On the eve of the 2018 Australian Open, we take a look at Seven Deadly Stats from the women’s draw.
1 – Simona Halep is the No. 1 seed at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
2 – of Maria Sharapova’s three first round Grand Slam losses came at the Australian Open (in 2003 and 2010). She is 47-3 in the opening rounds at the majors.
5 – players can challenge Halep for the No. 1 ranking this fortnight: Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko and Karolina Pliskova.
6 – years since Wozniacki was last ranked No. 1 in the world. She must reach at least the semi-finals to have a chance of replacing Halep at the top of the rankings after the Australian Open. It would be the longest gap between stints at No. 1 since the computer rankings were introduced in 1975.
9 – of this year’s top-16 seeds in the women’s draw did not feature in this seeding bracket in 2017.
47 – Agnieszka Radwanska assumes the title of having the longest active consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearance streak with 47 straight participations (including this year’s Australian Open). Jelena Jankovic saw her streak come to a halt at 56 due to her withdrawal from the 2018 Australian Open due to a back injury.
77 – Venus Williams will be appearing in her 77th Grand Slam main draw this fortnight, the most in the Open Era
Novak Djokovic admits his elbow is not 100 per cent healed but he commences his Australian Open campaign on Tuesday with a new service motion that puts less pressure on his injured joint and a positive outlook irrespective of his lower ranking or physical condition.
The six-time Australian Open champion has been hitting the practice courts at Melbourne Park — wearing a flesh-coloured sleeve to protect his elbow — joined by his coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek (see video above).
During his six-month hiatus due to injury, Djokovic worked with his team to tweak the way he hits the serve and while he is yet to test it in an official match capacity, he believes it makes him more efficient and it places less load on his elbow.
“It was obviously the part of my game that I had to address because of the elbow issues. I’ve worked on it for last couple months with Radek and Andre,” Djokovic told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.
“Obviously the beginning, even though the service motion comparing to the old ones, it’s not entirely different, but at the beginning even those small tweaks and changes have made a lot of difference mentally. I needed time to kind of get used to that change, understand whether that’s good or not good for me.
“So far it’s been working really well. I had only Kooyong match where I could really try it out (defeated Dominic Thiem). I had a lot of practice sets. I’m happy with the new motion, you know, new service motion. I don’t want to say ‘new serve’, but new service motion.
“Some corrections, I guess, some improvements to the technique, which I think are allowing me to be more efficient with the serve, but also allowing me to release the load from the elbow, which is obviously something that I have to do because I have that injury.”
Djokovic was not sure he would be competing at the Australian Open but his doctors assured him he wouldn’t be causing any extra damage to his elbow by playing. They will be assessing further options for his injury following the opening Grand Slam of the season.
When asked if surgery remains an option, he said: “There are some other options, long-term options, that I will obviously revisit and address post-tournament. Right now I should focus on this.”
Djokovic is seeded 14 this fortnight as his ranking took a hit during his absence. The 30-year-old Serb, who begins his quest for a record-extending seventh Australian crown against American Donald Young, admits his approach to this Slam could be different with him being the hunter rather than the hunted.
“I still know what I’m capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world. I know that if I get myself to desired level of performance — mental and physical — that I can actually have a good chance to go far in the tournament,” said Djokovic.
“Now, whether my approach is different to this year’s Australian Open to other previous years, probably yes. It’s different circumstances. But it is exciting. Honestly, it’s a good place to be.”
DJOKOVIC’S POSSIBLE AUSTRALIAN OPEN PATH
R1 Donald Young
R2 Gael Monfils/Jaume Munar
R3 Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP x21)
R4 Alexander Zverev (GER x4)
QF Dominic Thiem (AUT x5)/Stan Wawrinka (SUI x9)/Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x20)
SF Roger Federer (SUI x2)/David Goffin (BEL x7)/Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x12)
F Rafael Nadal (ESP x1)/Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x3)
This year’s Australian Open women’s singles tournament is probably the least predictable in recent history, with so many contenders that can walk away with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
Top-seeded Simona Halep will have to tame multiple power-hitters if she plans on claiming a maiden Grand Slam trophy while Maria Sharapova faces a string of tough foes standing between her and a second Australian Open title, which would come a decade on from her first.
Angelique Kerber looks to have recaptured her magic, but seeded 21 and with Sharapova in her sights, will have to do it the hard way if she hopes to add a second crown in Melbourne to go with the one she won in 2016.
US Open runner-up Madison Keys is perhaps a bit under the radar but can cause damage in that stacked second quarter of the draw.
Last year’s finalist Venus Williams has a daunting opener against in-form Swiss Belinda Bencic while second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki has a manageable draw that could see her finally lift a Grand Slam trophy.
Watch the video above where Sport360‘s Stuart Appleby and myself take a close look at the women’s draw Down Under.