Ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2023, five Last Word on Tennis writers – Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Damian Kust (@damiankust), Jack Edward, Shane Black, and Jakub Bobro – make their Australian Open predictions for the Women’s Singles tournament. We will also have a separate roundtable for the Men’s Singles.
Who will win the Australian Open?
Vithun: (1) Iga Swiatek [POL]
One bad loss at the United Cup is not going to change my prediction at the end of last year for the 2023 Australian Open women’s champion, especially as it was only after three comfortable straight-set wins. Yes, Swiatek does have a tough draw but she had a tough draw at the US Open last year and she ended up with the champion’s trophy despite much worse form leading up to the tournament (in addition to her dislike for the tennis balls they used there). For me, this tournament is still for the World No.1 to win.
Damian: (3) Jessica Pegula [USA]
On the women’s side, it once again feels like picking a name out of the hat. World No. 1 Iga Świątek is a contender, but it could possibly turn out that it’s simply too fast for her. Then we’re left with a number of probable options, some of them not necessarily among the highest seeds. I’m going with Jessica Pegula, which admittedly is a slight overreaction to how good she looked once she got going at the United Cup. She’s demonstrated that she generally wins the matches she’s supposed to though and I think if she goes out early, it will be to an astonishing performance from a dangerous opponent.
Jack: (3) Jessica Pegula [USA]
Iga Świątek’s loss to Jessica Pegula in the semifinals of the United Cup was no accident. The one-sidedness of it had to be partly down to Swiatek but the actual result would likely have been the same that day had the Pole been decently above her average. Pegula was outstanding, putting on a performance that could level a draw of 128.
The fact Pegula is one of the only players with the confidence to play Swiatek is only half the battle. She has also proved herself one of the most consistent players on the tour in making the quarters of three the four Slams she played last year. In an era where the margins are so close on the WTA Tour, that kind of reliability is hard to come by.
Shane: (5) Aryna Sabalenka [
No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka is coming into Melbourne with a ton of confidence. The 24-year-old ended the 2022 season with a runner-up finish at the Tour Finals and has carried that momentum into 2023, winning Adelaide 1 without dropping a set. Sabalenka is a powerful player who excels on fast surfaces. She has had some fruitful results in Australia, but I believe this is the year she will capture the elusive singles Grand Slam title. If she stays consistent with her serve, we could see Sabalenka roll through the field in Melbourne.
Jakub: (1) Iga Swiatek [POL]
Iga Swiatek may have suffered a really rough loss to Jessica Pegula in the United Cup but I believe she still enters Melbourne as the title favorite. The Pole opens against a tough opponent in Jule Niemeier and will likely face Bianca Andreescu or Marie Bouzkova in the third round, but I would be surprised if she is really challenged before the semifinals where a potential re-match with Pegula looms large.
Women’s Dark Horse
Which (other) player outside the Top 8 seeds will go furthest in the Women’s Singles?
Vithun: (18) Liudmila Samsonova [
I believe Samsonova is destined for greatness in 2023 and I think the Australian Open could be the start of that with a run to the last four. Within her eighth of the draw, the only seeds higher than her are Beatriz Haddad Maia and Ons Jabeur. If the first of those match-ups come to fruition, I believe Samsonova would have the edge over Haddad Maia on a hard court. Meanwhile, Jabeur is due a pre-quarterfinal exit as no woman has demonstrated the ability to make three consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals (or better) in a few years. Therefore, if Samsonova was to meet Jabeur in the 4th Round I would favour the Russian.
Another dark horse I have in the draw I have is Garbine Muguruza. The last time Muguruza fell out of the Grand Slam seedings, she reached the final (which was in fact at the Australian Open three years ago). Therefore, I expect her to make another deep Grand Slam run given she is under the radar again. However, her draw is tough as she may have to get past both Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic to reach the quarterfinals, both of whom have already won titles this year. Therefore, I believe Muguruza will be burnt out at that stage and easy pickings for Samsonova to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.
Damian: (29) Qinwen Zheng [CHN]
Yes, I’m fully aware that she’s just retired to Petra Kvitova in Adelaide. I’m going to hope that it was a bit preventive and that she’ll be 100% of the Australian Open. A breakout tournament is right around the corner for Qinwen Zheng and it might just be the Happy Slam. The section of the draw she’s in might look tough on paper, but she’s got the ability to rush the opponent like few others can and she’ll direct some massive pace at the Coco Gauff forehand should they meet in the third round. If she can get through that, the sky would be the limit.
