ED MCGROGAN, SENIOR EDITOR: Madison Keys
Svitolina is a tempting choice, considering her draw. But I’ll take Keys over the No. 4 seed in the final. Madison needs matches, but she should relish a Grand Slam stage away from New York—the site of a final she’d like to put firmly in the past. Her serve always gives her a heavyweight puncher’s chance.
NINA PANTIC, ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Elina Svitolina
The Australian Open is lacking two big power players in Serena and Azarenka. Svitolina is one of the biggest threats to capitalize on this opportunity, and she just won yet another title in Brisbane. The Ukrainian is brimming with confidence and boosted by a No. 4 seeding. This is her year for Grand Slam glory.
STEVE FLINK, HALL OF FAME WRITER: Simona Halep
With many reservations, I pick Halep to garner her first major title. She will potentially face some difficult tests, including a likely third-round meeting with the ever-dangerous Kvitova. But she is well prepared for this major, and ready to validate her status as the top-ranked player in the world.
STEVE TIGNOR, SENIOR WRITER: Elina Svitolina
Two of the last three women’s majors have produced first-time, left-field champions. Why not make it a third? Svitolina has never been to a Slam semi, but she has played as well as anyone during the last 12 months.
ZACH COHEN, ONLINE EDITOR: Caroline Wozniacki
This hasn’t been Wozniacki’s best event—her best finish was a semifinal in 2011—but I think she’ll break through this year. Wozniacki ended 2017 on a high note, winning the WTA Finals and finishing inside the Top 3. She’s now No. 2 and her form couldn’t be better.
ASHLEY NDEBELE, LEAD EDITOR: Simona Halep
Last year wasn’t kind to Halep, as she endured a heartbreaking loss in the French Open final, lost a tough quarterfinal at Wimbledon, and drew Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open. But with Serena not defending her title, Halep will come into this tournament motivated.
Dark Horse (No. 20 or lower)
MCGROGAN: Petra Kvitova
Seeded a paltry 27th, Kvitova is, in reality, one of a handful of players I can envision lifting the trophy three Sundays from now. The two-time Grand Slam champion could face top-seeded Halep in a third-round marquee match.
PANTIC: Aliaksandra Sasnovich
The relatively unknown Belarusian was huge in the Fed Cup final, and also just reached the final in Brisbane with wins over Mladenovic and Sevastova, to name a few. She has a complete game with many tricks up her sleeve, she never gives up, and her draw isn’t too shabby.
FLINK: Angelique Kerber
The 2016 champion went into a tailspin last year. Now she has a clean slate and an opportunity to work her way back to the upper echelons. She might need to beat Muguruza and Halep just to make the final, but, if she survives the first week, she could win this tournament.
TIGNOR: Angelique Kerber
Now that she’s dropped from No. 1 to No. 21, the pressure is officially off. That showed in Sydney this week, where Kerber knocked off Venus Williams in the first round.
COHEN: Agnieszka Radwanska
Kerber might be the popular pick here, but I like where Radwanska is right now. The 28-year-old has made it to the semifinals at the Australian Open twice in her career, and she also knocked off Konta this week in Sydney. The former No. 2 clearly enjoys Oz, and I think she’ll make a deep run there.
NDEBELE: Angelique Kerber
After winning her first two Grand Slam titles and ending the year as No. 1, Kerber ended 2016 on a major high. Last year was the exact opposite, as she suffered a major letdown. But the German seems rejuvenated and ready to reclaim her former glory.
Bust (No. 10 or higher)
MCGROGAN: Garbine Muguruza
The No. 3 seed clearly isn’t at 100 percent, and she needs to be in order to navigate through a quarter that includes Radwanska, Kerber, Sevastova, Keys and Garcia.
PANTIC: Johanna Konta
The world No. 9 had a spectacular slide to end the 2017 season, and though she showed signs of life in Brisbane, her week would end in injury. What she needs in Melbourne is a few sitting ducks early on to get her momentum and confidence back. Instead, she plays a dangerous big-hitter in Brengle, who’s known for pulling off an upset.
FLINK: Karolina Pliskova
I am a big admirer of Pliskova when she is serving as only she can and making the running forehand as few can do. But the No. 6 seed could be in trouble this time around. I would be surprised to see her in the quarters.
TIGNOR: Simona Halep
With Serena away, this is Halep’s best chance at a Slam title. But she has lost early in Australia the last two years, and she may have to survive a third-rounder with Kvitova if she wants to avoid the same fate this time.
COHEN: Simona Halep
The Australian Open has been Halep’s worst Grand Slam; she’s never made it past the quarterfinals. And while it’s certainly possible that she can buck that trend, something tells me that the intense heat just isn’t a good match for her. Halep will win her first major this year—but it won’t be in Melbourne.
NDEBELE: Garbine Muguruza
Muguruza pulled out of her second tournament in two weeks with a right thigh injury this week. She enters the Australian Open without enough preparation, and coupled with the injury, it won’t be surprising if she suffers a first-round upset.
JANUARY: THIS MONTH ON TENNIS CHANNEL PLUS
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A LOT of tennis action will be played on Tennis Channel Plus from January through June
Starting with January … gear up for the Australian Open with 6 LIVE tournaments in the lead up to AO, exclusively on Tennis Channel Plus
- Mubadala – Abu Dhabi
- Hopman Cup
- ATP Sydney
- Fast 4 Sydney
- World Tennis Channel – Adelaide
- Australian Open Qualifying
- Australian Open (Best 20 Matches of AO will be on-demand)