Well this is a new one… both my finalists for Sydney, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova, have pulled out of the tournament. Radwanska has officially pulled out with a left lower leg injury, while Kvitova still isn’t over the stomach virus. It may be a smart move from Radwanska to rest before Melbourne after winning Shenzhen although she didn’t play anyone inside the world’s top 90. It’s a concern for Kvitova although she’s capable of suddenly finding a hot streak of form (see Madrid and New Haven last year) so there may still be hope for Melbourne!
Since my predictions have been destroyed on both halves, i’ve decided to fill out the draw again. From the top half, i’ve now gone for Karolina Pliskova to come through as my champion. She was very impressive against Ana Ivanovic, despite a strange mini-collapse when serving out the first set. There were times in the second set when she was unplayable. Ivanovic though, looks out-of-sorts at this early stage of the season. I did originally have Caroline Garcia to the semi-finals but I lost my nerve. I’ve still gone for the Frenchwoman to beat Halep (or advance through a retirement). While Garcia has made a brilliant start to the year, winning all four of her matches, she still makes me nervous closing out matches. Confidence will be high for now at least and long may it continue…
In the bottom half, i’ve gone for Belinda Bencic… she does have a deceptively tricky draw though, opening against the qualifier, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Awaiting in the second round would be the Sydney GOAT, Tsvetana Pironkova. I’d fancy Angelique Kerber to win a few rounds as she seems intent on getting more matches, but i’d be surprised if she went as deep in Sydney as she did in Brisbane. I’d also fancy Roberta Vinci to reach the semi-finals with Daria Gavrilova also one to watch.
The qualifiers have been placed in Hobart and i’ve got my eye on Naomi Osaka. The week before a Slam always produces crazy results and Hobart has a habit of producing surprise winners. While i’ve stuck reasonably safe with Dominika Cibulkova as my champion, i’ve gone for Osaka and Margarita Gasparyan to reach the semi-finals. I would have gone for Mona Barthel, but i’m still worried about her health. In an interview a few days ago, she said she was on the mend, but not 100% yet.