With the season’s first major upon us, it’s time to see if anyone can challenge the world’s most dominant player with our Australian Open seed report.
2016 Australian Open Women’s Seed Report
1. Serena Williams: The defending champion is the heavy favorite to win her 7th Australian Open title and tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 majors overall. She hasn’t played an official match since her stunning loss to Roberta Vinci at the 2015 U.S. Open and was injured in the Hopman Cup to start this year. Her road to another title begins with Camila Giorgi and could see her face Caroline Wozniacki in Round 4 with a finals repeat against Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. Even with slight questions, it’s still hard to bet against anyone else but her.
2. Simona Halep: The Romanian hired Darren Cahill in the off season and reached the quarterfinals of Sydney after withdrawing from Brisbane with an Achilles injury. Her draw looks good until round 4 where a potential match with either American Madison Keys or Ana Ivanovic awaits followed by a probable blockbuster quarterfinal vs Venus Williams.
3. Garbine Muguruza: Last year’s Wimbledon finalist has been plagued by recent injuries after capping off 2015 with an appearance at the Year-End Championships in both singles and doubles in Singapore. Her Australian Open begins with Anett Kontaveit, one of last year’s U.S. Open surprises and she could see Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in Round 3 followed by Victoria Azarenka in the Round of 16.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska: The Pole won the title in Singapore, defeating Petra Kvitova and opened up 2016 with a win in Shenzhen. Her draw is not easy with Eugenie Bouchard possibly in Round 2, Sydney finalist Monica Puig or Samantha Stosur in Round 3 and Sloane Stephens or U.S. Open finalist Roberta Vinci in Round 4.
5. Maria Sharapova: The former champion and last year’s finalist is in the same quarter as Williams, but her draw looks reasonable until Round 4 with either Belinda Bencic or Sydney champion Svetlana Kuznetsova loomimg.
6. Petra Kvitova: You never know what you’ll get from the Czech, who reached the semifinals here in 2012 and her Round 1 opponent is the same player who bounced her in the opening round in 2014, Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand. After that, Kvitova has a nice looking draw until a possible quarterfinal date with either Radwanska, Stephens or Vinci.
7. Angelique Kerber: The German reached the final in Brisbane, getting thrashed by Victoria Azarenka and they could meet up again in the quarterfinals, but before that, the lefty must conquer either Jelena Jankovic or French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky.
8. Venus Williams: The 2-time runner up in Melbourne ended 2015 with titles in Wuhan and Zhuhai to return to the Top 10. Her draw is reasonable with Sabine Lisicki in Round 3 and Karolina Pliskova in Round 4 likely before she sees Keys, Ivanovic or Halep in the quarterfinals.
9. Karolina Pliskova: The Czech has been a Top 10 player for almost a year now, but has yet to have a signature run in a major. Hard courts suit her game well, but Venus is likely to stop her in the Round of 16.
10. Carla Suarez Navarro: The Spaniard is consistent if nothing else and has reached a hardcourt major quarterfinal twice before at the U.S. Open. Her draw will likely take her to Round 4 and end there if Kvitova is standing.
11. Timea Bascisnzky: The Swiss #2 had a remarkable comeback season in 2015, highlighted by a run to the French Open semifinals with a 3rd set lead against Serena. Her form has been dire of late and she will reach Round 4 at best, losing to Kerber if she gets past Jelena Jankovic in Round 3.
12. Belinda Bencic: The 2014 U.S. Open quarterfinalist made the semifinals in Sydney before retiring against Monica Puig after one set. Provided she is OK physically, she should ease into Round 3 where her challenge begins with Svetlana Kuznetsova followed by Sharapova in Round 4.
13. Roberta Vinci: The Italian had a dream run in New York last summer reaching the final, upsetting Serena and denying her the opportunity at a calendar year Grand Slam. She looks good for a Round 3 match with Auckland champion Sloane Stephens and potentially Radwanska in Round 4.
14. Victoria Azarenka: The 2-time Australian Open champion announced her arrival back on the big-time by winning Brisbane, dominating Kerber in the final. They should meet again in the quarterfinals here, but first the Belarusian has to take care of Elina Svitolina in Round 3 and Muguruza in Round 4.
