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Adelaide International 2021: Women's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 21 Feb 2021
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With Naomi Osaka having been crowned the Australian Open champion on Saturday, it's time to turn our attention to the smaller WTA events. And the Adelaide International is the first tournament scheduled in the post-Australian Open phase.

Being a WTA 500 tournament, the event has attracted some of the sport's biggest names. The 32-player field will be led by defending champion and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. World No. 12 Belinda Bencic is the second seed, while British No. 1 Johanna Konta and Gippsland Trophy champion Elise Mertens are the third and fourth seeds respectively.

French Open champion and fifth seed Iga Swiatek will set her sights on winning her first title of the season, while sixth seed Petra Martic, seventh seed Yulia Putintseva, and eighth seed Qiang Wang will look to shake up the draw too.

Only the top four seeds have been granted a bye in the first round. The main draw action will kick off on 22 February, with the qualifying rounds getting completed a day before. The grand finale will be held on 27 February.

With multiple Grand Slam champions and top stars vying for the title at the Adelaide International, a host of thrilling matches await the fans. On that note, let us take an in-depth look at the draw.

Top half: Ashleigh Barty, Elise Mertens and Iga Swiatek in a packed section

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek

Seeded players: (1) Ashleigh Barty, (4) Elise Mertens, (5) Iga Swiatek, (8) Qiang Wang

Expected semifinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Elise Mertens

Dark horse: Danielle Collins

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Analysis: After a shocking quarterfinal loss to Karolina Muchova at the year's first Major, Ashleigh Barty has accepted a wildcard into the Adelaide International. The Aussie will look to bounce back at the tournament where she lifted the trophy last year.

The Australian Open setback was a blip in what has otherwise been a stellar start to the 2021 season for the World No. 1. Barty returned to action after a year and won her very first tournament at the Yarra Valley Classic.

The former French Open champion will look to replicate those efforts in Adelaide, opening her campaign against the winner of Danielle Collins and Saisai Zheng. Collins could be a threat with her aggressive game, especially given that she lost to Barty in a tight three-set semifinal here last year.

Things could get even trickier for Barty after that, as a potential showdown with reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek awaits her. The young Pole was edged by Simona Halep in an enthralling fourth-round match at the Australian Open, but she will be eager to get back to winning ways soon.

A possible second-round meeting with former US Open champion Samantha Stosur is on the cards for Swiatek at Adelaide.

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Elise Mertens (left) and Aryna Sabalenka with the Australian Open women
Elise Mertens (left) and Aryna Sabalenka with the Australian Open women's doubles trophy

For both Barty and Swiatek, another dangerous player would be lurking in the form of fourth seed Elise Mertens. The Belgian made a dream start to the season by winning her sixth career singles title, which was followed by the Australian Open doubles crown in partnership with Aryna Sabalenka.

Mertens should be motivated to continue her heroics in Adelaide, but her road to the semis won't be smooth. Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Jil Teichmann and eighth seed Qiang Wang are some of the names in her path.

Mertens is likely to cross swords with Garcia in her opening match, assuming the latter beats Anastasija Sevastova. With Garcia boasting of a 3-1 lifetime record over Mertens, the Belgian cannot afford any slip-ups.

Even if she manages to solve the Garcia puzzle, Mladenovic or Teichmann could test Mertens too. Barty or Swiatek in the semis could be yet another tough challenge for the Belgian, should she successfully manage to negotiate the early-round dangers.

Semifinal prediction: Ashleigh Barty vs Elise Mertens

Bottom half: Belinda Bencic, Johanna Konta and Veronika Kudermetova battle for supremacy

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Belinda Bencic
Belinda Bencic

Seeded players: (2) Belinda Bencic, (3) Johanna Konta, (6) Petra Martic, (7) Yulia Putintseva

Expected semifinal: Belinda Bencic vs Johanna Konta

Dark horse: Veronika Kudermetova

Analysis: The bottom half is a lot more open than the loaded top half. Second seed Belinda Bencic heads this section, and will look to turn things around after an underwhelming start to the year.

The Swiss was shown the door by the in-form Elise Mertens in the third round of the Australian Open. She would be eager to get some wins under her belt, which in turn would help her regain her confidence.

Bencic could start against Anna Blinkova or a qualifier after a bye. With Yulia Putintseva being a possible quarterfinal opponent, the Swiss needs to be at her flawless best right from the start.

Putintseva was engaged in some lengthy battles this year, and is unlikely to bow out without a fight. She made it to the third round of the year's first Major too, and could make life tough for Bencic.

Johanna Konta receives treatment at the 2021 Australian Open
Johanna Konta receives treatment at the 2021 Australian Open
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Third seed Johanna Konta leads the other quarter, but she needs to be wary of Veronika Kudermetova or Shelby Rogers in her opening round. Rogers made it as far as the fourth round of the Australian Open, while Kudermetova reached the final of the Abu Dhabi event in January.

In addition, Konta's fitness is a concern too. The Brit pulled her abdominal muscle at the Australian Open, forcing her to concede her first round match to Kaja Juvan. It remains to be seen if she has fully recovered from the injury.

If Konta does manage to find the strength to weather the early storm, she might come face to face with sixth seed Petra Martic, a quarterfinalist at this week's Phillip Island Trophy.

Semifinal prediction: Belinda Bencic vs Veronika Kudermetova

Prediction for final

Ashleigh Barty vs Veronika Kudermetova

Predicted champion

Ashleigh Barty

Published 21 Feb 2021, 15:47 IST
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