Top seed Simona Halep faces a daunting task to win her second grand slam title at the Australian Open with the prospect of playing both of the Williams sisters before the quarter-final stage.
Halep, who won her maiden grand slam title last year at the French Open, is yet to win a match this season. At the Sydney International she crashed out in straight sets to Ash Barty. The Romanian has hampered by a back injury towards the end of last year and the split with coach Darren Cahill during the off-season on mutual grounds.
Now flying solo on the tour, Halep will kick-off her Australian Open campaign against the dangerous Kaia Kanepi. Knepi defeated Halep in the first round of the US Open in September, but hasn’t played since due to injury. Should she progress, Halep faces the prospect of playing Venus Williams in the third round followed by Serena in the fourth.
“It’s a tough match for sure, but the one thing Simona does well is that she does rise up to these kinds of challenges.” Cahill commented about Haelp’s clash with Kanepi.
“It is very difficult to beat her (Halep) two times in a row because she is a great student of the game, but it’s going to be a cracking first round match.”
As a result of being runner-up last year, Halep has a wealth of ranking points to defend in order to retain her world No.1 position that she has held since February.
23-time grand slam champion Williams will start her campaign against Tatjana Maria from Germany in what will be their first ever meeting on the tour. Then she could play Eugenie Bouchard or Peng Shuai followed by Carla Suarez Navarro. This year the American is seeking to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record for most grand slam singles titles won.
Reigning champion Caroline Wozniacki will seek to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles in Melbourne since Victoria Azarenka (2012-2013). The Danish third seed will start against Alison Van Uytvanck, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year. Further in the draw, she could play Maria Sharapova in the third round followed by either Barty or Jelena Ostapenko. Greece’s Maria Sakkari is also a dangerous lurker in her section.
“I can’t believe it has been a year already and we’re back. It’s awesome to be back.” Wozniacki said during the draw presentation.
Second seed Angelique Kerber takes on Polona Hercog in her first match. The German has been drawn in the same section as Donna Vekic. Meaning she will play no player ranked higher than 29th in her first three rounds. Then a potential showdown with either Julia Goerges, who recently won the ASB Classic, or Caroline Garcia awaits.
Naomi Osaka has also benefited for a relatively kind draw. The US Open champion starts against Poland’s Magda Linette, but could face a tough third round clash against unseeded Azarenka. Azarenka takes on Laura Siegemund in the first round.
Top 10 seeds and their first opponents
(1) Halep Vs Kanepi
(2) Kerber Vs Hercog
(3) Wozniacki Vs Van Uytvanck
(4) Osaka Vs Linette
(5) Stephens Vs Townsend
(6) Svitolina Vs qualifier
(7) Pliskova Vs qualifier
(8) Kvitova Vs Rybarikova
(9) Bertens Vs Riske
(10) Kasatkina Vs Bacsinszky
Projected fourth round matches
(1) Halep Vs (16) Williams
(10) Kasatkina Vs (7) Pliskova
(4) Osaka Vs (13) Sevastova
(12) Bertens Vs (6) Svitolina
(8) Kvitova Vs (11) Sabalenka
(15) Barty Vs (3) Wozniacki
(5) Stephens Vs (9) Bertens
(14) Goerges Vs (2) Kerber
Tomas Berdych to Miss French Open For The First Time Since 2003
It will be the third grand slam the former top 10 player has missed within the past 12 months.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will not play any clay court tournaments in 2019 after withdrawing from the upcoming French Open.
The 33-year-old has been absent from the tour since his first round loss to Feliciano Lopez in Indian Wells. Berdych has been hampered by issues within his back in recent weeks. He has been hoping to be fit in time for Roland Garros, but made a decision to withdraw from the event on Wednesday.
“I am not 100% ready to play the way I want and need to be competitive on the courts I love so much,” Berdych wrote on social media.
“I came to Paris and I had to take a tough decision and want another few days to fully recover and be ready for the grass season.”
“I love this tournament so much but I have to make sure not to further injure myself,” he added.
The Czech had played at the tournament every year since making his debut back in 2004. However, the French Open is his worst performing grand slam in terms of wins. So far in his career, Berdych has won 25 out of 40 matches played at the French Open. His stand out performance occurred in 2010 when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Sweden’s Robin Soderling.
It is not the first time back issues have forced Berdych out of action. In 2017 he was advised by doctors to end his season early due to persistent ‘back pain.’ He was also forced to skip both Wimbledon and the US Open due to the same problem.
