Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the women's seeds at the 2016 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups and predictions, and find the men's seed report here.
1. Serena Williams
It’s all about the body. If her knee is as bad as we’ve heard it to be, she could lose any time. Virtually no match play coming in. But we’ve seen her win majors at less than 100% and—on track record alone—she has to be considered a big favorite.
2. Simona Halep
Like Serena, health and fitness are key. The ankle/Achilles injuries that troubled her in 2015 still appear to be waging war. Draw will help and she may not get a top-100 opponent until round three.
3. Garbine Muguruza
More players, more injuries. Retired in Brisbane with a left foot injury. If it heals, the Spaniard has a real chance to claim her first major.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
Really admirable job reviving her game after a 2015 slump saw her exiled from the top 10. The power shortage is always a concern; but she’s playing with confidence and is in position to take advantage of the injured field. Potential second rounder against Bouchard intrigues.
5. Maria Sharapova
Like the aforementioned, health and fitness will determine a lot. A five seed (not unlike Nadal in the men’s draw) who has won the event but comes in with a lot of question marks. Doesn’t help that she’s in Serena’s half of the draw.
6. Petra Kvitova
The usual scouting report applies. Her lefty ballstriking could be the engine for greatness. But will her head—and discomfort playing in rough conditions—get in the way?
7. Angelique Kerber
Solid player who can be a most uncooperative opponent. Has had some nice results in Melbourne and looks to be in form. Not a lot of weapons but enough defense and fitness and spunk to play up to her exalted seeding.
8. Venus Williams
Gets a top eight seeding on account of the Safarova (illness) and Pennetta (retirement) absences. Two ironies: at age 35, she may be in the bottom bulb of the hourglass, but she is among the healthier players. For all her success, she has never won in Melbourne and has reached only one final.
9. Karolina Pliskova
Remains the best player you’re unlikely to have ever seen play. Now she needs a Slam breakthrough.
10. Carla Suarez Navarro
A game that’s easy on the eyes but doesn’t tend to correlate with deep runs. That said, she won’t play a top-100 foe until the round of 32.
11. Timea Bacsinszky
One of our favorite stories in tennis, but her results have cooled off since last summer.
12. Belinda Bencic
The Swiss will attempt to stave off a sophomore slump. Tough first rounder against American vet Alison Riske.
13. Roberta Vinci
In her first Slam since the Serena-slaying, Italian will try to build.
14. Victoria Azarenka
Ranking be damned, she is a top five player. Not for nothing is she is second with the oddsmakers. Former No. 1. Former winner in Melbourne—twice! And is playing strong, confident tennis to start the year.
15. Madison Keys
Hasn't built much on her Australian Open semifinal run, but it's mostly owed to ill health. Tough first rounder against Zarina Diyas.
16. Caroline Wozniacki
Steals a top 16 seeding—meaning she won't play a higher-ranked opponent until round four—and then it’s Serena. But her game is not where she wants it to be.
21. Ekaterina Makarova
A solid, athletic player who puts together nice results at majors (and has a win over Serena in Melbourne)
23. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Former Grand Slam champions always get listed.
24. Sloane Stephens
Her groove is back. Already has a title in 2016.
25. Sam Stosur
We all know about her struggles in general and at her home Slam in particular. But former Grand Slam champions (2011) always get listed.
Daria Gavrilova: Plucky, likable local player.
Camila Giorgi: Maddeningly erratic, but tons of game, especially for such a physically slight player. If Serena isn’t healthy, look out.
CoCo Vandeweghe: A work in progress but can win matches on the serve alone.
Genie Bouchard: What a difference a year makes. If she wins a match or two, it will be a good event. That said, she’s looked good to start the year.
Heather Watson: A lot of game, especially on a fast surface.
Dominika Cibulkova: A Melbourne finalist—and top ten player—just two years ago. You can beat her, but she makes you work for it.
First round matches to watch
Serena vs. Giorgi: Both draw the highest-ranked player they could.
Bencic vs. Riske: Intriguing contrast in styles.
Kuznetsova vs. Daniela Hantuchova: A guaranteed three-setter.
Victoria Duval vs. Elina Svitolina: Welcome back, Vicky Duval.
Bouchard vs. Radwanska: Yes, it's a likely second rounder but too good to ignore.
All about the injuries. Among Serena, Halep, Sharapova and Kvitova—strictly as a matter of probability—you’d think one will be unable to post.
Hingis-Mirza. Approaching Serena/Djokovic levels as the best in the biz.
Serena* vs. Radwanska
Azarenka vs. Venus
Serena d. Azarenka
* Assumes reasonable—if not full—health