The Australian Open is finally here after a day of shutdowns in uncertainties, changing security protocols, different quarantine conditions for top players in different cities, positive COVID-19 trials and warm-up incidents. With a build-up like a Hollywood thriller, the first Grand Slam of the year is all set to kick off on Monday.
Craig Tilley and the entire Tennis Australia team have been credited with advancing to one of the biggest sporting events in the city, which for now managed to beat the COVID-19. The tournament has drawn all the top players, except one under-prepared Roger Federer. Fans expect the number to be much lower this time and there may still be some final changes to the schedule.
On that note, here is a look at the Australian Open women’s singles draw, where 128 women will be battling for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
First Quarter: Ash Barty returns home after 11 months
World No.1 Ash Barty opted not to stay at home in Australia after the tour closed in March. She Warm-up events returned this season before her home slam.
At the time of writing, Barty has won 3 matches in this week’s WTA tune-up event and is scheduled to face off against Serena Williams on Saturday.
The last time the Australian took a long break from the game, he took a course that took him to the top of the rankings and the French Open. It remains to be seen how she will manage this time.
While the expectations of a home champion would be high, Barty repeatedly stated that he had learned not to worry about the pressure of expectations.
The 24-year-old opened her campaign against Danka Kovinic in the first round and may take on country’s Daria Gavrilova in two rounds.
If she gets past the third round clash against Ekaterina Alexandrova and the fourth round meeting with Petra Martyk.
In the second half of this quarter, former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova is the scheduled quarter-final opponent for Barty. Czech could have a tough second-round match against feudal American Daniel Collins. In the third round, 25th seed Karolina Muchova awaits, while No.-11 Belinda Bencic or No. 18 Alice Mertens will take on Pliskova in the final-16.
Quarter finals expected:  Ash Barty Vs.  Karolina Pliskova
Estimated Quarterly Results:  Ash Barty vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Dark Horse: Lelah Fernandez
First Round Match (es) to watch:  Alice Mertens vs. Laylah Fernandez,  Carolina Muchova vs Jelena Ostapenko, Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Barbora Strycova
Second quarter: Victoria Azarenka, Alina Svitolina pose challenges for Sophia Kainin
After breaking away 12 months ago to win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Sophia Kenin did not come under pressure like many other first-time slam winners. Kenin reached the final of the French Open in October and also won the WTA title in Lyon last year.
With a new management team, Kenin began the new season by reaching the quarter-finals in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne this week.
After opening against wild card Madison Inglis, Kenin faced a tough second-round challenge against veteran Kaia Kanepi. Croatian 28th seed Donna Vekic may come in the third round while 13th seed Johanna Konta or 22nd seed Jennifer Brady are the likely fourth round rivals.
Alina Svitolina of Ukraine is hoping to reach the quarter-finals for Kevin in Melbourne this time. The No. 5 seed can meet American-origin Koko Gough in the second round and No. 26 seed Yuliya Putintseva in the third.
The draw is tough for Svitolina, with a possible fourth round match against No. 12 player Resurgent Victoria Azarenka.
The Belarusian Australian Open, which reached the final of the US Open in September, is a two-time winner. She Former US Open winner Sam Stosur may face off in the second round, followed by 20th seed Maria Sakkari in the third round.
Quarter finals expected:  Sophia Canin Vs.  Elena Svitolina
Estimated Quarterly Results:  Sophia Canin Vs.  Victoria Azarenka
Dark Horse: Cocoa beef
First Round Match (es) to watch:  Maria Sakkari vs Christina Mladenovic,  Yuliya Putinseva vs Sloane Stephens
Third Quarter: Naomi Osaka is in the limelight as Bianca Andreescu returns to this segment
With three Grand Slam titles, a massive endorsement deal, and the courage to speak out against racial injustice, Naomi Osaka was groomed to face women’s tennis after Serena Williams retired.
World No 3 is a three-time Australian Open quarter-final match against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The draw for the Japanese superstar is not easy, with former World No. 4 Caroline Garcia a potential second-round rival. In-form Tunisian Ones Jabor also lurked in the third round.
Former world No. 1s and multiple slam winners Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber are potential fourth-round foes. With the Spaniard in great form a week before the Australian Open, he could be a considerable threat to Osaka.
In the second part of this section, all eyes will be on the return of former US Open champion Bianca Andriscu. The Canadians will play their first tournament in about 15 months. After exiting this week’s tune-up event, his fans would be eager to see him back, claiming it was a precautionary measure.
Andriscu will take on lucky loser Mihaila Buzarnescu in her first match and may face Resurgent Tsivana Pironkova in the second round.
Seven-time slam winner Venus Williams comes in the third round, while two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Quitova is expected to make it to the final-16.
Quarter finals expected:  Naomi Osaka Vs.  Bianca Andriscu
Estimated Quarterly Results:  Naomi Osaka Vs.  Petra Kvitova
Dark Horse: Venus williams
First Round Match (es) to watch:  Naomi Osaka vs. Anastasia Paviluchenkova, Us Jabeur vs Andrea Petkovic
Fourth Quarter: Simone Halep to stop Inga Swotek and Serena Williams
World No. 2 Simona Halep made headlines in the final quarter of the draw. The Romanian will expect a better go from his 2018 runner-up finish and remain one of the top contenders for the title.
Hallep opened against wildcard Lidget Cabrera in the first round and played a possible second round against Alja Tomjanovic, with Abu Dhabi runner-up Veronika Kudermatova in the final-32.
Hallep’s fourth-round opponent is French Open champion Inga Svotec, who settled Romania directly on their way to their first slam last year. It remains to be seen how Swottech, seeded 15th, manages expectations in their first Major event since that French Open victory.
Dhruva plays the Dutchwoman Aranxa Ras in the first round and in the third round he may meet No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina.
Although No. 7 seed Arya Sabalenka leads the second half of this quarter, the focus will undoubtedly be on Serena Williams. The American is chasing her record-equivalent 24th Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, seeded 10th, opens against German Laura Seagmond and may face gritty American Allison Riske in the third round.
Meanwhile, Sabalenka, whose 15-match winning streak ended this week, played against Viktoriya Kuzmova in the first round. She In the third round, the 31st seed could face Shuai Zhang or former World No. 11 Elijah Cornet.
Quarter finals expected:  Simona Halep Vs.  Aryna sabalenka
Estimated Quarterly Results:  Simona Halep Vs.  Serena Williams
Dark Horse: Marta Kostyuk
First Round Match (es) to watch:  Elena Raibkina vs. Vera Zvonareva,  Veronica Kudermatova vs Marta Kostyuk
Sophia Kenin defeated Ash Barty, Simona Halep defeated Naomi Osaka
Simona Halep defeated Sophia Canin
Published 05 Feb 2021 15:52 IST