The first Slam of 2020 is upon us after the main draw for the Australian Open was unveiled on Thursday night in Melbourne. I’m swept up in the excitement so felt like writing a draw preview! This post splits the draw into the four quarters with highlights, things i’d like to see, as well as a scattering of most likely wayward predictions. Please sound off in the comments with your thoughts and predictions for AO 2020!
Seeds 1️⃣: (1) Ash Barty, (7) Petra Kvitova, (10) Madison Keys, (13) Petra Martic, (18) Alison Riske, (22) Maria Sakkari, (25) Ekaterina Alexandrova and (29) Elena Rybakina
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Julia Goerges, Kaia Kanepi, Rebecca Peterson and Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Blockbuster R1 match 🎆: The match that stands out from this section is Madison Keys vs. Daria Kasatkina. Even with Dasha’s recent decline, it feels rather odd that this is a first round match at a Slam. Keys has won all six of their previous encounters and 12 of 13 sets. Maria Sakkari vs. Margarita Gasparyan should also be a fun one.
R1 upset 😮: The only seeded upset i’ve gone from this section is Bernarda Pera to beat Elena Rybakina. Rybakina has had a sensational start to the year, reaching the final in Shenzhen and winning Hobart, and she’s still floating very much under the radar. However, I wonder how much she has left in the tank for a Monday start. Petra Kvitova’s first match at a Slam always feels rather precarious and I have a weird vibe that Katerina Siniakova, her fellow Czech compatriot with no singles wins in 2020, might be problematic.
Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: The obvious choice is Keys-Kvitova (R4) but it’s not a match-up i’ve particularly enjoyed as I feel their games don’t match up well and they kind of cancel each other out. In terms of new match-ups, Keys-Sakkari (R3) is an intriguing potential clash.
Dark horse 🐴: Madison Keys has been one of the most reliable players at the Slams in recent years and her draw is certainly workable. She’s been lacking matches heading into Melbourne for the past two years but not this time round after a run to the final in Brisbane.
Semi-finalist 🏵️: Ash Barty
Seeds 1️⃣: (3) Naomi Osaka, (8) Serena Williams, (12) Jo Konta, (14) Sofia Kenin, (23) Dayana Yastremska, (24) Sloane Stephens, (27) Wang Qiang and (32) Barbora Strycova
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff and Caty McNally
Blockbuster R1 match(es) 🎆: The stand-out match-up from the entire first round is a repeat of the infamous Wimbledon opener between Venus Williams and Coco Gauff. I’d actually give the nod to Gauff since Venus has not played a competitive match in 2020 after pulling out of Brisbane and Adelaide due to injury. I’m also excited to see Marie Bouzkova get a shot on the big stage against Naomi Osaka in the tournament opener on the Rod Laver Arena.
R1 upset(s) 😮: I’ve gone for two seeds out in the first round from this section. Zhang Shuai over Sloane Stephens feels like a bit of a no-brainer with their respective forms but you just never know which Sloane is going to turn up. Fun fact – Zhang and Stephens played against each other in the first round of the Australian Open in 2018 and on MCA court too! The other upset i’m going for is Ons Jabeur over Johanna Konta. The Brit is managing a knee injury and has played just one competitive match in almost five months. Jabeur is inconsistent but has demonstrated flashes of brilliance in the past few years.
Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: For nostalgic reasons with this being Wozniacki’s last tournament, a Wozniacki-S.Williams R4 clash would be pretty special. The top section of this quarter could produce some exciting combinations including Osaka-Gauff (R3), Osaka-V.Williams (R3) and Osaka-Kenin (R4), the latter which was one of the better matches from the first two weeks of the 2020 season.
Dark horse(s) 🐴: Dayana Yastremska and Sofia Kenin are two of the most exciting talents on the tour and i’d fancy both to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open for the first time in their careers. In particular, Yastremska has looked in sensational form after reaching the final in Adelaide. Both players would likely have to upset one of the favourites to break new ground at a Slam.
Semi-finalist 🏵️: This is so difficult. Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were my two favourites for the title and they’ve landed in the same quarter. A bit of a coin toss but I feel the win in Auckland was huge so i’ve gone for Serena.
