After a glorious fortnight, tennis action preparations are underway in Melbourne Park this Monday. Several top names will be in the warm-up tournament leading up to the 2021 Australian Open, which is set to begin on 8 February.
Skipping the women’s draw at the Melbourne Slam will be top-seeded Ashley Barty, last year’s winners Sophia Kenin and other Grand Slam champions including Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Quitova and Naomi Osaka.
With just over a week left for the main draw action to begin, now is the perfect time to look into the possibilities of some of these big names. Here, we rank the top eight contenders based on the performance of players in the Australian Open Series over the last three years.
8. Anastasia Pavlychenkova
His form coming into the Australian Open this year is quite impressive, but former junior No.1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has achieved some solid results in Melbourne. The Russian has two back-to-back quarterfinal appearances to boast, and may well see a go at those results.
With a ranking of No. 39, Pavluchenkova could miss the cut to gain a seed in this year’s tournament. But he will be a dangerous floater looking to avoid all the top names quickly.
7. Simona Halep
The final appearance from three years ago has helped former world No.1 Simona Halep place seventh in this year’s power rankings. And while he did not win too many titles in Australia, Hallep did consistently well in the warm-up tournament.
Given the right draw, there is no reason why Simona Halep cannot run another deep at Melbourne Park this year.
6. Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka has had amnesia for quite a few weeks at the beginning of last season. The Japanese star failed to recreate the form that helped him win the 2019 Australian Open title, and was ruled out early at both Melbourne and Brisbane.
But those results don’t really reflect Osaka’s abilities, especially on the hardcourt. With power-packed games like him, supported by his title run in 2019, the youngster will continue to be seen as a formidable opponent.
5. Karolina Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova has made a habit of starting her season in the Australian subcontinent with a lack of title runs. She Has won the season opener crown in Brisbane three times in the last four years, including the 2019 and 2020 editions of the tournament.
That, combined with the semifinal and quarterfinal finishes at the 2018 and 2019 Australian Open respectively, should give Pliskova – who looked completely out of place at the end of the 2020 season – something to build on.
4. Garbine Muguruza
Garbine Muguruza has fond memories of playing at the Australian Open. Not only did Spanard notch his first Grand Slam success in Melbourne, but it was also here last year that he revived his dipping fortunes by organizing an unexpected race to the summit.
It is based on the very run, coupled with decent performances in the warm-up tournament over the last three years, which Muguruza has found himself at number four on this year’s power ranking list.
3. Petra Kvitova
Petra Quitova’s tennis journey came fully into the 2019 Australian Open. Playing in her first major final since the 2016 knife attack that severely injured her playing arm, Quitova was passionate throughout the fortnight. And even when she lost the final in three sets, the Czech star still managed to make a big statement.
After their struggles early in their careers, Quitova has finally found a way to adapt to the hot conditions below. She Now ranked 7th in most match wins in Australia among active players.
The big hitting leftie has also made her aspirations clear of winning another Grand Slam. If she can find him quickly, Quitova can prove to be a strong contender in any form.
2. Ashley Barty
A large part of the 2020 season was chosen by Miss World No. 1 Ashley Barty to return to tennis action in Adelaide on Friday due to concerns by COVID-19. Playing against Simona Halep, the Australian must have got a fair idea of where their game is after such a long hiatus.
Time spent on the court in Adelaide would have helped calm the shock of Barty’s early season, which enters the Australian Open with high hopes.
Barty has the perfect build-up to the 2021 tournament at Barty, with a title and a deep run on home soil in Melbourne over the past three years.
1. Sophia Canin
Sofia Kenin topped the list due to her dream for the title at last year’s Australian Open. The 22-year-old showed great character throughout the fortnight, raising a string of more accomplished opponents on the biggest stage.
Kainin finished last season with another slam final and the WTA Player of the Year Award, both of which would have only increased his confidence level.
Kenin is also enjoying his time in Australia; The American won his first career title at Hobart. The courts in this part of the world reflect his game well, and there is no reason why Young should not be supported for repeats from last year.
Former winners Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka, top 10 players Alina Ryakina and Aryan Sabalenka, as well as young talent Ones Jabre and Elena Rybkina have performed well in Australia in the past and can present a serious challenge for all . Major contender.
Published 30 January 2021 16:14 IST