Jack: (18) Liudmila Samsonova [
I’ve been ranting and raving about Luidmila Samsonova ever since I laid eyes on her forehand but I’m convinced she’ll break through sooner rather than later. She doesn’t blow as cold as many believe having won three titles with aplomb last year and her serve can be extremely difficult to keep away from her forehand on return. Like Sabalenka in a lot of ways but with lesser extremes, Samsonova dictates the outcome of a lot of her matches.
Her draw should give her some margin for error with both Haddad Maia in the third-round and Jabeur in the fourth-round vulnerable from time to time on hard-courts.
Shane: (10) Madison Keys [USA]
American Madison Keys has always had success down under. She has reached two Aussie Open semi-finals and has won 22 of her last 26 matches on Australian soil dating back to 2020. Keys is coming off a United Cup run with team USA where she won five singles matches while dropping just one set. The fast conditions play right into her hands as she looks to dominate her opponents from the baseline. If she can get past two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in round three, Keys could make a run deep in the tournament.
Jakub: (12) Belinda Bencic [SUI]
Going deep in a tournament the week before a slam may not be the best idea but for Belinda Bencic it might just be the ticket. The Swiss has struggled to break through the first week in Australia in the past but with her draw and form, she seems prime for a run here. Bencic’s toughest opponents in the first three rounds would be the likes of Martina Trevisan or Camila Giorgi. The 25-year-old would set up a fourth-round match with Aryna Sabalenka, who is also in-form, but if she defeats her, the draw opens up a bit. If Bencic comes through that match, she could very well go to the final over the likes of Ons Jabeur or Caroline Garcia.
Women’s Early Exit
Which Top 8 seed will be eliminated earliest in the Women’s Singles?
Vithun: (5) Aryna Sabalenka [
Sabalenka looks in great form winning a title in Adelaide this year and it would be perfect WTA logic if she were to lose early. Unfortunately, I have had to pick her as my early exit because of me believing Muguruza who is a potential 3rd round opponent is due a deep run. However, even if I am wrong about this, Sabalenka’s projected 4th Round opponent is Bencic who also won a title in Adelaide, dropping just two games in the final. Therefore, there are multiple players that make getting to the quarterfinals challenging for Sabalenka.
Damian: (2) Ons Jabeur [TUN]
I think the weakest Top 8 seed is Daria Kasatkina, but she seems to have landed in a rather fortunate spot in the draw. Ons Jabeur isn’t going to be in trouble in the opening round either, but I imagine she’ll have her hands full with Marketa Vondrousova in the second round. It’s not gonna get easier later–she could face ultimate giant-killer Kaia Kanepi next and will have a hard time in the last 16, possibly against Liudmila Samsonova or Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Jack: (2) Ons Jabeur [TUN]
The US Open finalist is capable of digging out great wins but she really does have to dig them out on hard-courts. Very little comes easily to Jabeur when variety is off the table, hard-courts being a surface that somewhat neutralise this strength. Vondrousova in the second-round is incredibly dangerous followed by giant-killer Kaia Kanepi. If she survives those rounds, I fancy Samsonova’s chances of knocking her down. There’s too little going in favour of the Tunisian here.
Shane: (4) Caroline Garcia [FRA]
Caroline Garcia had a meteoric rise in 2022. The 29-year-old Frenchwoman started the 2022 season ranked No. 74 in the world. She ended it by raising the Tour Finals trophy in Fort Worth, ranked as the No.4 player in the world. She enters 2023 with newfound pressure, but how will she respond? I believe Garcia will struggle to make the second week in Melbourne. She is 12-11 in her career at the Australian Open and has failed to make it out of the second round in each of the last three years. A second-round matchup against the winner of Alize Cornet and Leylah Fernandez is a very unfavorable draw, and where I see her bowing out at the 2023 Aussie Open.
Jakub: (4) Caroline Garcia [FRA]
Tough category to pick as I expect most of the Top 8 seeds to perform decently well this time around. I have chosen Caroline Garcia as I do not fully believe she will be a second-week regular at slams throughout the season. The Frenchwoman also has a very difficult second round against either Leylah Fernandez or Alize Cornet. Garcia’s draw after that is not extremely difficult but I have some doubts about her making it past the second round.
Main Photo from Getty.