Women to watch at the Australian Open

Former ladies single's champion Russia's Maria Sharapova poses for a photo with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on Margaret Court Arena during the ceremony for the official draw at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki makes a forehand return during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Women to watch at the Australian Open, which begins Monday at Melbourne Park:


Seeded: 1

Age: 26

Country: Romania

2017 Match Record: 45-17

2017 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 15

Major titles: 0 — Best: French Open finalist ('17, '14)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-1st; '16-1st, '15-QF, '14-QF, '13-1st.

Topspin: Has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and, for the last two years, has lost in the first round. Last year, she was beaten by American Shelby Rogers while bothered by a sore knee. ... She was fourth-seeded then but comes into this year's Australian Open with the No. 1 ranking despite still having no Grand Slam singles titles ... Had her equal-best Grand Slam performance at last year's French Open, losing in the final to Jelena Ostapenko despite being a set and 3-0 up. She lost the 2014 final at Roland Garros to Maria Sharapova. ... Won last week's Shenzhen Open, beating Katarina Siniakova in the final, to ensure she'd remain the top-ranked player for the Australian Open.



Seeded: 2

Age: 27

Country: Denmark

2017 Match Record: 60-21

2017 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 27

Major Titles: 0 — Best: U.S. Open finalist '14, '09.

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-3rd. '16-1st, '15-2nd, '14-3rd, '13-4th.

Topspin: In 2011, made it to the semifinals at Melbourne, losing to Li Na. She lost in the quarterfinals the following year to Kim Clijsters, a defeat which cost Wozniacki her No. 1 ranking. ... Held the top ranking at stages of 2010, 2011 and 2012, without having won a major. ... Is edging closer back to the No. 1 spot, thanks in part to Serena Williams' long absence, but still hasn't won that elusive first Grand Slam singles title. Lost in the final of the ASB Classic to Julia Goerges in Auckland, New Zealand, last week before rising to No. 2 in the rankings.



Seeded: 3

Age: 24

Country: Spain

2017 Match Record: 47-21

2017 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 5

Major Titles: 2 — French Open ('16), Wimbledon ('17).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-QF, '16-3rd, '15-4th, '14-4th, '13-2nd.

Topspin: Coming off one her best seasons, backing up her first major at the French Open in 2016 (beating Serena Williams) with a second major title at Wimbledon in 2017, beating Venus Williams in straight sets to become the first player to defeat both Williams sisters in major singles finals. ... Took over the No. 1 ranking at the U.S. Open despite losing in the fourth round, but held it for only four weeks ... Forced to retire with cramping in her first match of the year at the Brisbane International. Accepted a wild card at the Sydney International but withdrew ahead of her quarterfinal match with a right thigh injury.



Seeded: 4.

Age: 23.

Country: Ukraine

2017 Match Record: 50-13

2017 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 10

Major Titles: 0 — Best: QF French Open ('17, '15)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-3rd, '16-2nd, '15-3rd, '14-3rd, '13-1st.

Topspin: Had a breakout season last year, winning five tournaments and reaching a career-high No. 3 ranking in September. ... Started off the new year in fine style with a win at the Brisbane International, ensuring she'd move up two ranking spots to take the fourth seed at the Australian Open ... Has never had much success at Melbourne Park, losing in the third round in three of her five past appearances.



Seeded: 5

Age: 37

Country: United States

2017 Match Record: 38-14

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 49

Major Titles: 7 — Wimbledon ('00, '01, '05, '07, '08), U.S. Open ('00, '01)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-F, '16-1st, '15-QF, '14-1st, '13-3rd.

Topspin: Didn't win a tournament last year, but led the WTA in prize money and there was quality in some of her "major" defeats. ... Started off with a loss to her sister Serena in the Australian Open final, later lost in the Wimbledon title match to Garbine Muguruza, advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Open (losing to eventual champion Sloane Stephens) then finished off the year with a loss in the WTA Finals to Caroline Wozniacki ... started the year ranked No. 17 and moved up to No. 5 by the end. ... Lost her first match at the Sydney International, her only tuneup tournament.



Seeded: 6

Age: 25

Country: Czech Republic

2017 Match Record: 53-18

2017 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 9

Major Titles: 0 — Best: Runner-Up, U.S. Open ('16)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-QF, '16-3rd, '15-3rd, '14-2nd, '13-1st.

Topspin: Pliskova rose to No. 1 after Wimbledon despite a second-round loss there and no Grand Slam titles, holding the top ranking for seven weeks ... Led WTA Tour in aces for the third season with 452, 40 more than second-place Julia Goerges. Also set the mark for most aces in a single match, hitting 21 against Dominika Cibulkova en route to the Qatar Total Open title. Also led the WTA in service games won with 79.1 percent. "I don't remember practicing my serves for hours," she said. "So always if you're a little taller you have a chance to have a good serve." ... Lost to eventual champion Elina Svitolina in the Brisbane International semifinals last week.



Seeded: 13.

Age: 24.

Country: United States.

2017 Match Record: 15-10.

2017 Singles Titles: 1.

Career Singles Titles: 5.

Major Title: 1 — U.S. Open '17.

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-DNP, '16-1st, '15-1st, '14-4th, '13-SF.

Topspin: Stephens didn't play last year's Australian Open because of a left foot injury that kept her out of action until Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round. More than made up for it in her next Slam, winning her first major title at the U.S. Open, beating Madison Keys in an all-American final ... Finished the year on a downward note, however, losing her last six matches — four at tournaments in China and twice in the Fed Cup final, where the U.S. still beat Belarus 3-2. ... The new year didn't start any better when she dropped her first-round match last week at the Sydney International in straight sets to Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi.




Age: 30.

Country: Russia.

2017 Match Record: 16-5.

2017 Singles Titles: 1.

Career Singles Titles: 36.

Major titles: 5: Australian Open (2008), French Open (2012, 2014), Wimbledon (2004), U.S. Open (2006).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-DNP, '16-QF, '15-F, '14-4th, '13-SF.

Topspin: The 2008 champion and three-time Australian Open runner-up makes her return to Melbourne Park after missing last year's event as part of a 15-month ban after a failed doping test here in 2016. ... Returned to Grand Slam tennis as a wildcard entry at the U.S. Open, where she beat Halep in the first round before a fourth-round exit. ... Finished 2017 at No. 60 in the rankings. ... One of only two former Australian Open winners in the women's draw this year. ... Lost in the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open to start off her new year.


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