The first Grand Slam of the season is finally here! With so much to be excited about in the coming WTA calendar – the first two weeks of the season have already provided us with lots of phenomenal play and worthy champions – the Australian Open will surely kick everything into the next level.
With many of the WTA’s top athletes currently performing well, there are a myriad of potential winners in the draw. Here are our top five players to watch in Melbourne:
- Eugenie Bouchard – The Canadian star’s incredible 2014 season first picked up its momentum at the Australian Open, where she became the first player from her country to make a singles Slam semifinal since 1984. She will look to do the same this year as focus turns to whether she can replicate or better what she accomplished last year. Sitting in the same quarter as Maria Sharapova, Bouchard will have roadblocks on the way back to the semifinals but she is certainly capable.
- Venus Williams – At the age of 34, future Hall-of-Famer Venus Williams is showing no signs of slowing down. Coming from behind to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in the Auckland final last week, Venus is playing superb tennis at the moment. Her first seeded opponent in Melbourne could be Flavia Pennetta before No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round – which would be a 2014 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank final re-match should it materialize.
- Maria Sharapova – She opened her season in the best possible way, by capturing her 34th career WTA title at Brisbane. Always a fierce competitor, Sharapova is now less than 700 points behind Serena Williams for world No. 1, a pinnacle she has not reached since 2012. In fine form, Sharapova will be looking to win her first Slam outside of Roland Garros since 2008 – the year she first won Down Under.
- Victoria Azarenka – With the former world No. 1 dropping down to No. 44 in the rankings, Azarenka will be a dangerous floater at the Australian Open. Though injuries have limited her time on court over the past year, Azarenka is a two-time champion in Melbourne (2012, 2013) and can never be counted out of contention. Though she has been dealt a tough draw with former semifinalist Sloane Stephens in the first round and potentially No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki in the second round, Azarenka has the fight and talent to push through.
- Simona Halep – The world No. 3 made her first Slam final last year at Roland Garros and could be primed to make another one in Melbourne. The 23-year-old, who climbed from No. 47 at the end of 2012 to No. 3 in just two years, is now one of the WTA’s premier talents. Winning her ninth career title in the first week of 2015 at Shenzhen, Halep will be a fierce and dangerous opponent for anyone in the draw.
Canadian tennis fans can follow all of the action from the Australian Open on TSN. Click here for the complete broadcast schedule.