Berdych, who last won a title at the 2016 Shenzhen Open, has played six tournaments so far this year. His best result occurred in January with a run to the final of the Qatar Open. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and was a semi-finalist in Montpellier.
As a result of his absence, Berdych is currently ranked 100th in the world rankings. He will be replaced in the French Open draw by a lucky loser.
Simona Halep Dismisses Favourite Tag Ahead Of French Open
The Romanian looks ahead to the grand slam after her exit from Rome.
Former world No.1 Simona Halep has played down her title chances in the upcoming French Open by saying ‘anyone can win’ the title next month.
The 27-year-old is the reigning champion at the tournament after claiming her maiden grand slam title there is 2018. Halep has featured in the final of the tournament three times since 2014. The world No.2 is one of the favourites to claim the trophy at Roland Garros, however, she hasn’t won a title on the WTA Tour since August at the Rogers Cup.
“I don’t know what is going to happen at the French Open.” Halep told reporters on Thursday. “I always said in the last few months that tennis is very open now. The top (of the women’s game) is open. Anyone can win. Kiki Bertens has a chance, in my opinion. Stephens again. Many players are playing well on clay.’
“We will see. I’m very curious.” She added.
So far this season, only two women have managed to win multiple titles on the WTA Tour. Petra Kvitova in Sydney and Stuttgart, as well as Kiki Bertens in St Petersburg and Madrid. Overall, there has been 21 different winners so far in 2019. Six of which are currently ranked in the world’s top 10.
Halep’s preparation for the upcoming major has hit a setback this week. At the Italian Open, she crashed out of her opening match to Czech player Markéta Vondroušová. Suffering her earliest exit from the tournament since 2016. During that match, she sought medical treatment on her leg after feeling pain during the second set.
“I started to feel a little bit (of pain) from sliding.” Said Halep.
“I had two days off, so it was a little bit tough to get back to this rhythm, very high rhythm.
But it is nothing, like, tight or something broken. Is just a little bit of injury, which in a few days is going to be okay, I’m sure.” She added.
Whilst the 27-year-old is staying grounded about her chances of success at the French Open, she has been labelled as the favourite for the title by some former champions. Earlier this month Justine Henin backed the Romanian by saying she is ‘the most complete player.’ Meanwhile, another high profile backer is three-time champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
“It is wide open at this moment to see who is going to win. If I want to pick one player, who is more able and resourceful, I must say it is Simona Halep. She stands a good chance, but depends on how she would control the pressure. However, I do not count out other women contenders,” Vicario told the Press Trust of India.
The French Open will get underway on May 26th.
Maria Sharapova To Miss French Open
The Russian hasn’t played a competitive match on the tour for almost four months.
Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova will miss the entire clay court swing of 2019 after officially withdrawing from the French Open later this month.
The five-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since withdrawing from the second round of the St Petersburg Open on January 30th. Sharapova has been absent from the tour due to an ongoing shoulder injury. Earlier this year she underwent a ‘minor’ surgical procedure to help ease the pain in the area. The pain was caused by a fraying tendon and small labrum tear.
“Withdrawing from the French Open today. Sometimes the right decisions aren’t always the easy ones.” Sharapova wrote in her Instagram story.
“In better news, I have returned to the practice court, and slowly building the strength back in my shoulder.” She added.
Sharapova reached the quarter-finals of the French Open last year is what is her best grand slam result since returning from a doping ban. At the tournament she scored wins over Donna Vekic and Karolina Pliskova before falling to Garbine Muguruza. Due to her upcoming absence from Roland Garros, she will drop 430 ranking points.
Prior to her injury woes, the 32-year-old has managed to play in three tournaments during the first month of this season. Reaching the quarter-finals in Shenzhen followed by the fourth round at the Australian Open. Overall, she has won six out of eight matches played.
It is unclear as to when Sharapova will return to the tour. The Daily Mail has reported that the Russian was not on the list of player’s participating in the upcoming Nature Valley Classic at Edgbaston Priory. A grass-court event that will start on June 15th. It is understood that in return for her receiving a wildcard into the 2017 tournament, she has a two-year commitment to play there in the future. Meaning that she should be playing this year if fit.
Sharapova has won 36 WTA titles during her career and has spent 21 weeks as world No.1.
Maria Sharapova withdraws from French Open. Will have played it just once in the last four years. Has played only 8 matches all year & has not reached a final in any tournament since 2017. Dropping to around 50 in rankings Monday & French Open QF from 2018 will come off soon
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 15, 2019
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