Australian Open: Serena Williams favorite, 4 top rivals and 6 sleeper picks

Serena Williams at the Australian Open (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Serena Williams at the Australian Open (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images) /

The women’s singles at the Australian Open looks like one of the most competitive majors in recent history, but Serena Williams goes in as the favorite.

Serena Williams is in the spotlight again as another tennis major begins, with the American seeking history at the Australian Open.

Still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles, Serena heads the field in a women’s singles competition that contains depth and quality.

Serena ended her three-year wait for a WTA Tour title by winning the ASB Classic, speaking of her relief to have halted a run of five successive defeats in finals.

She begins her Australian Open campaign against Russian Anastasia Potapova after receiving a tough draw for the first major of 2020.

Aus Open men's singles. Top 5 favorites. light

Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka are in the same side of the draw as Serena, along with her close friend and recent doubles partner, the retiring Caroline Wozniacki.

The other half is headlined by Karolina Pliskova, a player desperate to get over the hump in majors, and Simona Halep, a winner of the French Open and Wimbledon in the previous two years.

Pliskova and Halep have two of the trickier first-round matches but are in the better half overall.

light. Aus Open 2020. 6 sleeper picks for men's singles

With US Open champion Bianca Andreescu out as she recovers from a knee injury, Barty, Osaka, Pliskova and Halep are rated as the biggest threats to Serena in the pre-tournament odds, but there are a host of other intriguing challengers too.

Serena Williams’ biggest rivals

Osaka comes into the tournament as defending champion and reached the semifinals at the Brisbane International to build on a strong end to the 2019 season.

If the Japanese star makes it to a quarterfinal against Serena, the winner could have to face home hope Barty in the last four.

World number one Barty is aiming to give Australia their first singles champion in Melbourne since 1978 and, after losing her first match to Jennifer Brady in Brisbane, she bounced back emphatically to win the Adelaide International.

Pliskova, the player who beat Osaka in Brisbane, is a major danger to Serena. The Czech world number two is in the weaker half of the draw and has made the last eight or better in the last three Australian Open tournaments.

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Halep under-performed at the Adelaide International and did not have a strong finish to 2019 after winning Wimbledon. Hard courts are not her strongest surface either, but a player of her quality should never be discounted.

That stars as good as Aryna Sabalenka, Madison Keys, Petra Kvitova, Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina do not make the top five favorites underlines the quality of the field.

While that group are not at the top of the odds, they all deserve consideration too.

Australian Open: 6 sleeper picks

Dayana Yastremska is one of the rising stars of women’s tennis and enjoyed an impressive week at the Adelaide International, losing out to Barty in the final.

French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova also lost to Barty at that event but has shown encouraging signs so far after her injury comeback.

American Danielle Collins has made a storming start to the new season, thrashing Svitolina in Brisbane and following that up with convincing wins over Sofia Kenin and Bencic in Adelaide, with Barty only ending her campaign there after edging a final set tie-break.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza has won five of her six matches to start 2020 as she looks to return to form after a disappointing 2019.

Ekaterina Alexandrova is capturing attention after winning the Shenzhen Open to build on a WTA 125k victory in Limoges at the end of last year.

Finally, Elise Mertens continues to be an underrated player and is in Halep’s quarter of the draw, one which could be up for grabs.

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Serena Williams remains the player to beat at the 2020 Australian Open, but if she does come out on top it will only be after proving history is not made easily as she comes up against an impressive group of rivals.