Australian Open 2020 Draw Preview

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!

QUARTER 1

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

QUARTER 2

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.

QUARTER 3

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

QUARTER 4

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

FINALS

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! 😁

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

17 thoughts on “Australian Open 2020 Draw Preview

  1. Kiki Bertens? Interesting! Sections 2 & 4 are the best sections for me. So many potentially interesting matches!

    I think Coco Vandewheghe could be a bit of a dark contender at the bottom there. She has a great h2h against her first couple rounds of opponents.

    Like

    • Actually, I found your picks refreshing. I pondered Bertens on the cusp of victory, what would she do, what thoughts would be running through her mind!? Not sure why, but I think a Serena – Osaka encounter might fall to Naomi. I like it nonetheless, but should the carnage start 🙂 , it’s going to be like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ suddenly gone wrong with less ladders and more snakes!

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      • I think if Serena plays how she has been, she will be too much for Osaka. The two wins Naomi has against Serena came about largely because Williams movement was such a weakness. Right now, she’s moving and defending really, really well. She’s also returning serve better than she has since she came back after giving birth.

        I hope we get to see though!

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  2. Happy New Year, James!

    You’ve made some interesting selections (Bertens!) and shone the spotlight on some match-ups I wasn’t really considering. My attempt to summarise my own predictions went a little overboard, I fear, and parts of it are no longer relevant. Hopefully it’s still of some interest.

    — Alexander

    Q1
    Blockbuster R1 match: Agreed – *Keys v Kasatkina* is simply too good to pass up, with contrasting styles and big question marks over both of them. Honourable mention to Gasparyan v Sakkari as well – Gasparyan is the more talented and overall better player, but between her injury struggles and the vocal crowd support Sakkari will enjoy, it’s tough to see the Russian winning in these conditions.
    R1 upset: none in particular, maybe either of the above blockbusters?
    Match-up(s) hoping for: *Martic v Goerges* would be fun, as would Kasatkina v Gasparyan or any other combo coming out of those two blockbusters. A chance for Barty to avenge her Wimbledon loss to Riske is also appealing.
    Dark horse: Alison Riske, Julia Goerges, Petra Martic, Madison Keys. *Keys* is probably the only one who has a feasible shot at the title, provided she doesn’t defeat herself prior to the second week, although Riske could once again do serious damage to the favourites. That being said, I actually have Sakkari meeting Barty in the quarterfinal. Go figure.
    Semi-finalist: Ashleigh Barty

    Q2
    Blockbuster R1 match: To quote the SI tournament preview regarding *Gauff v V. Williams*, “Who writes this stuff?” Other than that, Naomi Osaka’s power will be a telling test of Marie Bouzkova’s brick wall defense, Stephens v Zhang features similar defense-to-offense game styles, and Stosur v McNally is a clash separated by several generations.
    R1 upset: Same as James – *Zhang d Stephens* and *Jabeur d Konta*.
    Match-up(s) hoping for: An *Osaka v Gauff* rematch would be a very interesting barometer for the teen’s growth since September. Honourable mentions to Kenin’s potential matches against McNally and Osaka. It goes without saying that Serena Williams would be a pretty ideal final opponent for Caroline Wozniacki if she can make it that far.
    Dark horse: For all of Cori Gauff’s much-deserved hype, *Sofia Kenin* is better primed to make a deep run at this stage of her rising career — I (ambitiously) predict a win over Osaka and then a loss to Serena in the quarterfinals. Other dark horses in this section are Wang Qiang and Caroline Garcia, the latter of whom is due for a good run and could be the one to end Wozniacki’s career.
    Semi-finalist: Serena Williams