15. Madison Keys: The American broke through here one year ago, reaching the semifinals with wins over Kvitova and Venus before losing to Serena. A repeat run is not impossible, but she’ll have to first get by Ivanovic in Round 3 and Halep in Round 4.
16. Caroline Wozniacki: The Dane has a nice draw until the Round of 16 where Williams will likely end her stay.
17. Sara Errani: The Italian has reached the semifinals of a hardcourt Slam before at the U.S. Open, but won’t be around nearly that long here, losing to Wozniacki in Round 3. She could even lose to young Russian Margarita Gasparyan in in the opening round.
18. Elina Svitolina: The Ukrainian reached her first career major quarterfinal at the French Open last year before being eliminated by Azarenka. That probably will happen again here, this time in Round 3.
19 Jelena Jankovic: The former U.S. Open finalist reached the 2nd week of a major for the first time since 2010 at Wimbledon, upsetting Kvitova in Round 3. She could get to Round 4 vs Kerber if she beats Bacsinszky in the Round of 32.
20. Ana Ivanovic: The 2008 Australian finalist returned to a Slam semifinal last year in Paris and has a tricky road to navigate this year starting with Keys in Round 3 and Halep in Round 4.
21. Ekaterina Makarova: The lefty from Russia has reached the semifinals here 2 of the last 3 years, but is nowhere near that level now. If she upsets Pliskova in Round 3, Venus will send her home in Round 4.
22. Andrea Petkovic: The 2014 French Open semifinalist has done nothing of late, but could reach Round 4 if she beats Suarez Navarro one round before. Kvitova will take her out in the Round of 16.
23. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The Russian won Sydney, defeating Halep in the semifinals and Puig in the finals. That momentum could carry her to a long run with Bencic her opponent in Round 3 and Sharapova in Round 4.
24. Sloane Stephens: The American reached the semifinals here in 2013, upsetting Serena along the way. She comes in having won Auckland for her 2nd career WTA Tour title. She’s poised for a repeat of 3 years ago and to do it, she’ll have to likely get past Vinci, Radwanska and Kvitova to see Serena in the last 4.
25. Samantha Stosur: The Australian has never done well in her home Slam, reaching the 4th Round just twice. To do it a 3rd time, she’ll have to beat Puig in Round 2, who just beat her in Sydney and Radwanska in Round 3. Not likely.
26: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: The Russian made the quarterfinals of Brisbane and will make Round 3 here before falling to Sharapova.
27: Anna Schmiedlova: Stuck in the same part of the draw as Serena, she’ll equal her best Grand Slam result by reaching Round 3 before Williams disposes of her. Daria Kasatkina poses a threat of an upset in Round 1.
28. Kristina Mladenovic: The Frenchwoman broke through at the U.S. Open last year, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to Vinci. Has a brutal Round 1 match with 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova and should she get by that, Kvitova is waiting in Round 3.
29. Irina-Camelia Begu: The Romanian continues to fly under the radar, winning Seoul last fall. Her run in Melbourne will take her to Round 3, where she’ll be eliminated by Kerber.
30. Sabine Lisicki: Former Wimbledon finalist will pose a threat to Venus in Round 3, but most likely fall short.
31. Lesia Tsurenko: Virtually anonymous Ukrainian should see Halep in Round 3, but that is as far as she’ll go.
32. Caroline Garcia: Extremely talented but inconsistent and erratic Frenchwoman has a chance for her first 2nd week at a major if she can upset a rusty Muguruza in Round 3.
Best first round matches:
Mladenovic vs Cibulkova: Rising Frenchwoman vs 2014 finalist who regained some form in Hobart.
Errani vs Gasparyan: Young, talented Russian has a gorgeous one-handed backhand and poses stiff challenge to Italian #1.
Vicky Duval vs Svitolina: directly back in a major via her protected ranking, American overcame non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and is a winner regardless the outcome of this match.
Serena vs Camila Giorgi: Italian can match Williams’ firepower, but needs the match of her life to pull off the massive upset.
Prediction: Serena vs Stephens, Venus vs Azarenka in the semifinals.
Serena defeats Azarenka in a thrilling 3-set final.