Profiling the top eight women’s seeds at Australian Open, including Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka masked up

After high-profile withdrawals from both the US Open and French Open women’s singles events in 2020, this year’s Australian Open sees a largely complete field with very few players pulling out.

With none of the top eight seeds having withdrawn, the seeding follow the current WTA Rankings under the system introduced to deal with Covid-19.

With less than a week to go until main draw action begins, we profile the top eight women’s seeds that will feature at Melbourne Park.

No 1 Ashleigh Barty

Best Australian Open performance: Semi-final (2020)

Having not played since February last season, Barty returned to the WTA Tour this week and will be buoyed by support from her home fans over the next fortnight.

The 2019 French Open champion fell in a tight semi-final to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in the 2020 event in Melbourne, and her form so far in the Melbourne Summer Series suggests an even better run could be on the cards.

Victory at the tournament would boost her position as world No 1, and make her the first Australian in 43 years to win the singles title on home soil.

No 2 Simona Halep

Best Australian Open performance: Runner-up (2018)

It has been three years since Halep lost in the final Down Under, though since then she has gone on to win two Grand Slam titles and has continued to be one of the most consistent players on the Tour.

Simona Halep blowing kisses

The Romanian fell in the semi-final in 2020 and has greatly improved on hard courts in recent years, and victory would see her having won major titles on all three of the sport’s main surfaces.

Halep has highlighted that winning in Melbourne is one of her big career goals, so expect her to look sharp from the very beginning.

No 3 Naomi Osaka

Best Australian Open performance: Champion (2019)

Osaka struggled in Melbourne last year as the defending champion, losing in the third round, though comes in as one of the favourites for the title this year.

The Japanese has not lost a match she played since the restart of the Tour last summer, winning a second US Open title in September, and is arguably the strongest hard-court player on the WTA at the moment.

The Japanese defeated the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova to win the title two years ago and there is no reason to believe that she isn’t capable of a similar run once again.

No 4 Sofia Kenin

Best Australian Open performance: Champion (2020)

Kenin was ranked outside the top 10 when she won her maiden Grand Slam title at the tournament 12 months ago, and she will be hoping to become the first women since Victoria Azarenka in 2013 to defend the title at Melbourne Park.

Some of the American’s results since that triumph have been patchy, though a run to the French Open final demonstrates her ability to perform well on the biggest stages of all.

She is surprisingly not considered one of the significant favourites to win again, but it would be unwise to rule out Kenin going deep into the draw once again.

No 5 Elina Svitolina

Best Australian Open performance: Quarter-final x2 (2018, 2019)

Having performed so consistently on the Tour for a number of seasons, Svitolina is one of many players looking to finally break through at a Grand Slam in 2021.

The Ukrainian has twice reached the last eight in Melbourne, but has lost both of those quarter-finals quite handily and will be looking for more encouraging performances should she reach that stage again.

A Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist in 2019, Svitolina could well go deep if she plays her best tennis and has a good draw.

No 6 Karolina Pliskova

Best Australian Open performance: Semi-final (2019)

A former world No 1, Pliskova has been criticised in recent months for failing to perform well in Grand Slam tournaments.

The Czech has failed to reach the last eight of a major since her semi-final run here two years ago, though she has performed well in Melbourne and across the Australian Summer Series in the past.

Pliskova certainly has the ability to go deep and push for the title over the next couple of weeks, though coming through the opening few rounds may be her biggest challenge.

No 7 Aryna Sabalenka

Best Australian Open performance: Third round (2019)

Despite an opening-round loss in a warm-up event this week, Sabalenka remains one of the form players on the Tour and a real danger for the Australian Open title.

Before losing on Monday, Sabalenka had won three straight titles and 15 straight matches across 2020 and 2021 and currently sits at a career-high of seventh in the WTA rankings.

The Belarusian has not yet delivered at Grand Slam events, reaching the second week of a major just once, though in her current form it would not be a surprise if this tournament proved to be a significant step forward for her.

No 8 Bianca Andreescu

Best Australian Open performance: Second round (2019)

There is no bigger unknown heading into this event than Andreescu, who will be making her return to the Tour having not played at all in 2020.

Andreescu was sensational when she played in 2019, winning the US Open title, but she struggled with injury then and throughout 2020 and withdrew from a warm-up event in Melbourne.

The Canadian’s performances in 2019 prove she cannot be ruled out, but it is hard to tell how she will fare after such a lengthy absence.

Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.

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