The Draws: ’19 Aussie Open women

Elina Svitolina
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

1st Quarter –
No. 1 Simona Halep can be super solid, her legs are strong, and her forehand and backhand have a lot of variety. That is why she is No. 1. But. the reality is she has only won one Grand Slam. Yes, last year, she looked spectacular at Roland Garros, breathing deep in the third set in the final. She won, and she cried and tears of joy. So now, she is smarter and more experienced. In the first week at the AO, there likely will be some very tight match. In the third round, she will likely play against Mihaela Buzarnescu or Venus Williams. Buzarnescu had a solid year and when the aging Venus goes on court, she could still be a damn good player. But she couldn’t play during the fall, and the 38-year-old has to rest as much as possible. Early on, in the first round, Williams can knock off Buzarnescu with her gigantic backhand, but even if she wins, Venus could face Halep in the third round. It could be a marathon, and at the end, the Romanian will beat the seven-time GS champ Venus in three sets.

Halep has no idea who she will face in the fourth round. Perhaps the 23-Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, Carla Suarez Navarro, or Sam Stosur? Suarez Navarro likes to hustle. Aussie Stosur has played great at times, but not in Australia, where she has lost early for many years. Nerves. Serena might be a little bit rusty, as she just started practicing a couple weeks ago, so she will struggle for a while. But, against Halep, she has to focus and be calm, seriously, because in 2018 she became very irritable. She cannot do this year. Serena will mentally where down Halep to reach the quarters.
This part of the draw is unbelievable. Three players with real game are very dangerous: Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Daria Kasatkina. They can all play great, or they can play lousy. It just depends. The two-time GS champ Muguruza did not play well in 2018, but if she is healthy, she can hit it so deep. Pliskova has a huge serve, she has so many aces, plus she can smack it down on the lines. Kasatkina is very young, and she hustles, too. Between all three, Pliskova will get through, and against Serena in the quarters, the American will rise up when she needs it to.  

Second Quarter
Naomi Osaka won last year’s Miami and the US Open. While she can be a little bit crazy on court, she is so wonderfully good. There are times when she over-hits, and she needs to return better, but she moves well, and she can jump on her forehand and her backhand. Without a doubt, she is one of the favorites. She could face Daria Gavilova in the second round, and if Osaka starts making errors, that could be a grinder, because the Aussie can bang it up. Still, Osaka will smack her in the third set. She will beat Su-Wei Hsieh in the third, and also pound Anastasija Sevastova to reach the quarters. 
The other 16 players in the bottom have a incredibly equal shot to reach the quarters. It will be either Elise Mertens, Madison Keys, Dominika Cibulkova or Elina Svitolina. Belgian Mertens has improved over the past year, and while Keys gets hurt a lot, but when she is healthy, she is very powerful, reaching the semis here a few years ago. Cibulkova likes to pump his fist and reached the final at the AO. Outside of the Slams, Svitolina is one of the best players out there. While I realize that Svitolina has been shaking at the Slams. With last year’s WTA Finals win, the No. 6 has become mature. We hope. Svitolina will reach the semis, beating Osaka with some amazing rallies.

Third Quarter
At some point, Petra Kvitova will win another Grand Slam, but this is on the hard courts in Australia when it can be very hot. The Czech has won Wimbledon on grass twice, blasting the ball, and recently in Sydney, she grabbed it, edging past Ash Barty 7-6 in the third. She prevailed even though she was cramping. So, maybe when she gets to Melbourne she will find another level.

In a couple days, perhaps Kvitova will feel better, and push past Belinda Bencic in the third round. Then in the fourth round, it is likely that she will face Aryna Sabalenka, who rose up high last year. The 20-year-old is very aggressive, and she thinks well, too. She will upset Kvitova to reach the quarters. Barty rarely gets tired, because she legs are robust, so once again, she will take out the big swinger Jelena Ostapenko. 

And guess who in the fourth round? Either Maria Sharapova and the 2018 AO champion Caro Wozniacki. The five-time GS champion Sharapova is hurt once again, which is not surprising considering how little she has played since coming back from a drug suspension. While Wozniacki is slightly injured, she will play more consistently and trip Sharapova. Even though Barty can panic at the Slams, but this time, she will slice Wozniacki until she drops down. Every day, the Aussie will surge, but in the quarters, Sabalenka will pound her again and again. The Belarussian will reach the semis.

Bottom Quarter
Angie Kerber has won two majors, at Wimbledon and here at the Australian Open in 2017. She can win it once again, as she goes to the left, the right, and forward. However, she’s hard to read. Will she be directed, or will she stop thinking about which way she is going? If she does, she certainly go deep again. In the third round, Kerber will likely play Donna Vekic, who is climbing now. Kerber will twist her around and reach the fourth round against Julia Georges. The German has upgraded a lot over the past two years. On clay, she could stun Kerber, but not here on the hard courts and move into the quarters.

Even though Sloane Stephens started a little off, in the first two weeks, still she has won a major at the 2017 US Open and also she reached the 2018 Roland Garros final — and she lost to Halep. She was upset, pretty darn upset, but even though she can be cagy, in the press conference, you can tell that she dissects her game. So on the hard courts, she is dangerous. She should be just fine until the fourth round, likely against Kiki Berntens. That is very tough match, that both have to scrape, ball after ball. Stephens will finally push her way back and win it. Now she will have to go up against Kerber, reduce to power and she has to commit that the contest could take hours. Somehow, at the end, the American will nail it into the corners and snag it. Another semis in the majors for Sloane.