Seeds 1️⃣: (4) Simona Halep, (6) Belinda Bencic, (11) Aryna Sabalenka, (16) Elise Mertens, (19) Donna Vekic, (20) Karolina Muchova, (26) Danielle Collins, (28) Anett Kontaveit
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Jennifer Brady, Maria Sharapova, Hsieh Su-Wei, Iga Swiatek, Veronika Kudermetova and Jelena Ostapenko
Blockbuster R1 match(es) 🎆: There’s a lot of quality first rounders in this section – Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady, Donna Vekic vs. Maria Sharapova and Aryna Sabalenka vs. Carla Suárez Navarro are all noteworthy. However, they are all clearly dwarfed by the prospect of Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Yulia Putintseva 😂. Hsieh has won their two previous encounters but is seeking her first singles win of 2020. I’d fancy Hsieh to get the better of Putintseva in this opener.
R1 upset(s) 😮: There’s always one match that I deliberate over on and this Slam, it’s Donna Vekic vs. Maria Sharapova. In the end, i’ve gone for all the seeds to get through round one. Of the other matches, the one that I circled was Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady. The 24-year-old American had a brilliant run in Brisbane where she dropped just 12 games in three qualifying matches, and then beat Sharapova and Barty en route to the quarter-finals.
Match-up(s) hoping for 🤞: I like the sound of the potential third rounders from the bottom part of this section with Halep-Collins and Mertens-Muchova seeded to meet each other in the last 32.
Dark horses 🐴: Danielle Collins just cannot be ignored after runs in Brisbane and Adelaide where she scored two top ten wins and dropped just 16 games (!) in her 5 victories. A more low-key dark horse is Karolina Muchova. She lost her opener to Alison Riske in Brisbane, but performed well at the Slams last year, often without much form heading into them. Muchova’s draw looks decent on paper and she is definitely on my radar.
Semi-finalist 🏵️: Belinda Bencic
Seeds 1️⃣: (2) Karolina Pliskova, (5) Elina Svitolina, (9) Kiki Bertens, (15) Marketa Vondrousova, (17) Angelique Kerber, (21) Amanda Anisimova, (30) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, (31) Anastasija Sevastova
Unseeded loomers ⚡: Garbiñe Muguruza, Kristina Mladenovic, Camila Giorgi, Jessica Pegula and Svetlana Kuznetsova
Blockbuster R1 match 🎆: The bottom quartet of the draw is very enticing as Karolina Pliskova plays Kristina Mladenovic with the winner to play CoCo Vandeweghe or Laura Siegemund. Mladenovic has always played Pliskova well with the pair splitting their four previous encounters. In one of the more curious H2H records, Vandeweghe has won all four previous matches against Siegemund. However, it’s the German player who has shown the more encouraging form through the first two weeks of the new season.
R1 upset 😮: There are on obvious upsets IMO amongst the first round seeds. Marketa Vondrousova is still relatively untested after returning to the tour in Adelaide last week after six months out due to a wrist injury. Her opponent, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hasn’t won a match yet in 2020, but is always a tricky opponent. Anastasija Sevastova vs. Ajla Tomljanovic will also be interesting but I tend to think Sevastova’s variety will see her prevail.
Match-up hoping for 🤞: I’m hoping for Bertens-Anismova (R3). Both looked in promising form in their opening tournaments as Bertens reached the quarter-finals in Brisbane and Anisimova made the last four in Auckland. In their only previous encounter, Bertens edged Anisimova, 7-5 in the third set in Rome last year.
Dark horse 🐴: Dare I say Elina Svitolina is a bit of a dark horse in this draw? The number five seed won just two games after she was battered by Danielle Collins in less than an hour in Brisbane. Svitolina is not really being talked about. She has a workable draw though and is one of the most resilient players on tour, frequently enjoying deep runs in tournaments when you least expect it.
Semi-finalist 🏵️: Kiki Bertens
I’ve gone for a Serena Williams-Kiki Bertens final. I’m still wary about whether Serena can get up for a Slam final if she reaches another one but I tend to think if she keeps putting herself in that position, it’s going to come.
Runner-up 🥈: Kiki Bertens
Champ 🏆: Serena Williams
Bring on the carnage! 😁