Australian Open 2015: Experts' picks for the women's draw
The tennis experts of Sportskeeda look ahead at the 2015 Australian Open by making picks for the women’s draw in four categories: dark horse, early exit, dangerous floater, and champion.
1. Dark horse
Adnan Akhtar: Venus Williams would be my pick for the dark horse at the Australian Open. The elder Williams sister has had a good start to the year with a title in Auckland, where she beat Caroline Wozniacki in the finals. Having never won at Melbourne Park before, this could be an opportunity for her to turn back the clock and maybe even go one better than her performance 12 years ago.
Aditya Ramani: Who would have predicted that the winner of the ASB Classic tournament in Auckland would be Venus Williams? Not me, for sure. The elder Williams has faded away over the years due to injuries, and it has been all about Serena since then. But Venus turned back the clock with her four victories in New Zealand, taking out top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Her draw is manageable too, which gives her an excellent chance of getting to the 4th round and beyond. And maybe, if she finds herself there, that will bring forth the Venus Williams of yesteryear, who was a favourite, regardless of the rank against her name.
Musab Abid: If a player can beat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in a Grand Slam, she’s got to have something special about her. Garbine Muguruza hasn’t exactly torn through draws after her quarterfinal run at the French Open last year, but she has the talent, and in Melbourne, maybe the opportunity too.
Jai Prakash: In 2014, Flavia Pennetta reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for only the second time in Melbourne. The No. 12 seed has an easy draw and I wouldn’t be surprised if she manages to better her result from last year.
Roh: Venus Williams came back strongly against Caroline Wozniacki in the final at Auckland to win the title. At the Australian Open, she has got to be considered a player to watch out for.
Abhishek Desikan: Venus Williams is experiencing a resurgence in form, having recently won the ASB Classic beating Caroline Wozniacki. And she is no stranger to winning Grand Slams.
Kapil Patwardhan: Venus Williams knows she has a point to prove. She is going nowhere, and she can still challenge for Grand Slams. The elder Williams sister can cause an upset or two in Melbourne.
2. Early exit
Adnan Akhtar: Dominika Cibulkova would be my choice for an early exit. After a good start last year, the 2014 Australian Open finalist suffered a string of early round losses in the latter half of 2014. With players like Tsvetana Pironkova and Kirsten Flipkens in her section of the draw, it looks like a tough ask for the Slovak to repeat her 2014 feat.
Aditya Ramani: Eugenie Bouchard started her dream 2014 in Melbourne. As she won match after match, her legion of fans grew. She was confident throughout the season and performed consistently well almost till the very end. The challenge now will be to repeat her results when the world is expecting them. Her draw isn’t particularly difficult but she’s my pick for an early exit; the pressure will likely be too much to bear at this stage of her career.
Musab Abid: Caroline Wozniacki couldn’t possibly have asked for a worse draw. As if being placed in the same quarter as Serena Williams wasn’t bad enough, she will have to face talented youngster Taylor Townsend in the first round, and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka after that. Combine that with the injury she seemed to have picked up in Sydney, and things don’t look very bright for the sunshine girl.
Jai Prakash: Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Sydney International due to a wrist injury and could face Serena Williams in the quarters at the Australian Open. It is not an easy road for the Dane and she could find it tough to make it past the third round in Melbourne.
Roh: 20th seed Samantha Stosur hasn’t had the best of preparatory tournaments leading up to the Australian Open and given her past struggles when playing in front of her home fans, it looks as if the Aussie hopeful will make yet another early ouster from the Happy Slam.
Abhishek Desikan: In spite of being a two-time champion, Victoria Azarenka enters the tournament unseeded and out of form. She seems to have finally recovered from her injuries, but has admitted to being depressed from her break-up last year. Unless she steels herself mentally and physically, she seems a likely candidate for early exit.
Kapil Patwardhan: Caroline Wozniacki is clearly not having the best of starts to the year. An injury heading into Melbourne clearly isn’t ideal. Things could go from bad to worse for the Dane, who might want to take some time off to recover completely.
3. Dangerous Floater
Adnan Akhtar: Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka would be a tough opponent for any player to face in Melbourne. Despite her lack of form, I believe the Australian Open is one tournament where she can get her rhythm back and go on to topple some seeded players during the course of the coming two weeks.
Aditya Ramani: There are a few names that catch the eye in the draw – Daniela Hantuchova, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka. The last two are up against each other in the very first round. Both have had early exits in the warm-up tournaments. Whoever wins this match will get the confidence boost necessary to go about making upsets. I pick Victoria Azarenka to find her way back to the upper class.
Musab Abid: Victoria Azarenka is the obvious pick here, but how appropriate is it to call a two-time former champion a ‘floater’? Instead, I’ll go for Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman was a revelation of sorts during the IPTL, and faces the perennially-awful-outside-grass Sabine Lisicki first up. Red flags all around for the German, and possibly also for Simona Halep, who Mladenovic could face in the 3rd round.
Jai Prakash: If she gets past the opening round against last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova, Kirsten Flipkens has a kind draw until the last eight stage. The Belgian can improve upon her fourth round appearance here two years ago.
Roh: Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka will be unseeded at the tournament. But that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of her game; especially given she’s slipped under the radar till now.
Abhishek Desikan: The youngster Heather Watson has had an excellent run in the ongoing Hobart International tournament, reaching the finals without dropping a set. She'd be determined to start the year with a positive showing at the first Grand Slam, which spells trouble for the others in the field.
Kapil Patwardhan: Victoria Azarenka may be unseeded but opponents will be dreading facing her. She seems determined to at least go into the second week of the Australian Open, and I for one wouldn’t bet against her.
Adnan Akhtar: With the unpredictability of the women’s circuit, choosing a Slam winner is a difficult task. Serena Williams would be an option but looking at her performance in the Hopman Cup, I am not quite sure if she can go all the way this time around. I think the champion could be decided in the possible quarterfinal match between Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard. I will go with the more experienced player for the win.
Aditya Ramani: The two women who have me most interested going into the tournament are the two who contested the final in Brisbane last week. Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova are, in my opinion, favourites ahead of Serena Williams to take the title. As it happens, they are in the same half. To me, the winner of that semi-final will win the tournament. Ivanovic is playing some of her best tennis but Sharapova has the edge, and so I pick the Russian to double her tally at Melbourne.
Musab Abid: Serena Williams remains the safest pick, but her recent history in Melbourne hasn’t been too flattering. The same could be said about Petra Kvitova, of course, but the Czech’s win in Sydney this week may have been a sign of things to come. Kvitova has unfinished business in Melbourne (she still talks wistfully about her near-miss in the 2012 semi-finals), and a player as good as her is bound to win a Slam outside Wimbledon some day.
Jai Prakash: She hasn’t won a Major since 2008, but the Serb is in good form heading to Melbourne. A close final against Maria Sharapova in Brisbane International and a not-so-tough draw may help Ana Ivanovic win her second Grand Slam.
Roh: Second seed Maria Sharapova was at her best at Brisbane, with almost no sign of the inconsistencies that marred the latter part of her season in 2014. With the No. 1 ranking on the line and with her resurgent form, it looks likely that the Russian will hoist her second title on the second Saturday.
Abhishek Desikan: It is hard to look past the number one seed in the tournament as the title winner. Serena Williams has always loved playing in Melbourne, and will be raring for her sixth title.
Kapil Patwardhan: Canadian Eugenie Bouchard is surely the next big thing in women’s tennis. It is her time to finally fill her trophy cabinet with a Grand Slam.