Iga Swiatek, who took the WTA Tour by storm last season, has her eyes set on capturing a fourth grand slam at the Australian Open.
The Pole may be the strong favorite to start the season with a sizzle by securing a major trophy, but plenty of players have a shot at dashing Swiatek’s hopes Down Under (16-29 January).
Aces expected to improve year-on-year that could be in the glory hunt include France’s WTA Tour Finals champion Caroline Garcia, America’s tenacious teenager Coco Gauff, China’s Zheng Qinwen — who scooped the 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year accolade — as well as Britain’s 2021 shock US Open winner Emma Raducanu.
Gauff, who ended a dire five-match losing streak at the end of last season at the season-opener ABS Classic in New Zealand, is among a set of five US ladies in the world’s top 25 that are eyeing up the big prize at Melbourne Park.
New Yorker Jessica Pegula (world no.3), Gauff (no.7), Madison Keys (no.11), Florida’s Danielle Collins (no.14), and Russian-American Amanda Anisimova (no.24) are proudly flying the flag for America.
Pegula has surprisingly never gotten further than a slam quarter-final. Gauff finished runner-up at the 2022 French Open. Keys is a former US Open finalist. Collins was the 2022 Australian Open runner-up to the now-retired Aussie Ashleigh Barty. Anisimova is a former French Open semi-finalist.
However, Gauff can only triumph if the 18-year-old moves through the gears with her overall game and tactics.
The Florida-based ex-junior world no.1 just experienced her best season on the WTA Tour and finally cracked the world’s top 10 rankings after reaching the US Open quarter-finals last September.
She showed early promise, having burst onto the scene at 2019 Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier by stunning US icon Venus Williams on Centre Court at the All England Club as a qualifier. Yet it has taken time for her flaws to be ironed out and her over-enthusiasm to be curbed.
Gauff has long been touted as a future world no.1 and multiple slam winner but has only made slow progress. If she can be crowned the 2023 Australian Open champion, she will finally make her breakthrough.
Swiatek’s demolition job, sweeping past every opponent across the net, makes her a highly attractive player to back, even at low odds.
Her dismantling of Tunisia’s Ons Jabuer in the 2022 US Open final elevated her to easily the best player on the WTA Tour. This position seems near impossible to shift her from.
The Pole’s path to 2023’s first major appears simplistic as Barty has left the circuit.
Yet some amazing opponents are set to continue their hot streaks this term. These include Garcia, Gauff, Romanian ex-world no.1 Simona Halep, Jabeur, Japan’s former world no.1 Naomi Osaka, Wimbledon winner Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, and Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka.
Suppose you fancy a flutter on the Australian Open. In that case, it’s a good idea to check out the latest odds from the best Australian bookmakers, as there are plenty of players in the mix apart from Swiatek to start their season with a coveted trophy.
Swiatek is expected to continue last year’s rich vein of form when she totally dominated the WTA Tour. The retirement of gutsy Barty, who clinched her inaugural Australian Open title last year and then promptly hung up her racket just two months later, has easily helped the Pole reach no.1.
Jabeur was on a hot streak for most of the past campaign and pulled out her trademark big shots at the majors. As a crowd-pleaser, she will be a danger to all top players in the draw.
Sabalenka became prominent after falling to Swiatek in a memorable 2022 US Open semi-final showdown. Despite her gritty displays, she needs to hold her nerve more if a grand slam is going to be a genuine goal.
Halep, Osaka, and Rybakina all have the know-how about clinching a grand slam title. Depending on the draw, the trio should be in the mix for the highly-anticipated major.
With so many ladies who could spring a surprise at Melbourne, the field looks wide open, although Swiatek believes she is unbeatable.
Her athleticism and vicious serve are just some elements that make her a standout on the circuit. Her varying groundstrokes fox opponents, with low backhands and heavy topspin forehands that bounce high, are expected to bring her glory in Melbourne on 28 January.
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