Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep are among the favorites for the 2022 Australian Open.
The Australian Open all set to begin on 17 January. The season’s first Grand Slam is always an exciting affair. The question about the women’s draw is — will an already established player reign supreme in Melbourne? Or will the tournament witness the crowning of yet another first-time champion?
Plenty of players made their breakthroughs in 2021. Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur made their top 10 debuts as a result of their consistency. The trio have taken their game to the next level and have been playing quite well. Barbora Krejcikova’s Roland Garros triumph marked her winning transition to singles after being a successful doubles player for years.
Veterans like Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, both former champions at the Australian Open, have been playing well and are in contention for the crown this year. Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka have been two of the most consistent players over the last couple of years, making them title favorites as well.
But the upcoming Slam is also missing some key players who would otherwise be in the mix for the title. Serena Williams still hasn’t recovered from the injury she sustained at Wimbledon, leading to her withdrawal. Venus Williams is also absent. This will be the first time since 1997 that neither of them will compete at the Australian Open.
Karolina Pliskova injured herself during the off-season, forcing her to miss the Australian swing completely.
Let’s turn our attention now to the five favorites to win the title.
#5 Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka is the defending champion at the 2022 Australian Open. She won her fourth Grand Slam title at the tournament last year. However, she endured a rather turbulent year after that. Her clay court season was marked by early exits and mental health struggles.
The 24-year old missed Wimbledon as well. She returned to action at the Tokyo Olympics where she reached the Round of 16. Osaka her season early after losing to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open.
Osaka’s first tournament since her hiatus was the 2022 Melbourne Summer Set, where she reached the semifinals. She withdrew from the event due to an injury. Her previous tries at defending a Grand Slam title haven’t gone so well, with a fourth-round showing at the 2019 US Open being her best attempt.
However, no woman has defended a Grand Slam title since Serena Williams at the 2016 Wimbledon. So the 24-year old isn’t the only one falling short.
The Japanese is a big-stage player and plays her best when the stakes are high. It’s too soon to count her out as she could once again be crowned the Australian Open champion.
#4 Anett Kontaveit
Anett Kontaveit at the 2021 WTA Finals.
Anett Kontaveit had a breakthrough in her career in 2021. She started the year by reaching the final at the Gippsland Trophy, but suffered a few early exits over the next few months. However, the Estonian went on a tear towards the end of the season, compiling a 29-4 streak since the end of August. The run included four titles and a runner-up finish at the WTA Finals.
Kontaveit has so far reached a solitary Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2020 Australian Open. But given her form over the last few months, this could change. The 26-year old has established herself as a frontrunner for the first time at a Grand Slam and could very well lift the trophy in Melbourne in two weeks’ time.
#3 Garbine Muguruza
Garbine Muguruza reached the Australian Open final in 2020.
Garbine Muguruza had a career resurgence in 2021, culminating in her winning her biggest title since the 2017 Wimbledon at the 2021 WTA Finals. She has also performed well at the Australian Open over the last couple of years.
The Spaniard reached the final in 2020, losing to Sofia Kenin in three sets. She held two match points in her fourth-round encounter against Osaka last year, but failed to close out the match.
The former World No. 1 will be eager to win her third Grand Slam title, considering her form, the Australian Open might be it.
#2 Simona Halep
Simona Halep reached Australian Open final in 2018.
Simona Halep‘s 2021 season was marred by injuries. She was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon because of them. Her prolonged absence also resulted in her exit from the top 10 of the rankings for the first time since 2014.
She began her comeback in the second half of 2021 and by the end of the year, she was almost back to her best. Halep reached the final at the Transylvania Open, losing to Kontaveit. The following week, she reached the semifinals at the Linz Open, but withdrew from the tournament due to an injury.
The Romanian’s hard work and perseverance were rewarded in 2022. She began the season by winning the Melbourne Summer Set by defeating Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-3 in the final.
Halep’s return to her winning ways is a warning to her opponents that she’s ready for the showdown at the Australian Open. She’s a former finalist at the tournament, reaching the title-round in 2018 where she lost to Caroline Wozniacki. The former World No. 1 will now be aiming to be the champion in Melbourne.
#1 Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty at the 2022 Adelaide International.
Ashleigh Barty began the 2022 season by winning singles and doubles titles at the Adelaide International, continuing her dominance of the WTA Tour. She won her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year, along with four more titles. She’s been the top ranked player for more than 100 consecutive weeks now.
To say that she’s the overwhelming favorite to win the Australian Open would be an understatement.
But the pressure of performing at her home Grand Slam has proved to be too much for Barty in the past. She was the favorite to win the title the last two years as well. In 2020, she lost to Kenin in the semifinals and in the quarterfinals to Karolina Muchova in 2021.
Despite those losses, once again Barty enters the Australian Open as the frontrunner. She’s in a league of her own at the moment and it doesn’t look like anyone’s capable of stopping her this time around.