There’s just eight day’s to go until the start of the 2021 Australian Open, and we’ve been taking an early look at who we think will win this year’s women’s singles championship.
With so many in form and exciting players coming into the tournament, this year’s women’s tournament will perhaps be the main event at the Australian Open.
We can think of at least eight challengers for the title without even thinking that hard!
From young players like Iga Swiatek to the grand slam experience of Victoria Azarenka, this year’s tournament is wide open, and it’s going to be interesting to see who will claim the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.Embed from Getty Images
With three warm-up tournaments coming up this week, we’ll certainly have a better idea of how each player is hitting next weekend, but on 2020 form alone, let’s check out some of the players we’re predicting to go deep into this year’s Australian Open.
The Defending Champion
Defending champion Sofia Kenin will again be looking to utilise her belting backhand to retain her Australian Open title.
And while dropping only one set en route to last year’s final, Kenin dug deep to come back from going one set down to beat two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza and claim her first-ever grand slam title.
Her timing and balance over her shots make her one of the best ball strikers on the WTA tour. But mentally she’s ruthless, and we saw her ferocity throughout her impressive 2020 campaign, consistently attacking to go deep into multiple tournaments, including the French Open championship where she was beaten in the finals by 19-year-old Iga Swiatek.Embed from Getty Images
And although she’s had a bumpy start to 2021, losing to world No.22 Maria Sakkari in the quarterfinals of the Abu Dhabi Open, she’ll be hoping to get some advice from defending champion and world No.1 Novak Djokovic to help her retain her crown.
“I definitely think I can talk to Novak. I think that will be helpful since we’re both defending champions,” Kenin said ahead of the Abu Dhabi Open.
“He came up to me, and he was really nice about it and told me some things before the  final, which was special because I was crazy nervous.”
Grand Slam Consistency: Naomi Osaka
Standing in her way will be 2019 Australian Open Champion Naomi Osaka.
After claiming her first grand slam title in 2018, defeating her idol Serena Williams at the US Open, Osaka has gone on to win a grand slam championship every year since.
Her most recent win came last September at Flushing Meadows against two-time grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka.
Recently, Osaka announced that she had become a co-owner of the National Women’s Soccer League franchise North Carolina Courage, a team who went on back-to-back title-winning campaigns in 2018 and 2019.
"Billie Jean King texts me sometimes, so I was getting inspired from her."— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 31, 2021
Inspired by @BillieJeanKing @serenawilliams and @cordae, Naomi Osaka gives back with @NWSL @TheNCCourage move.
Read: https://t.co/4tUWLKTijW pic.twitter.com/oaDx09iG6C
And like the Courage, Osaka also holds a similar record, being the first woman to win back-to-back majors since Serena Williams in 2015.
She’ll be looking to draw upon her grand slam experience and her wicked form at last year’s US Open to claim her second Australian Open title.
Plus after being knocked out in the third round of last year’s tournament by Coco Gauff, Osaka will be hungry to go deeper into the major this time around.
The Comeback: Victoria Azarenka
The WTA 2020 comeback player of the year, Victoria Azarenka had a terrific season last year.
After taking a couple of years away from the tennis circuit to deal with personal issues, Azarenka came back to win last year’s Cincinnati Masters; her first WTA title in four years. She then followed that up by reaching the finals of the US Open and the Ostrava Open in October.Embed from Getty Images
Showing her ruthlessness, Azarenka fought off a blockbuster group of players that included Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Elise Mertens, and Serena Williams to reach the finals of the US Open.
The Belarusian looks to be in fine form coming into 2021, and with her experience winning twice in Australia before, she’ll be one to watch over the coming weeks.
19-year-old Iga Swiatek stole the show at the 2020 French Open championship, failing to drop a set as she stormed her way to her first-ever grand slam title.
Defeating Sofia Kenin in the final, Swiatek showed a mature head on young shoulders, to calmly out strategise her opponent to take the win.
But it seems she won’t be stopping there, after she vowed in a recent interview with the WTA that, “it [her French Open triumph] is not going to be the only one and we’re going to prove that I can be consistent and be a mature player.“
There’s no doubt she has the skills to win more slams and has been working on the mental aspects of her game during the off-season.
“We’re also working with Daria on the mental side because I know the next season will be harder for me because of expectations and all that.”
Having won 15 matches on the bounce and a hattrick of tournaments on the WTA circuit, Aryna Sabalenka has issued a statement; that she will be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s Australian Open.
Fearlessly striking winners past anyone who dares stand in her path, Sabalenka just cannot stop winning at the moment, and we saw her powerful and intense offensive play help her win the Abu Dhabi Open two weeks ago.Embed from Getty Images
And although the Belarusian has never made it to the quarterfinals of a grand slam, we don’t think that will play against her this time around.
High in confidence and in an almost robotic rhythm, Sabalenka will be going all out to achieve her dream of winning a grand slam championship next week in Melbourne.
“I’m going to go to Australia confident with only one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches,” she said.
A Win On Home Soil?
After almost a year away from tennis, world No.1 Ashleigh Barty will be looking to secure the second grand slam title of her career on home ground.
And the 2019 French Open champion looked to once again be in flying form, as she lapped up the atmosphere from the Adelaide crowd at the A Day at the Drive exhibition tournament on Friday night.
Although she was beaten by world No.2 Simona Halep, Barty’s tennis was nothing but impressive, smashing multiple winners past her Romanian opponent, and playing some outrageous trick shots over the net.
“It’s absolutely fantastic to be back, I genuinely missed it so much,” Barty said after the match.
“I have been getting a little bit impatient the last two or three months, getting ready to play.”
“And I’m so excited to get started next week. It was the perfect preparation.”
There’s no doubt Australia’s fan favourite will go far in this year’s grand slam and will be looking to capitalise on the energy from her home crowd to secure her first Australian Open title.
Speaking of Simona Halep…
Picking up wins in Dubai, Prague, and Rome in 2020, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep is another player who will be tough to beat this year.
Having reached the final at the 2018 Australian Open, and with Aussie coach Darren Cahill at her side, Halep will look to combine her grand slam experience with her knowledge of the tournament to take on the best in the game this year.
Using her western forehand grip, the Romanian can naturally strike low, devastating shots into her opponent’s court. Meanwhile, she can also control the ball’s speed on her opponents’ serve, hitting precise shots back over the net to break her opponents.
Her return game is undoubtedly one of the best in the business, and that will make her a big challenger for this year’s Australian Open championships.Embed from Getty Images
Ones to watch
2020 finalist, Garbine Muguruza will be one player to keep a keen eye on during the tournament. Muguruza, who currently sits at 15 in the WTA rankings has a wealth of grand slam experience, having won at Wimbledon and Roland Garros in 2016 and 2017.
Meanwhile, 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu will also be looking to draw upon her major tournament experience and stated she cannot wait to get going at this year’s Australian Open, stating she was almost “tearing-up with joy,” after having not played in over a year.
25-year-old Maria Sakkari is another player we’ll be keeping a close eye on. The Greek got her 2021 season off to a flying start in Abu Dhabi.Embed from Getty Images
On her way to the final, Sakkari successfully took on a challenging field that included 16-year-old sensation Coco Gauff, Garbine Muguruza, and Sofia Kenin. Coming into such form ahead of the Australian Open will make her a formidable opponent to get past next week.
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