day one.
Jelena Ostapenko, the French Open champion faces Italy’s Francesca Schiavoni to open play on the Rod Laver and will be followed by Venus Williams in what will be an intriguing contest against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic. Belgium’s Elise Mertens, winner of the Hobart war-up event, is also in action and hopes to progress past the Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova when she plays late in the afternoon on Day one.