The first Grand Slam of the year is almost upon us, with the Australian Open now just days away.
Naomi Osaka will seek to win a fifth major title and defend her crown from last year, while Emma Raducanu is looking to rediscover the form which saw her claim an unprecedented victory at the 2021 US Open.
There was a different winner at each of the Grand Slams last season and women’s tennis is renowned for throwing up unlikely victors.
Nonetheless, the GiveMeSport Women writers have attempted to predict the winner of this year’s competition, along with someone to watch out for as the tournament progresses:
Winner: Barbora Krejčíková
Though it’s hard to look past Ashleigh Barty as the favourite, given her ranking, form and home advantage, Barbora Krejčíková has been one of the most consistent players in the world across the last year.
The Czech star reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, the quarter-finals at the US Open and won her maiden Slam at the French Open.
Krejčíková has also proven she is a big game player and has the mental resilience needed to succeed at a major.
At the Sydney Tennis Classic this week, the 25-year-old reached the final against Paula Badosa and saved seven match points.
Though she eventually lost the match, the Czech showed she is not going to be easy to beat and as this year’s fifth seed, there is every chance she’ll be in contention for her second Grand Slam title.
One to watch: Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff is bound to have a deep run in a major at some point soon and perhaps this year’s Australian Open could be the time.
The 17-year-old has been an established part of the tour for a couple of years now and has proven she can compete with the world’s best.
Ranked 19th in the world, the teenager came agonisingly close to beating Barty at Adelaide last week and followed that performance up by reaching the semi-finals at the same venue this week.
There will be questions over her mental toughness in the big moments but with age comes more maturity and it’s a matter of time until the American pieces everything together.
Winner: Simona Halep
Simona Halep started the new year in spectacular fashion by winning the Melbourne Summer Set and notching her 23rd career title. With these tournaments designed to prepare players for the Australian Open, the Romanian couldn’t be better equipped to tackle the Grand Slam.
The world number 15 also enjoyed a promising end to 2021 — reaching the final of the Transylvania Open, where she fell to eventual champion Anett Kontaveit.
Halep has two Grand Slam titles to her name — the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019 — so she is no stranger to performing on the biggest of stages.
She also reached the quarter-final of last year’s Australian Open.
The former world number one has set herself the target of breaking back into the top ten in 2022 but she is in good stead to go one better and win the third Slam of her career.
Last year saw a lot of shock results for some of the biggest names on the WTA roster, so the idea of an in-form Halep clinching the title in Melbourne would certainly not be the biggest upset of recent months.
One to watch: Iga Świątek
A whole new era of talent is taking to the court at the moment — from Emma Raducanu to Leylah Fernandez. Another young star who has been making waves is Poland’s Iga Świątek.
The 20-year-old already boasts a Grand Slam title, having won the French Open in 2020, and she is currently ranked eighth in the world.
Świątek has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open twice and will be hoping she can better her record this year.
Last year, she won the Adelaide International but could not retain her title as she fell to Ashleigh Barty in the semi-final this time around.
Świątek enjoyed success at the 2021 Italian Open, brushing aside the likes of Barbora Krejčíková and Elina Svitolina, before demolishing world number five Karolína Plíšková 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
The Pole is an exciting young talent and one that isn’t afraid of taking on the big dogs. She has proven already she can beat some of the best in the world and maintain composure during Grand Slam pressure. Świątek is definitely not one to rule out.
Winner: Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty started 2022 as she left 2021 – earning WTA titles. Last year, she won at the Melbourne Open, Miami Open, Stuttgart Open, Cincinnati Open and Wimbledon. This year, she has already racked up a victory at the Adelaide International.
As a result, it’s very hard to see anyone else but Ashleigh Barty triumphing at the Australian Open. The world number one is in scintillating form and will have the advantage of a home crowd behind her.
A title at the Australian Open has evaded Barty during her career so far, but she is now in prime position to change that.
One to watch: Amanda Anisimova
Despite being just 20-years-old, Amanda Anisimova already has significant Grand Slam experience under her belt. She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2019, before progressing to the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros in the same year.
After a quiet couple of years, the American talent seems to be back in form. She triumphed at one of the WTA 250 events held during the Melbourne Summer Set last week, defeating Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the final.
Anisimova also overcame Sorana Cîrstea, Irina-Camelia Begu and Daria Kasatkina during the tournament. She will likely come up against sterner opposition during the Australian Open, but there is no reason why she cannot spring a surprise or two.