    Q3
    Blockbuster R1 match: I see your wacky Putintseva v Hsieh and raise you *Flipkens v Muchova*! Both players are dynamic movers, love to rush the net, and play with tons of variety, which makes this my favourite R1 match of the whole tournament, because no matter what the outcome is, it’s going to be fun! Further intrigue lies in Cornet v Niculescu (come for the tricky plays, stay for the emotional meltdowns), Cici Bellis v Tatjana Maria (two players hampered by injuries in recent years), and Suarez Navarro v Sabalenka (will Carla anchor herself well enough to counter-punch effectively, or will Aryna power through?).
    R1 upset: *Brady d Halep*, maybe? Simona can be prone to early losses. Other than that, I don’t see anyone beating a seed straight away, not even Sharapova or Suarez Navarro (over Vekic and Sabalenka, respectively).
    Match-up(s) hoping for: Hoo boy, there’s a lot of ’em! The best to me has to be *Muchova v Hsieh* (R16), provided they can both pull off the required upsets (the more likely Muchova v Halep would also be a lot of fun though). Other fun ones are Muchova v Bellis, Bencic v Muchova (can you tell I like this player?), Hsieh v Halep (rematch of one of the best matches of 2018, the Wimbledon upset), Bencic v Ostapenko (possible upset if Jelena’s in the zone), Swiatek v Sabalenka, and Bencic v Swiatek. Yeah, there’s a lot of fun players in this quarter, and I’m skipping a bunch, too.
    Dark horse: The biggest is probably *Karolina Muchova*, who I have through the semifinal (yes, I’m crazy), but there are also fellow seeds Mertens and Collins, as well as Hsieh Su-wei, who is good for an entertaining upset or three, Jelena Ostapenko, who will always be an outside pick for any slam title if she sets her mind to it, and Iga Swiatek, who’s potential is still being discovered.
    Semi-finalist: Karolina Muchova

    Q4
    Blockbuster R1 match: *Vondrousova v Kuznetsova*, because it will be interesting to see where they both are at the start of this season. Siegemund v Vandeweghe, Mladenovic v Ka. Pliskova, and Davis v Fernandez (last year’s Roland Garros juniors champ who qualified here without dropping a set) are also highlights.
    R1 upset: Can’t say I see any seeds falling early, other than MAYBE *Kuznetsova over Vondrousova*, but that seems unlikely. Actually, I only have two seeds losing before the third round in this quarter: Pavlyuchenkova to Townsend and Sevastova to Rogers (a long shot).
    Match-up(s) hoping for: Not much in this section, really. *Townsend v Ka. Pliskova* could be fun, as would Kuznetsova v Kerber if the former can pull off the required upset.
    Dark horse: Admittedly, Bertens isn’t really on my radar, so I suppose that counts, but I have to go with former champ *Angelique Kerber*, who just missed a top-16 seed yet didn’t get too bad a draw, all things considered. Also watch out for Townsend, Anisimova, and Mladenovic.
    Semi-finalist: Karolina Pliskova

    Finals
    Runner-up: Karolina Pliskova
    Champion: Serena Williams

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you, Alexander. And thanks for your thoughts, I very much enjoyed reading them :-). A few responses…

      – I am fast realising Riske as the dark horse pick in the top section. I was worried about Riske’s opener against Wang Yafan but now like the draw ahead.
      – You were so right about Flipkens-Muchova and i’m just about to settle in for the third set! I admire your Muchova SF pick (and Kenin too!). I picked Muchova to the QF which I thought was a tad bold considering she hadn’t won a match yet this year but I just adore her game.
      – Now Bencic vs. Ostapenko is a reality, I think this could be a cracker!

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    • I’m thinking this trend at the Aussie Open is going to be reflected at the other major tournaments through out this season. Not really expecting that much of an upset to occur. Compared to previous years, I think we’ll be seeing the regular expected talents to come out on top. This is why I felt had there been an early carnage, it could have precipitated a snowball like effect. As things stand, I do not think we’ll have a surprising set of semi-finalists.

      Even when you consider some of the new up-comers, you know there is a glint in their eyes for the crown. From Gauff, Muchova, even Collins..they’ve shown the willingness to do the work. It can only be good for competition. I’m sincerely looking forward to how it all unfolds.

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  3. Tough draw for Jo Konta, who was expected to beat Ons Jabeur but I think that underestimates Ons who is a very good player. Katie Boulter put up a better fight against Elena than I thought she would (and does anyone else think they look very similar? It was hard to tell them apart in the video.).

    Great win for Harriet Dart too, who beat Misaki Doi in the first round but was rewarded by having to play Simona in the second round (good luck to her anyway).

