The 2022 Adelaide International, to be held from January 3-9, kicks off the new season of the WTA tour. The WTA 500 event lost a little bit of star power as Garbine Muguruza, Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova, among others, have withdrawn from the tournament. Nevertheless, the tournament will still feature many talented players, including five of the current top 10.
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty leads the Adelaide International field as the top seed. World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 US Open and Roland Garros semifinalist Maria Sakkari and 2021 Indian Wells champion Paula Badosa round out the top four seeds. Iga Swiatek, the defending champion, is seeded fifth.
On that note, here's an in-depth look at how the draw might unfold:
Top Half: Ashleigh Barty leads packed section of Grand Slam champions
Seeded players: (1) Ashleigh Barty, (4) Paula Badosa, (5) Iga Swiatek and (6) Sofia Kenin
Expected semifinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Paula Badosa
Dark horse: Leylah Fernandez
Analysis: Ashleigh Barty will be looking to continue her dominance of the WTA tour this year. She has been the top-ranked player in the world for more than 100 consecutive weeks and won her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year.
Barty ended her season following the 2021 US Open to recover after being on the road throughout the year. She'll be well-rested after a decent time off from the tour. After a first-round bye, she'll begin her Adelaide International campaign against either Coco Gauff or a qualifier.
Gauff is the favorite to come through her opening-round match and set up a clash with Barty. The teenager won their only encounter at the 2021 Italian Open when the Australian retired in the second set. If Barty gets past Gauff, she will likelt face compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic or former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Fourth seed Paula Badosa will face off against two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka in their first round match. The two previously contested the highly entertaining 2021 Indian Wells final, in which the former World No. 1 was just two points away from winning. But Badosa finally came through in a third-set tiebreak. The winner of this match will most likely take on Petra Kvitova in the second round.
Iga Swiatek will begin her title defense at the Adelaide International against a qualifier. If victorious, she could possibly face 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in the second round. Awaiting Swiatek in the quarterfinals could be either Petra Kvitova, Azarenka or Badosa.
Semifinal prediction: Ashleigh Barty vs Iga Swiatek
Bottom half: Elina Svitolina and Maria Sakkari look to challenge Aryna Sabalenka
Seeded players: (2) Aryna Sabalenka, (3) Maria Sakkari, (7) Elena Rybakina and (8) Elina Svitolina
Expected semifinal: Aryna Sabalenka vs Maria Sakkari
Dark horse: Shelby Rogers
Analysis: World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka had a stellar season in 2021. She won her second Grand Slam doubles title at the Australian Open and climbed up the rankings. She reached her maiden Grand Slam singles semifinal at Wimbledon and followed it up with another last four showing at the US Open. She won titles in Madrid and Abu Dhabi as well.
A good showing at the Adelaide International will further boost her chances of challenging Barty for the World No. 1 ranking at the Australian Open. After a first-round bye, Sabalenka will face either Kaja Juvan or Chloe Paquet in the second round.
Her opponent in the quarterfinals could be Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian had a decent season in 2021, winning the WTA 250 in Chicago and the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. But she also exited the top 10 for the first time since 2017 and will be looking to make a comeback starting with a strong showing at the Adelaide International.
Svitolina's first-round opponent is Anatasia Gasanova followed by either Misaki Doi or Kristina Kucova in the second round. Barring an upset, she should reach the last eight.
The other section of this half of the Adelaide International draw is led by World No. 6 Maria Sakkari. Her first-round opponent is 2021 Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek, who's much better on clay compared to hardcourts.
Sakkari enjoyed considerable success in 2021 as she reached the top 10 of the rankings and made two Grand Slam semifinals at the US Open and Roland Garros. She also reached the semifinals at the WTA Finals. The Greek will be looking to continue her string of good results this year.
Sakkari's probable opponent in the second round is Shelby Rogers, who's known for causing upsets from time to time. At the 2020 US Open, Rogers defeated Petra Kvitova, then seeded sixth, to advance to the quarterfinals. In 2021, she registered a win against World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the third round of the US Open.
Elena Rybakina is the next seeded player in this half of the draw and she'll take on wildcard Storm Sanders in the first round. Her second-round opponent will be a qualifier. Landing in a relatively easy section of the Adelaide International draw has given Rybakina a good shot at making at least the last eight, where she will likely face Sakkari.
Semifinal prediction: Maria Sakkari vs Aryna Sabalenka
Prediction for the final: Aryna Sabalenka def. Ashleigh Barty
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