Women's Australian Open - Winner

2021 was a wild year in women’s tennis. All four Grand Slam titles were won by different players with the US Open women’s singles championship claimed by British teenage sensation Emma Raducanu, who started the tournament ranked well outside the top 100. There has been a generational shift at the top of the sport. The field has never been so open.

This isn’t to say there aren’t frontrunners to win the first Grand Slam of 2022, though, with the Australian Open set to get under way next week. Indeed, every one of the top 10 ranked players will pitch up at Melbourne Park, including defending champion Naomi Osaka after four months out from the sport.

Osaka looked to be in good shape at the Melbourne Summer Set where she won three matches before withdrawing with a minor abdominal strain. That injury isn’t believed to be serious and won’t stop her competing at the Australian Open where she has won the women’s singles title in 2019 and 2021.

Ash Barty’s destiny dictates that she will surely win the Australian Open at some point in her career with the Australian the current world number one. The 25-year-old enters her home Grand Slam on the back of winning the Adelaide International title and so it might be a question of whether or not she can handle the expectations of the Melbourne Park crowd. A last 16 tie between Barty and Osaka looms.

Aryna Sabalenka will start the first Grand Slam of the year as the number two seed, but the Belarusian is suffering a crisis with her serve, making a barely believable 74 double faults in her last four matches. Sabalenka is so unsure of her serve at the moment that she has recently resorted to underarm serves purely to get the ball over the net.

Simona Halep is entitled to feel good about her game at the moment, particularly after a difficult 2021 which saw the Romanian drop to 20 in the rankings. Halep has recovered well from a calf injury and won the inaugural Melbourne Summer Set, hinting that she might be a force to be reckoned with at the Australian Open.

Expectations for Raducanu, the most recent Grand Slam winner after her unexpected triumph at the US Open, should be considerably lower with the 19-year-old struggling for form. Raducanu was dealt a heavy 6-0, 6-1 defeat by Elena Rybakina in her first match at the Sydney Tennis Classic and might do well to get through a couple rounds at the Australian Open, especially because she has a tricky first round match against Sloane Stephens.

Rybakina herself is enjoyed an excellent start to her season with the world number 14 reaching the final of the Adelaide International where she was ultimately halted by Barty. The Kazakhstan is a big hitter and has the game to trouble any opponent. If she has momentum, as appears to be the case, Rybakina could take some stopping.

Indian Wells champion Paula Badosa has started 2022 well, stringing together a good run at the Sydney Tennis Classic. The Spaniard has forced her way into the top 10 in recent months and has the all-round game to go far at the Australian Open, certainly further than the second round which is her previous best result down under.

Garbine Muguruza enjoyed a resurgent 2021 and finished the year by winning the WTA Finals. The Spaniard has made the Australian Open final before and is a two-times Grand Slam champion, highlighting her elite quality. While Muguruza has always been strongest on clay, it wouldn’t be too surprising if she made a deep run on the Melbourne Park hard courts.

The Serena Williams premiership is seemingly over, with the 23-times Grand Slam winner sidelined through injury for the start of the 2022 season, and women’s tennis is moving into a new age. There are the makings of new rivalries at the top of the sport and the 2022 Australian Open could solidify some of them.

Ashleigh Barty - 3pts @ 3/1
Simona Halep - 0.75pts @ 17/1
Sloane Stephens - 1.5pts @ Evens