Breaking down the women's seeds at the 2017 Australian Open, including dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more.
1. Angelique Kerber, Germany
Returns to the scene of the climb, as it were. A year ago, she was a nice also-ran. Today, she is going for her third major (and fourth final) in 12 months. Loss to Svitolina is Brisbane wasn’t ideal. In fact, she hasn’t won a title since U.S. Open. But at this stage, she can distinguish between a tune-up and a major.
2. Serena Williams, United States
Even at age 35—newly engaged; coming off a strange 2016; with little match play; with an unexpected loss in the tune-up; with Bencic in round one—she remains Serena Williams. Dismiss her chances at your peril. That said, between the autumn absence and the error carnival that was her tune-up loss to Madison Brengle, momentum is a sparse commodity. So who knows?
3. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
She’s still fun to watch and still proof that a sharp can overcome modest physical inevitably Too much has to go right for her to win seven straight matches. And she is in Pliskova’s quarter.
4. Simona Halep, Romania
She and Radwanska fight for the two-handed backhanded praise as “best player not to have won a major.” The game is there, especially in the movement department. But there always seems to be that one shaky mental match that dooms her tournament. Just last week, it was a three-set loss to young Katarina Siniakova.
5. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
Hard-serving Czech will look to build on her run to the U.S. Open final that included a win over Serena. Don’t read too much into her pull-out last week. That’s a pro’s move. Translation: “I’ll eat the fine and the points loss because I think I can win a major.” Worry about that second rounder against Niculescu. Then the draw opens.
6. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia
Always a player to watch, especially at biggies. A former finalist in Melbourne, she simply knows how to grind out wins and usually takes charge of her nerves. Coming off her biggest title (2016 WTA Finals) she comes in with a career-high ranking that she can whittle further.
7. Garbine Muguruza, Spain
It’s still early in her career, but Mugu has become a mystifying player. She can win Slams. She can also be an early round flight risk. Especially when not 100% physically which—thanks to a thigh injury—appears to be the case.
8. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia
Let’s pause and acknowledge one of the more underrated careers in tennis. She won her first major before Rafael Nadal won his first. Credit her for remaining a contender, without much drop-off in athleticism. Still erratic but that’s part of the appeal; and part of the danger.
9. Johanna Konta, Great Britain
Highest-ranked British female in decades has settled in nicely in the upper echelon. With a new coach (Wim Fissette) can she take the proverbial next step? The heat and hard courts of Melbourne mesh well with her strengths and preferences. Draw, though, is brutal. (Osaka in round two for the right to play Wozniacki….in Serena’s quarter.) And she has the pressure of defending SF points.
10. Carla Suarez Navarro, Spain
A player with a picturesque one-handed backhand who lacks the arsenal to win majors.
11. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
She has been putting it all together over the last six months, beating both Serena and Kerber. The recency effect in full effect, she’s our surprise SF.
12. Timea Bacsinszky, Switzerland
As always, if she’s not a threat, she can still make life difficult for a lot of higher ranked opponents. Starts against the streaky Camila Giorgi.
13. Venus Williams, United States
As always, we feel compelled to grade Venus on a curve given her longevity—and sustained savor of competition—deep into her 30s. But, realistically, too much has to go right for her to win this major, one that has always eluded her. Especially with her shaky right arm, playing to her seeding will mark an accomplishment.
14. Elena Vesnina, Russia
Another pause. Vesnina had to qualify for the 2016 Australian Open. Now she’s a seed.
15. Roberta Vinci, Italy
Deep into her 30s, with loads of points molt off her ranking after the 2016 U.S. Open, she’s still getting seeded at Slams. Tough first rounder against hard-serving CoCo Vandeweghe.
16. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
Veteran Czech always dangerous, seldom around for the business end.
17. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
The Comeback Player of the Year. Struggled woefully through the summer of 2016, her ranking taking on weight with each week, nearly ballooning to triple figures. From the U.S. Open to the present, she’s played Top Five tennis. A low seed, but a big chance for a player who can handle the heat and comes in with plumped confidence.
18. Samantha Stosur: Maybe at this stage in the game, her longtime troubles at her Home Slam will diminish. Or maybe not.
22. Dasha Gavrilova: Made a nice run in Australia in 2016 and returns with some quality wins under her sansa-belt, including a fall takedown of Kerber.
23. Daria Kasatkina: Russian teen (for a few more months) quietly climbing ranks.
25. Timea Babos: The Euro-Vandeweghe. Big, booming serve.
32. Monica Puig: Five months since her Olympic triumph, is it time to build?
Dark horse pasture
Genie Bouchard: Former semifinalist here starting to play better. And spent the offseason in Las Vegas with the Agassi penumbra.
Ash Barty: We always root for the story.
Katerina Siniakova: The best player you’ve never heard of.
Ana Konjuh: Auckland finalist rid of the injury bug, behold the ascent.
Belinda Bencic: Talent, yes. Durability, not so much. And she gets Serena in round one.
Coco Vandeweghe: More dimensions and athleticism than Karlovic but a similar scouting report. That is: if she’s dialing in the serve, she can beat anyone.
First round matches to watch
Serena Williams vs. Belinda Bencic: Unfortunate draw for both.
Ash Barty vs. Annika Beck: Again, we root for stories.
Bacsinszky vs. Giorgi: We predict, drama.
Naomi Osaka vs. Konta in round two.
Vandeweghe gets the V over Vinci.
Garcia and Mladenovic are top seeds. But we’ll take Hingis and Vandeweghe.
Pliskova d. Serena
Svitolina d. Kerber
Pliskova d. Svitolina