Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Australian Open 2021 Women’s Preview

Posted on 6 February 2021 by Sam Jacot

Serena Williams will begin her quest for a record equalling 24th Grand Slam title against Laura Siegemund.

The world number 11, who is the 10th seed at the Australian Open due to the withdrawal of Kiki Bertens, is one of 128 women in the draw.

The first-round ties will commence from Monday February 8th with the women’s final scheduled for Saturday February 20th. Viewers in the UK will be able to watch all the action from Melbourne live on Eurosport. Alongside this the BBC will show a one-hour highlights package every day from the fourth-round stage onwards.

Favourites

While Williams will be desperate to win her first major since 2017 to level Margaret Court’s record, home favourite Ashleigh Barty, US Open champion Naomi Osaka, world number two Simona Halep and defending champion Sofia Kenin will provide tough competition.

First seed Barty enjoyed a strong run to the semi-finals last year but has played little tennis since due to concerns about travelling during the pandemic. With 30,000 fans attending daily, Barty will hope to provide them with joy in her first round against Danka Kovinic.

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World number three Osaka won the title in Melbourne in 2019 and picked up her third grand slam trophy in September at the US Open. The 23-year-old is projected to face Williams in the semi-final but has a tough opening draw against world number 39 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Romanian Halep reached the final in 2018 and made a run to the semi-finals last year before losing to Garbine Muguruza. She will face wildcard Lizette Cabrera in the opening round and could play French Open winner Iga Swiatek in round four.

Lastly, 22-year-old Kenin provided a shock to win the Australian Open last year. The American will play Australian Maddison Inglis in round one with a potential tie against Barty in the semi-final. Having also made the final at the rescheduled French Open in October, Kenin is a major contender for the title once again.

Brits in action

From a British point of view, the main hope will once again rest with 13th seed Johanna Konta. After a disappointing 2020 she has reunited with former coach Dimitri Zavialoff and she will hope this partnership starts with a win against qualifier Kaja Juvan.

Francesca Jones, ranked 245, was born with the rare genetic condition ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia, which means she has just three fingers and a thumb on each hand. The 20-year-old came through qualifying in January in superb style and will hope to continue her remarkable run and provide an upset against Shelby Rodgers.

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Heather Watson, who was one of the 72 players who had to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine after arriving in Australia in January, takes on Kristyna Pliskova while Katie Boulter plays Daria Kasatkina with both unseeded.

Outsiders

There have been 12 different winners in the last 15 grand slams, dating back to the start of 2017. Therefore, it would be foolish to rule out a great number of other players who all have the game and experience.

One of those is Bianca Andreescu who won the US Open in 2019 but has not played competitive tennis since after being side-lined with injury. The 20-year-old takes on Mihaela Buzarnescu in round one.

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2020 French Open champion Swiatek, aged 19, is another young gun with the game to cause her opponents serious trouble. A first-round draw against Arantxa Rus awaits the 15th seed.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka will face Jessica Pegula in the opening round and could face fifth seed Svitolina in the last 16, with Svitolina starting her tournament against Marie Bouzkova.

World number seven Aryna Sabalenka who comes into the tournament in good form takes on Viktoria Kuzmova.

Former Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova and Muguruza will play Greet Minnen and Margarita Gasparyan respectively.

Projected last 16 ties:

Ashleigh Barty vs Petra Martic

Belinda Bencic vs Karolina Pliskova

Sofia Kenin vs Johanna Konta

Victoria Azarenka vs Elina Svitolina

 

Bianca Andreescu vs Petra Kvitova

Garbine Muguruza vs Naomi Osaka

Aryna Sabalenka vs Serena Williams

Iga Swiatek vs Simona Halep

 

Winner Prediction: Naomi Osaka