The Australian Open may seem destined to crown a first-time major singles champion in women’s singles in 2018.
With Serena Williams out of the field following the birth of her daughter, shocking first-round losses by Venus Williams and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens as well as the defeats of the likes of Maria Sharapova, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova, leaves Angelique Kerber as the only player left in the field who has won a major title. Kerber, the 2016 Australian and U.S. Open champion, however was nearly upset in the fourth round Monday, escaping Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 4-6, 5-7, 6-1.
The women’s singles field is wide open with fans having to check the website and mobile app for CrownBet the fastest growing online sports and racing wagering business in Australia, for the latest odds.
The two favorites are the top two seeds, No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, who by a strange curious statistic, are the top two seeds at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament despite having never winning a major tournament. Halep, however, did reach the French Open final on two occasions, losing in 2014 to Maria Sharapova and last year to the young upstart Jelena Ostapenko. Despite being the No. 1 seed, Halep has a long history of unsuccessful battles against her nerves on the biggest stages.
Wozniacki, like Halep, has achieved the world No. 1 but has only reached two major finals, both at the U.S. Open in 2009 and 2014. She has won a healthy number of singles titles (27), including the year-end championships last year in Singapore so she can seen as a bigger “big match” player.
Madison Keys may be on a collision course with destiny this week as the 22-year-old American showed brilliant form in defeating Caroline Garcia of France, one of the most in-form players on the WTA Tour, by an easy 6-3, 6-2 scoreline. Keys may be channeling the disappointment and feelings of the “agony of defeat” from her loss to friend and fellow American Sloane Stephens in last year’s U.S. Open final. Pete Sampras, the 14-time major singles winner, said that his loss to Stefan Edberg in the 1992 U.S. Open was so difficult for him to digest that it spurred him on to victories in many other major finals. This could perhaps be the same situation for Keys, who is being fueled by her U.S. Open final-round loss. To boot, she has the Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport in her camp as her coach. Keys is also seeded No. 17 which is the same seeding that Roger Federer had in 2017 when he claimed the men’s crown.
Also flying under the radar is Karolina Pliskova, the big-serving Czech star and former world No. 1, who could face Halep in the quarterfinals. Pliskova lost a tough U.S. Open final to Kerber in 2016 and getting more used to playing in the later rounds of majors and could be a dark horse pick to win the title by week’s end.