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    • Yes agreed about Jabeur. She has big aspirations for the season – said top 20 is her aim in her press conference! Great to see Dart get the win. I remember watching her for the first time when she played Ka.Pliskova at Wimbledon and being impressed by her game and attitude. Tough ask in the next round against Halep though.

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  4. I really liked your predictions and they are quite similar to mine. Here they are:

    In the Q1, I’m looking forward to the Barty x Rybakina clash, I really think that Rybakina is a future elite player and Barty will be a huge test for her, we already know what she’s capable to do against the other players, so now it’s time to see if she is ready to face the best in the world. Riske x Goerges is also a great game to watch, and I hope Riske wins so we can see a Barty x Riske clash again, but I leaning towards Goerges in this game. Keys x Sakkari should be interesting too, and so should be Kvitova x Alexandrova. In the QF I think that anything could happen in a Barty x Keys clash, I think Barty will spend a lot of time in the court and it could impact her game somehow, but I still believe that she is more reliable than Keys to reach the SF.

    Q2
    Osaka x Kenin could be one of the best matches in the tournament, and I confess that I’m a bit disappointed with Yastremska’s lost to Wozniacki. I thought Yastremska would face Serena in the R16, but that’s sadly not gonna happen this time. She has a great future ahead her, though. Anyway, I think the winner of Osaka x Serena will be that champion this year. And I just can’t bet against Serena right now.

    Q3
    So many contenders in this section, Bencic, Ostapenko, Kontaveit, Vekic. I confess that I was hoping for a Bencic x Sabalenka clash in the R16. But since Sabalenka is out, I think Bencic should reach the QF, she’s just the more reliable player in this section. Mertens x Muchova must be a fun game to watch, and I can’t see Halep getting past over Collins. So, Bencic x Collins in the QF and I think that both have good chances of reaching the SF, and even though Collins had just beaten Bencic, I leaning towards Bencic to win this time, I don’t quite know why.

    Q4
    This is a tough one to call, but I think the Svitolina x Bertens clash in the R16 could definy the runner up of the tournament. I also think this game would be one of the best of the tournament, two of my favorite players facing each other, they’ve played four times now and the games were all so great to watch. I have no clue of which one could win, I mean, Bertens is playing better right now (although we haven’t seen much of Svitolina in 2020), and she have a great draw to give her confidence – and she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour when playing with confidence. But her performance in the AO is usually poor, and that concerns me a little, while Svitolina has reached the later stages of a GS more often. So, basically that’s the reason I’m leaning 1% more to Svitolina to win this contest. Besides, Svitolina plays much better when she is pressure free, which is the case. However it would be great to watch Bertens having a breakthrough in this tournament. Moving on, Pliskova x Pavlyuchenkova should be a great match, as the russian usually plays her best in Australia, but her h2h with Pliskova is not encouraging. And now that Vondrousova is out, Kerber has a good draw, but I don’t see her getting past the R16.

    SF
    Serena d. Barty
    Svitolina d. Bencic

    F
    Serena d. Svitolina (I really see Svitolina winning her first GS very soon, but I just don’t think it will happen now. She is one of the most steady players in the world, and her level keeps growing, and even if it’s not growing fast, its constant. And even though Serena has had some chocks in the last GS finals, I think she’s more focus right now, and that should be enough to see her through.)

    Hope you enjoy my predictions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Lucas! Enjoyed reading them. A few responses…

      – Barty vs. Rybakina will be very interesting. I’m kicking myself that I had Rybakina out in R1 as I thought she’d be tired. I watched the Hobart final which I think might be the first time I have watched Rybakina and I was very impressed. Easy power and a huge serve which is such a weapon.
      – I agree, Osaka vs. Kenin would be something to look forward to. I wasn’t too disappointed about the Woz-Yastremska result as Yastremska has many years ahead of her. I’m holding out for Serena vs. Caro R4 which would be pretty special.
      – Before the tournament started, I was all in for Collins over Halep in R3. Now after watching Halep battle past Brady, i’m not so sure!
      – I agree about Svitolina and as you say, she often does well pressure free. I’m still sticking with Bertens for now.

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