Australian Open 2020 Women’s Preview: The Contenders

leye aduloju /
TENNIS: JAN 23 Australian Open

Can Serena Williams finally win that record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title? Will world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty deliver a popular home Slam? Can Naomi Osaka repeat her heroics from 12 months ago? It's a typically open women's field at the Australian Open, but who are the top favourites and what are their chances of winning?

We take a look at the top 10 favourites for the women’s singles title at the 2020 Australian Open and rate their chances.

1. Serena Williams, 9/2 @ bet365

Is this the tournament where Serena Williams finally wins that elusive 24th Grand Slam title? Since her return from maternity leave in February 2018, Serena has been banging furiously at the Grand Slam door, but she has repeatedly fallen just short of adding to her glittering major collection. The American has been runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in each of the last two seasons.

While her opponents in those finals played at an incredibly high level, Serena wasn’t quite at her best, as she often seemed nervous and stressed by the weight of history and her own insatiable desire to win. She should be far more relaxed going into the 2020 Australian Open, after winning her warm up event in Auckland- her first title as a mother. Serena retains the ability to power through any WTA draw when she’s at her absolute best, and if she can keep the nerves away, the seven-time Australian Open champion will have another big shot at claiming that 24th major.

2. Naomi Osaka, 7/1 @ bet365

Naomi Osaka produced a storming run to win the Australian Open last season, taking out fellow top-ten stars, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova along the way, and she returns this year as one of the women to watch in Melbourne.

She veered away from her Grand Slam winning level after her Australian Open success, reaching just one semi-final in her next 12 tournaments, but she finished the year very strongly, winning consecutive titles in Osaka and Beijing. She unfortunately had to withdraw from the season-ending WTA Finals after just one match due to a shoulder problem.

The Japanese, now under new coach, Wim Fissette, has made a decent start to 2020 reaching the semi-finals at the Brisbane International before falling to Karolina Pliskova. She actually played three sets in all of her matches, beating Maria Sakkari, Sofia Kenin and Kiki Bertens before her loss to Pliskova. All of those long matches against quality opposition should sharpen her up ahead of another title tilt in Melbourne.

3. Ashleigh Barty, 8/1 @ bet365

World No. 1, Ashleigh Barty will again carry home hopes as she attempts to become the first Australian winner of the tournament since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

A brilliant 2019 for Barty included a maiden major title at Roland Garros, a first Premier Mandatory title in Miami, the season-ending WTA Finals title and another title in Birmingham. She was also runner-up in Beijing, made semi-finals in Cincinnati and Wuhan, and of course, finished the year at No. 1.

Barty lost her first three matches at the Australian Open, but she has been better in recent years, and produced her best performance in 2019 when she reached the quarter finals. Can she better that showing and possibly deliver home success to Melbourne? Of course, she can, but a lot will depend on how she deals with the sizeable expectations of the Aussie crowd.

4. Simona Halep, 9/1 @ bet365

Simona Halep is back with Darren Cahill, the Australian coach who guided her to the Australian Open final in 2018. Can she go one step further in 2020 and claim her first Aussie Open title?

Halep and Cahill did win their first major together a few months later at Roland Garros, but the pair stopped working together at the end of that year, with the coach wanting to be with his family. That did not deter Halep from winning Wimbledon in 2019, as she rounded up a superb fortnight with a fantastic victory over Serena Williams in the final.

It was a year when she also made finals in Madrid and Doha, but she faded towards the end, winning just five matches in her last five tournaments. Recharged after the off season, Halep should be ready to go again in the new year, and with Cahill back in her box, she’s right up there among the firm favourites to go all the way in Melbourne.

5. Karolina Pliskova, 10/1 @ bet365

Will Karolina Pliskova finally break her Grand Slam duck at the 2020 Australian Open?

Arguably the best player of her generation yet to win a Grand Slam title, Pliskova will get another opportunity in Melbourne, where she was a semi-finalist last season. Pliskova racked up four WTA titles in 2019, but it was another frustrating year for the Czech at Grand Slam level as she failed to make a major quarter final outside Melbourne.

She made a title winning start to 2020, successfully defending her Brisbane title? Can she reproduce that success in the grander stage of Melbourne Park? Her best Grand Slam performance remains her runner-up finish at the 2016 US Open.

She has gradually improved her performances in Melbourne over the years, reaching quarter finals in 2017 and 2018, before that 2019 semifinal. What does 2020 hold for the big-serving Czech?

6. Madison Keys, 16/1 @ bet365

It’s probably a little bit surprising that Madison Keys is favoured by the bookies ahead of Grand Slam champions like Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova, but she did make the final in Brisbane, beating Kvitova, and pushing Pliskova to three sets in the final.

When she is confident and serving well, she can a genuine contender everywhere, but can she put together the seven wins required for Grand Slam glory? She’s done six before, at the 2017 US Open, where she made her solitary Grand Slam final. For Keys, it’s about peaking at the right time, like she did in her title run in Cincinnati last season.

7. Petra Kvitova, 20/1 @ bet365

Petra Kvitova’s overall record in Melbourne is not the best, but she did make the final last year. She also made a decent start to 2020, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane.

One is never too sure what to expect from Kvitova at the Slams. Before last year’s runner-up finish in Australia, she hadn’t made a major semi-final since her 2014 Wimbledon triumph, and had reached just two quarter finals in 16 Slam appearances since then.

Because of her destructive power and ability to beat anyone on her day, Kvitova will continue to be a contender at these big tournaments. She clearly knows how to win them, with her two Wimbledon titles- can she put it all together in Melbourne?

8. Aryna Sabalenka, 20/1 @ bet365

Following a superb 2018, when she won titles in Wuhan and New Haven, and reached finals in Lugano and Eastbourne, Aryna Sabalenka had a bit of a sophomore slump for most of 2019. However, she did salvage her season with a strong finish, winning titles on Wuhan and Zhuhai to close the year. Can she keep up that momentum in the opening weeks?

She made an ordinary start, losing to Kristyna Pliskova in the second round of her season opener in Shenzhen. Her Grand Slam record also counts against her, with her best record being her fourth round run at the US Open in 2018.

However, the women’s draw has consistently delivered surprise Grand Slam champions in recent seasons. Maybe it’s Sabalenka’s turn to power her way to a Grand Slam title?

9. Angelique Kerber, 25/1 @ bet365

Angelique Kerber may be worth a punt, you know? She’s a three-time Grand Slam champion, and has reached at least the semi-finals of the Australian Open in two of the last four years, winning the title in 2016. She had a below par Grand Slam season in 2019, suffering two first round defeats and failing to make a single quarter final, but she does have a habit of following up poor seasons with really good campaigns. Will that be the case again in 2020?

10. Elina Svitolina, 25/1 @ bet365

Having reached her first major semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, can Elina Svitolina build on that and reach her first final, and possibly win a major title in 2020? She has been OK at the Australian Open in recent years, reaching the quarter finals in Melbourne in each of the last two seasons.

Svitolina’s consistency always gives her a chance, but she is always at risk of a power hitter blasting her off the court.