Race for women’s title wide open
IT SEEMS too simplistic to say that, without Serena Williams, it’s anyone’s Australian Open.
But the betting markets tell another story.
Indeed, it’s no coincidence that Williams’ withdrawal from the event coincides with one of the most open women’s draws at the first grand slam of 2018.
Karolina Pliskova ($8) and Garbine Muguruza ($8) are the longest-priced favourites in recent history – and by a fair margin.
In fact, the Czech and Spaniard are almost double the odds that were offered for joint favourites Williams and Kim Klijsters ($3.75) in 2010.
That Muguruza, who is under an injury cloud, remains a favourite speaks volumes.
American Madison Keys said that anyone within the “top-30” was a real chance of taking home the silverware.
“Obviously Serena’s not playing, which is a massive factor,” Keys said. “But I think everyone is playing great tennis. I think anyone, in any week, could be the one to lift the trophy.”
Last year’s British quarter-finalist Johanna Konta is in the same quarter as top seed Simona Halep and faces American Madison Brengle first up.
Danish former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, the second seed after her resurgence in 2017 when she reached eight finals, opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the bottom half of the draw.
Wozniacki is projected to face French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarters.
Wimbledon champion Muguruza is in the same half of the draw as Halep and takes on France’s Jessika Ponchet in the opening round.
Muguruza, seeded three, could face another Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia, in the quarters.
The 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who on Monday moved back into the world’s top 50 for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, is unseeded and takes on 47th-ranked German Tatjana Maria in the first round in the same section of the draw.
Evergreen 37-year-old Venus Williams, who last won a Slam in 2008, is seeded five and has a first-round encounter with Swiss Belinda Bencic, who teamed up with Roger Federer to win the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth last week.
IN-FORM: Elina Svitolina during her win over Karolina Pliskova in the Brisbane International final.