The tennis season goes by so fast doesn’t it? The first week of the year has gone by so fast and we’re already onto the second week, which is headlined by the Premier event at the Sydney International. It’s a really packed draw, so let’s get on with the preview…
Top seeds’ profiles
[1/WC] Garbine Muguruza (No.2)
Taking a late wildcard into the Sydney International, Garbine Muguruza replaces Venus Williams as the top seed in this tournament. It was a very wise move from Muguruza as she needed some matches heading into the Australian Open urgently. Muguruza was forced to withdraw for the FOURTH straight year in a row at Brisbane, retiring down 7-5 6-7 1-2 due to body cramps. Sydney is one of the most packed draws every year and Muguruza won’t be having it easy from the beginning…
Draw projections: The top 2 seeds have a first round bye, then the Spaniard will play either a qualifier or Kiki Bertens in the second round. The in-form Julia Goerges will be the first seed she could meet, as the German is now on a 13-match winning streak and is currently in the ASB Classic Auckland final.
Sydney win-loss record: 2-1 (2015 QF)
 Venus Williams (No.5)
Venus Williams will be taking part in the Sydney International for the first time in over… 18 years! When the entry list first came out, I was super surprised that Venus was playing here. Yes, playing a warm-up tournament is always helpful (especially in the case of Venus, as she can start off rusty after the long break) but this tournament is just before the Open and she hasn’t scheduled this way in many, many years. I question whether she will have anything left in the bag to make a run at the AO after this tournament, but hey, it’s the legend Venus Williams! She can do anything! 😂
Draw projections: Venus’ first opponent of the year will either be the hard-hitting Lucie Safarova or the peaking Angelique Kerber. Safarova-Kerber is definitely the highlight of the first round match-ups and whoever wins that match will definitely give Venus a tough challenge. Anastasija Sevastova looks in the quarterfinals, but the Latvian first has to get past the feisty Dominika Cibulkova.
Sydney win-loss record: 11-2 (2000 champion)
 Jelena Ostapenko (No.7)
Jelena Ostapenko is definitely one of the players who is coming in cold into the Australian Open. The Latvian lost her exhibition matches in Hua Hin to Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta pretty easily. Afterwards she beat a laboured Serena Williams (in 3 sets) in an Abu Dhabi exhibition, but fell in her first round opener in Shenzhen to Kristyna Pliskova. I’ll give Ostapenko the benefit of the doubt as the flight from Abu Dhabi to China is a long long one, but she really needs to improve her serve, movement and groundstrokes quickly if she wants to make an impact at the upcoming Australian Open.
Draw projections: Ostapenko isn’t given an easy draw either as she starts off with Ekaterina Makarova, the giant slayer who beat a record nine top 10 players last year. Daria Kasatkina, who holds a 2-0 head to head advantage over Penko, or Barbora Strycova awaits her in the second round. No.5 seed Kiki Mladenovic is also in her small quarter.
Sydney win-loss record: 0-1 (2015 Q1)
 Johanna Konta (No.9)
Sydney defending champion Johanna Konta will be returning here in which was the place that started her momentum and brought her game to greater heights in the first half of the season. Although she fell away during the second half and also suffered a foot injury, Konta is looking refreshed in the beginning of the year where she beat Madison Keys and Alja Tomljanovic in Brisbane before retiring to Elina Svitolina due to a hip injury. The injury though does not sound serious, and she should be returning to defend her title this week.
Draw projections: Remember who she beat in the final last year? Aga Radwanska? One year on, and this match-up turns out to be a first round meeting! If she wins that match, she would play the winner of Magdalena Rybarikova vs a qualifier, then likely Sloane Stephens in the QFs.
Sydney win-loss record: 7-1 (2017 champion)
 Kristina Mladenovic (No.11)
I’m not going to mention about Mladenovic’s losing streak again, but at least it was a decent performance from her in Brisbane where she lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in a 1-6 7-5 7-5 scoreline. Glimpses of Kiki Magic were seen in the match and I am sure we will see the full package sooner or later; the only question is how long do we have tom wait…
Draw projections: There is no way Mladenovic will lose her first round match here, would she? She plays a World No.341, Perez in round one, and likely Ashleigh Barty in round 2.
Sydney win-loss record: 4-3 (2015, 2016 1R)
 Sloane Stephens (No.13)
Sydney will be our first glance of Sloane Stephens’ in 2018 as the US Open champion had to withdraw from Brisbane due to injury. The American is one of the seven Grand Slam champions playing this event, but she is coming in on a four-match losing streak in 2017. A new year will likely see Stephens refreshed and resolved, and if she manages to catch some form in Sydney she could well be one of the many dark horses coming into the Australian Open.
Draw projections: Sloane will play a qualifier first, and then the winner of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs Petra Kvitova (bring out the helmets!!!).
Sydney win-loss record: First appearance
 Julia Goerges (No.14)
The Julia Goerges winning train just keeps zooming and zooming and now the German is on a 13-match winning streak, with titles in Moscow, Zhuhai and is currently in the Auckland final, about to face Caroline Wozniacki. Goerges is on fire right now and seems like another dark horse for the AO; can she solidify that ranking in Sydney?
Draw projections: Goerges faces off against wildcard Samantha Stosur – Goerges leads the head to head 5-1, including a perfect 4-0 on hard courts. Daria Gavrilova is her likely second round opponent.
Sydney win-loss record: 1-5 (2012-2014 1R)
 Anastasija Sevastova (No.16)
Anastasija Sevastova will move to a career high ranking of No.15 next week, having had a decent tournament in Brisbane, reaching the semifinals. However a loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at this stage showed some weaknesses she possesses – the second serve and the nerves when the important moments arises. Coming to Sydney will provide Sevastova with some extra time to finalise her Australian Open preparations and she’s got to get it going from the start immediately here.
Draw projections: As aforementioned above, Sevastova will play Cibulkova in round one in another first round highlight. Cibulkova’s power versus Sevastova’s craftiness – I hope they play on Monday because I really want to watch this live! If she gets through, Elena Vesnina or Peng Shuai will be her next opponent.
Sydney win-loss record: 1-2 (2010 Q2)
Other unseeded players to watch
Angelique Kerber (No.21)
The German is coming from the Hopman Cup in Perth, where she performed exceedingly well, winning four of her singles matches against Elise Mertens, Eugenie Bouchard, Daria Gavrilova and Belinda Bencic. After a horrid 2017, the former World No.1 seems to be back on track and ready to make some moves in 2018. She squares off with Safarova, and the winner will play against Venus.
Dominika Cibulkova (No.26)
Cibulkova is another player who had underwent a horrible 2017 season and she’ll look to reset and start anew with her first tournament of the year in Sydney. As mentioned above, Cibulkova starts her campaign against Sevatova.
Ekaterina Makarova (No.33)
The dubbed Bourne-GOAT has always performed well at the Australian Open, reaching the second week in Melbourne seven times in a row. After Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s withdrawal, she got shifted up into the main draw and will look to make some moves before next week’s Slam. She starts off against the No.3 seed Ostapenko.
Final Prediction: Johanna Konta d. Ekaterina Makarova
Please note that there will be no predictions for the week. Thanks for reading! 🙂