The Australian Open women’s singles qualifying draw was revealed on Saturday, as 128 players, from newcomers to veterans, will battle in Dubai over the next 4 days for 16 coveted main-draw slots at the year’s first Grand Slam event, which starts in Melbourne on 8 February.
From the beginning of all our planning for the Australian Open, our objective has been to provide the players with as many competition opportunities, and the ability to earn prize money, as we possibly could. Craig Tiley, Australian Open Tournament Director
“From the beginning of all our planning for the Australian Open, our objective has been to provide the players with as many competition opportunities, and the ability to earn prize money, as we possibly could,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley previously said.
At the top of the draw, No 1 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia faces an Australian right off the bat when she takes on wildcard Storm Sanders in their opener.
20-year-old Juvan hopes to continue her burgeoning Grand Slam successes: she pushed Serena Williams to three sets in the second round of Wimbledon in 2019, and reached the same stage at Roland Garros and the US Open last season.
Powerful Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin is the No 2 seed as the former Top 50 player continues her comeback from medical struggles, improving her ranking nearly 100 spots during last season.
Dodin plays Bulgaria’s Isabella Shinikova in the first round on Sunday, and could face crafty No 28 seed Monica Niculescu of Romania in the final qualifying round.
Belgium’s Greet Minnen, Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam, and Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa round out the top five seeds.
Friedsam has an eye-opening first-round encounter set up against former Top 20 player Ana Konjuh, who is coming back from injury and has gone 13-4 in ITF Challenger events since September.
Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria will also continue her meteoric return to the tour as the No 21 seed, where she will play Japan’s Kyoka Okamura in a first-rounder that will take place late on Sunday.
In her first professional tournament in over three years, Pironkova made a stunning run to the 2020 US Open quarter-finals, where she fell to Serena Williams in three sets.
Pironkova, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, followed her US Open performance with a third-round showing at Roland Garros, and went from unranked in August to World No 136 by season’s end.
Previous Grand Slam finalists Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Sara Errani of Italy are also in the mix in Dubai.
2014 Wimbledon finalist Bouchard, seeded No 25, will meet Aussie wildcard Abbie Myers in the first round, while 17th seed Errani, the 2012 Roland Garros finalist, will open against Liang En-shuo of Chinese Taipei, the 2018 Australian Open junior singles champion.
Hungary’s Timea Babos, the WTA Doubles World No 4, is seeded No 7 in the singles qualifying draw, and she will play Russia’s Marina Melnikova in the first round.
Babos could play No 20 seed and three-time WTA singles titlist Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the final qualifying round if seedings hold.
No 9 seed Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine will meet 2019 Australian Open junior singles champion Clara Tauson in another intriguing opening round, which opens Court 1 play on Sunday.
The 18-year-old from Denmark qualified for her Grand Slam main-draw debut at Roland Garros last season, and promptly shocked US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady in the first round on the clay courts of Paris.
Also, two more recent junior stars will square off in an all-teenager first-round clash, as No 12 seed Caty McNally of the United States, a two-time Grand Slam junior doubles champion, will meet Daria Snigur of Ukraine, the 2019 Wimbledon junior singles champion.
Additionally, the reigning Australian Open junior singles champion, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, received a wild card.
The 15-year-old meets Cagla Buyukakcay in Sunday’s opening round.