The Australian Open series kicks off with a high quality field and led off by the World No. 1 Barty, who will no doubt bring some much needed cheer for the local crowds as the nation continues to battle with ravaging bush fires.
There are a couple of tricky opponents along the way – although she has a losing record against potential quarter-finalist Petra Kvitova, she is catching up having won their last three matches on the bounce. However, she still trails Elina Svitolina by quite some margin, getting her first win against the Ukrainian at the WTA Finals last year.
Barty’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
R2: Maria Sharapova | H2H: Barty leads 2-1
QF: Petra Kvitova  | H2H: Kvitova leads 4-3
SF: Elina Svitolina  | H2H: Svitolina leads 5-1
Armed with a new coaching set-up, featuring Dani Vallverdu and Olga Savchuk, defending champion Pliskova continues her search for that elusive first slam title. She has a decent chance of going far in the tournament once more with a pretty favourable draw, perhaps her toughest obstacle outside of the final would be a semi-final against an evenly matched Naomi Osaka.
Also armed with a new coach in Wim Fisette, Osaka makes her comeback to the tour with potentially a tough draw, if she comes out a little rusty. She just trails behind both Sofia Kenin and Kiki Bertens who seem to be able to undo her game at times, before a more evenly matched potential semi-final and final, on rankings.
It is a rare thing for Svitolina to close out a year without a title, as happened in 2019 after losing her title defence at the WTA Finals. The trade-off had to be her best Slam runs of her career, so can she too chase that elusive major title?
What should give her confidence, should she face Barty in the semi-final is that she has, in the past, been stronger than the Aussie, and the glue-like tendencies of the Shenzhen court at the end of the year probably worked in Barty’s favour.
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