Serena Williams favourite to win her seventh Australia Open title

Victory would secure a record 23rd Grand Slam title for the 35-year-old American

 Serena Williams: can overtake  Steffi Graf as the most decorated women’s singles player in the professional era if she wins the Australian Open in Melbourne.  Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Serena Williams: can overtake Steffi Graf as the most decorated women’s singles player in the professional era if she wins the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

 

For the last few years the main question regarding the women’s draw at the Australian Open has been who or what can prevent Serena Williams from adding to her impressive collection of Melbourne Park titles.

The answer for most of that time has been injury and, until proved otherwise, most deem it wise to continue working on the assumption that, even if not fully fit, Williams remains more than a match for any player on the women’s circuit.

So, although the 35-year-old is seeded second, has played two matches in the last four months – losing one – and has drawn a tricky assignment in Belinda Bencic in round one, she is still favourite to secure her seventh Australian Open crown.

Success would mean a 23rd Grand Slam singles title for the American, allowing Williams to pull clear of German Steffi Graf as the most decorated women’s singles player in the professional era.

Williams lost the number one ranking when she was beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals last September and, wrestling with a shoulder problem, did not play again until last week’s Auckland Classic.

The rankings beneficiary was German Angelique Kerber, who also took away her Australian Open crown with a brilliant performance in last year’s final.

In the absence of 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who is serving out the remainder of a doping ban, and twice winner Victoria Azarenka, who has just had a baby, top seed Kerber again looks like being the most likely to threaten Williams’s dominance.

Easy ride

While her warm-up performances have been unimpressive, Kerber could have a reasonably easy ride in the opening round against 61st-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who withdrew from the Hobart International with a viral illness on Friday.

Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska has little Grand Slam pedigree beyond a single appearance in the Wimbledon final and will have to pick herself up after a humbling experience in Friday’s Sydney International final.

The 27-year-old Pole was quite simply blown off the court by Britain’s world number 10 Johanna Konta, who went on a fairytale run to the Melbourne semi-finals last year and looks a reasonable bet to go deep into the tournament this year.

Spain’s seventh seed Garbine Muguruza, who also owns a Grand Slam crown after her French Open triumph last year, will open her account against 109th-ranked New Zealander Marina Erakovic.

Even if she has never been past the fourth round in Melbourne, the 23-year-old Muguruza feels the year’s first Grand Slam is a little more open this year.

“It is a little bit more equal than last year,” she said. “There are a lot of girls that can hold the trophy, it is going to be a big battle to see who is the best in these two weeks.”

Simona Halep, Pliskova and WTA Tour finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, who lost to Li Na in the 2014 final, are other top 10 seeds who might fancy their chances of picking up a first Grand Slam crown.

Local hopes still rest largely on the tortured shoulders of Sam Stosur, who beat Williams to win the 2011 US Open but has not been past the third round of her home grand slam since 2010.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.