We’re less than a week away from the start of the Australian Open and the draw for this year’s women’s singles has delivered some enticing matchups.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka will play Colombia’s Camila Osorio on her return to Grand Slam tennis.
Meanwhile, the Japanese star is in the same bracket as world number one and home favourite Ashleigh Barty, who will face an unknown qualifier in round one.
With so many intriguing first-round matches in Melbourne, GiveMeSport Women have selected five standout ties for you to enjoy:
Emma Raducanu vs Sloane Stephens
Emma Raducanu’s first Grand Slam match since her historic win at Flushing Meadows last September will be against former world number three Sloane Stephens.
Like the Brit, Stephens is also a US Open champion, having won the tournament in 2017, but has struggled for consistency in recent years.
In her last 11 majors, the 28-year-old has reached the quarter-finals only once, though she did make it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open back in 2013 as a 19-year-old.
Similarly, Raducanu has also struggled to find form of late and was thrashed 6-0 6-1 by Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic last week.
Nonetheless, the Brit is seeded 17th and with the Australian crowd likely to cheer for the teenager, she still enters the match as the favourite.
Sofia Kenin vs Madison Keys
Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open in 2020 as a 21-year-old to become the youngest American Grand Slam winner since Serena Williams in 1999.
Since then the 23-year-old has struggled and last won a tournament in March 2020 at the Lyon Open.
The US star faces compatriot Madison Keys in the first round –– a player who was once tipped to win multiple majors and reached the final of the US Open in 2017.
A Grand Slam title has yet to materialise for Keys so far though, and the 26-year-old is currently ranked 87th in the world.
Kenin is seeded eighth and will fancy her chances but this match will be a clash of two players desperately searching to rediscover some form.
Barbora Krejcikova vs Andrea Petkovic
Barbora Krejcikova was one of the breakthrough stars of 2021 and stormed to victory at the French Open.
The 26-year-old is now ranked fifth in the world and will fancy her chances of improving on her previous performance in Melbourne, where she lost in just the second round.
However, she faces a tough first-round test in Andrea Petkovic –– a player that has been on the professional circuit for more than a decade and has won seven WTA titles.
The German’s latest victory came in August 2021 at the Winners Open in Romania and the German could well spring a surprise upset if she plays at her best.
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Paula Badosa
Like Barty, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic will be a home crowd favourite and the 28-year-old may be able to use this to her advantage against the impressive Paula Badosa.
Tomljanovic, who has never reached beyond the second round in Melbourne, showed signs of promise last year when she reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Badosa, however, enjoyed a remarkable 2021 –– winning two WTA titles and reaching the quarter-finals at the French Open.
The Spaniard is ranked ninth in the world and is seeded fifth for this event.
Badosa certainly has the form, but Tomljanovic has the experience and the support. This match has all the credentials to be a blockbuster.
Leylah Fernandez vs Maddison Inglis
Maddison Inglis is ranked 127th in the world and has never made it past the first round in Melbourne.
However, the Australian could well find herself playing on one of the competition’s main courts when she comes up against US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.
Like Inglis, Fernandez has yet to reach the second round at this tournament, though her showing in New York suggests she has the potential to go deep in Grand Slams.
The 19-year-old will be keen to prove her US Open performance was no fluke, while Inglis will have the crowd’s support and nothing to lose.